Even as sales organizations try to create more value for customers, sales managers are under pressure to increase sales productivity. The basic role of a sales organization has typically been to sell with sales managers and salespeople normally evaluated and rewarded for growing sales volume. Generating sales is still important, but the profit-ability of these sales is increasingly more important. Therefore, the focus for sales managers has moved from sales volume only to sales productivity. Sales productivity includes the costs associated with generating sales and serving customers and emphasizes producing more sales for a given level of costs. Sales managers must “do more with less” by being more effective and more efficient throughout the sales organization.
Many sales organizations are employing different types of technology to increase sales productivity. Improvements in existing technologies, the development of new technologies, and the opportunity to integrate different technologies provide many opportunities to automate some of the tasks currently performed by salespeople and sales managers. The use of salesforce automation (SFA), customer relationship management (CRM), and data analytics tools represent effective technologies for increasing sales productivity. The rapid development of artificial intelligence (AI) and more effective use of social media are especially likely to have important impacts on sales productivity in the future.
Existing and emerging AI technology products are expected to drive sales productivity improvements. AI technologies analyze data and learn from the ongoing data-analysis process to provide better results and guidance for salesperson and sales management actions.8
AI applications can free salespeople and sales managers from spending time on many different tasks, such as providing price quotes, creating sales reports, data input to CRM systems, sales forecasting, and prescriptive insight for personalized sales presentations. By performing different tasks, AI technology can act as an efficient assistant for salespeople and sales managers.
Take prospecting as an example. Many salespeople spend large amounts of time identifying sales leads, qualifying the leads, prioritizing the prospects, and then making an appointment to talk with the prospect. This is a time-consuming process. Conversica offers an AI virtual Sales Assistant product that promptly responds to website inquiries, personalizes every message, asks questions to qualify the lead, and then sets up a time for a salesperson to call the prospect.9
This use of AI automates many of the prospecting tasks with the salesperson only directly involved when a qualified prospect has been identified and an appointment established. The time a salesperson has saved by not having to be involved in most of the prospecting process can be used more productively, because the salesperson can spend more time interacting with qualified prospects, engaging in the sales process, and generating more sales.
The use of social media in sales organizations has increased significantly in recent years. Many salespeople are engaged in social selling
, using social media to identify, understand, engage, and network with prospects and customers. Studies indicate that the best performing salespeople are involved in social selling.10
Social selling is also being integrated with other technologies, such as CRM and AI, to increase sales productivity. For example, SAP has integrated social media with a variety of other technologies to identify and pursue selling opportunities by listening, learning, and engaging with prospects and customers throughout the sales process. This approach has produced large sales increases and efforts to continuously improve social selling efforts in the future.11
The pressure for sales organizations to increase sales productivity is likely to intensify in the future. Emerging technologies are expe...