Doubling Sales Productivity — Be Prepared!


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Improving sales productivity is the Holy Grail of all sales professionals, executives, Sale 2.0 solution providers and every sales consultant.  We look for all sorts of tools and mechanisms to improve productivity.    Sometimes, it becomes very gimmicky.  Maybe we are making it too complicated.

I was apalled in reading IDC’s Sales Enablement Service’s recent survey of IT Buyers.  In this survey, 54% of IT Buyers said sales people were unprepared for their initial customer meetings.  For those seeking a silver lining, the 2010 survey indicated 54% were unprepared versus 57% for the 2009 survey.  Nothing to be proud of. 

While I don’t have the data, my experience indicates this probably extends far beyond IT Buyers to buyers in all disciplines.  Our own research, not just limited to the initial meeting, indicates that sales people tend to make 2-5 times more calls than necessary to close a deal.  A key finding in this research is they did not prepare or plan adequately for the call.

Why prepare?  Most sales people I meet are very bright, they are nimble and fast, why not continue to shoot from their lips?

I think the answer is simple, perhaps too simple.  When we aren’t prepared, we waste our time, more importantly we waste our customers’ time.  At a high level, we get it, but there are some important derivative impacts which we tend to overlook.

One of the biggest complaints I hear from sales people is they can’t get meetings with customers.  Sales people call to set meetings, leave voicemails, send emails—none are returned.  Sales people are looking for the secret of “How do we get customers to return our calls?”  I think the answer is simple, stop wasting their time!  Make sure the meeting is valuable to the customer.  How do we do this?  Again the answer is simple, preparation and planning—-doing your homework.

When we do get the chance to meet with customers, how well do sales people use this opportunity?  Too often, it’s not well.  Sales people are intent on pitching their products, customers are intent on describing their problems.  It’s difficult to connect.  What would be the impact if sales people could lead high impact meetings, where customers and sales people could really connect.  Customer’s would stop avoiding the sales person’s call—they would know their time won’t be wasted.  Sales people would probably have to make fewer calls, they are getting the information they need and connecting with the customer more effectively.

Sales productivity is simple, it’s all about being prepared  (The Boy Scouts have something here).  I don’t know if you will double your productivity, but I know you will improve it.  I know you will improve your ability to connect with your customers and create real value.  I know you will be more successful in selling.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Dave Brock
Dave has spent his career developing high performance organizations. He worked in sales, marketing, and executive management capacities with IBM, Tektronix and Keithley Instruments. His consulting clients include companies in the semiconductor, aerospace, electronics, consumer products, computer, telecommunications, retailing, internet, software, professional and financial services industries.


  1. Dave: No question that sales productivity improvement is of paramount importance for enterprises, and that preparation for client meetings factors large into that (although, I don’t see sales executives any differently from any other executive. Who likes to open any meeting after someone says “I haven’t read the report/stats/memo/ . . . whatever . . ., but let’s go ahead and get everyone’s ideas . . .”?)

    As I see it, what’s particularly vexing for sales executives isn’t preparation, it’s how to integrate into existing social networks that are exchanging ideas and information that could include the salesperson’s product or service. Some salespeople view that activity more as a collision (eg “How do we penetrate the account?”) Companies that most consistently solve the integration challenge will find (or have found) that preparation is part of that dynamic, and is one of several “habits of mind” that are required for success.


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