Sales teams need more time to sell. Even if the ways of selling have changed over the past years, with a more consultative and advisory/teaching role in B2B sales, in the end salespeople still need the time to sell.
And in this sense there is a remarkable similarity between the challenges of buyers and sellers: the processes have become more complex.
Just as we need to simplify the process to buy, we need to simplify the process for salespeople too. The more time they can spend on actual selling tasks and the less they are distracted by non-selling tasks, the higher sales productivity becomes.
That's also what Nancy Nardin, owner of smartsellingtools.com and a widely acclaimed sales expert, believes: improving sales productivity, which she defines as shifting time spent from non-selling tasks to selling tasks, holds the greatest opportunity for improving revenue.
It might seem easy and obvious but in practice it isn't. For starters, there are the mentioned changes in selling and buying. Sales needs to be adapted to a buyer who faces hurdles that aren't necessarily related with our products or company. Secondly, both the sales and buying process have become more complicated.
Seller burden and the sales stack
When it boils down to salespeople, they are confronted with Seller Burden, Nancy Nardin says. It's a term that CEB (now Gartner) used at its 2016 sales and marketing conference to point at sales rep over-head: too many non-selling tasks and too little time for activities that really make the difference and get the deal closed.
What are the ways to increase the time spent selling? For Nancy the use of smart selling tools, which are added to the sales stack, can certainly help. When asked about her favorite selling applications, the topic her website is mainly about, she points to tools that can help remove Seller Burden and give salespeople the time and tools to make them more productive.
"We’ve got to simplify the process for both salespeople and buyers. That means smarter technology that does a lot of the heavy lifting." - Nancy Nardin
In her work she sees that there is so much more that can be done to help salespeople actually sell and improve sales rep productivity.
If that's the case, then why aren't more managers investing in such tools and other ways to increase time spent selling?
Nancy sees different reasons: organizational, cultural and practical.
First, there seems to be this mentality that a sales stack with CRM and marketing automation is enough. Nancy clearly doesn’t agree. CRM is merely a systems of record but doesn't help in actually selling. So, sales managers should look beyond these tools and really start with the question how productivity can be improved.
Secondly, both salespeople and sales managers don't look too much at getting such productivity tools in house. For salespeople there is the additional fact that some apps work within the CRM and often aren't really cheap. On a management level there is often an uncertainty regarding who is responsible, sales or marketing. This is certainly the case in enabling sales reps with content apps.
Thirdly, there is the question of knowing what sales productivity enhancement tools are out there and which ones make most sense to give salespeople the tools and time to work more efficiency, always keeping that Seller Burden in mind. It's here that Nancy's website and various activities play an essential role.
Selling time and time management skills: asking the right questions
Obviously, apps alone can't give sales people more time to focus more on selling and less on non-selling time. That's why one of the most important skills fort today's salespeople, according to Nancy, is time management.
Unfortunately, it's also the major lacking skill. Knowing how to manage your time, prioritize and focus is critical as sales people increasingly are asked to do more, both on the sales goals and non-selling tasks front.
It won't come as a surprise that it's exactly in these areas technologies and apps can play a role too.
There are plenty of other ways to enables sales reps to spend more time on selling. Improving the relationship between sales and marketing, a classic challenge, is just one of them. Nancy: "marketing should start by understanding that it’s not a good use of a sales person’s time to pass on a lead at the wrong sized company or a company that is otherwise not a worthy prospect".
Yet, if you want to empower your sales team with the apps that should sit in your productivity-oriented sales tech stack, do check out Nancy's website smartsellingtools.com.
And if you wonder where to start your journey to find the apps and skills that save your salespeople time, Nancy has this advice for you:
Start with asking yourself, as a sales pro, and your salespeople lots of questions.
Identify what's holding your sales people back from spending more time with the right prospects.
Understanding what's keeping them for closing more deals more quickly.
Look at the friction points that keep them from achieving these and other goals.
What's keeping your salespeople from having time on their side?