Sales Productivity

By Lisa Cook, Chief Operating Officer, Cien

While selling has never been easy, it hasn’t become harder either. Selling has become a more refined process where efficiency is key. Increasing sales productivity requires operational awareness of the quality of leads generated from marketing as well as the productivity of individual salespeople.

With artificial intelligence (AI), your business can understand the deeper dynamics of the sales process and make it possible to see the incremental value created by sales and marketing activities. You can then better allocate time and resources to unlock the productivity gains within your organization. There are pitfalls to avoid, however. Here are three of the biggest, and what to do about them.

Sales Productivity

#1: Misallocating Sales Resources

One of the biggest productivity traps that organizations fall into is not understanding sales’ contribution to the revenue generation process and failing to allocate resources accordingly. This comes from recognizing the true revenue contribution of each salesperson and understanding the actual role that marketing and sales develop activities play in generating quality leads and opportunities. A mistake that many firms make is assuming that the people generating the revenue are the same ones who are closing the sales. This is not always the case.

The best sales person on the team isn’t necessarily the one who has signed the most contracts. Instead, it’s the one who has added the most value to the leads and opportunities received by the marketing and sales development teams. It may appear that sales professionals sell more because they’ve received more valuable leads from marketing, or they work a territory that has greater demand than another representative. An external market factor, such as a local competitor leaving the market, can also distort the picture of sales person’s performance.

#2: Assigning the Wrong Leads to the Wrong Salesperson

Many firms have inadequate awareness of the true dynamics of the sales process, because they don’t understand which sales professionals are actually producing the most value. This skewed assessment leads to many firms assigning some of the best leads to salespeople who are less likely to convert them into won deals.

With a better understanding of sales performance, organizations can optimize sales productivity by allocating the best leads to the most productive sales professionals or those who can maximize the sales volume for a lead. This is accomplished by having the best product knowledge or closing effectiveness, generating incremental sales value without increasing marketing expenses or sales headcount.

#3: Inefficient Training for Your Sales Staff

As counter-intuitive as it seems, sales professionals can actually destroy value when marketing activities have produced a quality lead. Negative sales value often arises when a rep has insufficient product knowledge, a low work ethic or inadequate closing skills. Having the right operational intelligence, makes it easy to train the right sales professionals on the right skill.

With better awareness of the true contribution of each sales professional, implementing spot training for those who need it can have a huge impact on overall sales productivity.

Avoiding Productivity Traps

While improving sales productivity requires better operational intelligence, most firms do not have the time, skills or resources to analyze their sales data comprehensively enough to generate this insight.

The good news is that advances in statistical science, machine learning, natural language processing and AI now allow businesses to analyze their sales and CRM data for new levels of understanding that were not possible before.

For a deeper look at improving your company’s sales productivity, check out Cien’s  Guide to Solving Sales Productivity Traps.

Lisa CookAbout the Author

Lisa Cook is Chief Operating Officer at Cien, a new AI-powered sales productivity app for B2B sales teams. Cien gives sales leaders an immediate edge by using the power of artificial intelligence to increase the productivity of their teams. The mobile app automatically detects problems, predicts outcomes and recommends the shortest path to success. For more information visit