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Five tips to turn a sales activity study into more sales productivity

Phil Harrell

Improving Sales Productivity Is Never A One-And-Done Effort 

Over the years, Forrester has worked with hundreds of sales organizations to help them better understand reps’ productivity and pinpoint challenges that keep them from working as productively as possible. As part of this process — specifically, undergoing a sales activity study — reps report the amount of time they spend each week on 39 activities, from directly engaging with buyers to territory and account planning to attending internal meetings. Forrester then analyzes the data and provides comparisons to peer sales organizations.

Our clients have achieved impressive results through this exercise. But undergoing a sales productivity study is never a one-and-done deal. To get the most value from it — and to sustain that value — sales leaders need to continuously look for opportunities to fine-tune. This is essential as the buyer landscape, sales processes, and technologies continue to evolve.

Use these tips to get lasting value from conducting a sales activity study:

Consider costs and benefits. Review the productivity gaps uncovered by the study, and work with sales operations and sales enablement leaders to determine which improvements are realistic and the impact of improvements on revenue growth. Consider the scope, level of effort, and expense of potential productivity improvement initiatives to help you prioritize.

Incorporate reps’ feedback. A sales activity study gives reps the opportunity to provide open-ended input on the tasks that they see as presenting the greatest potential for time savings. Take this feedback into account in next-steps planning. Reps in our studies cite internal meetings, finding content, and deal pricing and approval as key opportunity areas. Consider whether there are changes you can implement easily — for example, reducing the frequency or length of certain meetings may be a quick win.

Secure buy-in. If improvements require help from non-sales groups, build a business case that explains why the help is needed and how the organization will benefit. Include your current productivity gaps relative to peer organizations, and show the potential impact of improvements on company revenue and profitability. Make clear the scope of changes needed (i.e., to roles, processes, and technology), how change will be managed, and the timeline.

Measure improvements. Work with sales operations to determine which metrics the productivity improvement projects should impact and targets for those metrics. Indicators should include time spent on specific activities from the sales activity study, as well as overall pipeline, revenue or bookings, and per-rep productivity. If projects require cross-functional work and alignment, include leaders of the other functional units to agree on metrics and targets for their functions.

Conduct a study annually. The selling environment is constantly changing. Conducting a sales activity study each year can help you stay attuned to the productivity challenges reps face and allow you to address them before they become major issues. Though it may be tempting to conduct productivity studies only during down times, that can be unwise. It can be difficult to implement changes when morale is low and management is singularly focused on hitting the number. Improvements made to sales activities during good times help equip reps to mitigate the impact of future downturns.

Learn more about what our sales activity study offers. Or, if you’re ready to take the next step, get in touch.