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Low Sales Productivity Impeding Revenue Growth, Survey Shows

In late 2018, our partners at Korn Ferry conducted a Sales Effectiveness survey across more than 125 global sales organizations in the financial services, technology, industrial, and retail industries. Here we will focus on the biggest issue reported by sales organizations: gaining competitive advantage to drive revenue and growth.

Seeking productivity

According to the survey, the full results of which are available in an on-demand webcast, 79% of companies say that increasing sales productivity is one of their strategies for reaching growth targets in 2019, using methods like expanding product/solution offerings, re-defining or re-targeting markets, and re-designing the sales organization or sales roles.

However, meeting this goal may prove difficult, as the survey indicated that average-performing sales reps spend only 35% of their time actually selling. Top performing reps are better, at 55%, but that leaves 45% of their time spent on non-selling activities.

Average-performing sales reps spend 10% of their time checking commission reports—about five weeks per year trying to understand their commissions. Top reps, by comparison, spend 5% of their time checking commission reports. This may seem inconsequential, but consider what a top performing rep might be able to do with an additional 2.5 weeks in the year. Improved access to compensation information, and more clarity and transparency around incentive compensation calculations, could pay dividends in enabling more selling time.

Finding and keeping top performers

For new sales hires, companies are looking to analyze performance to recognize the traits of top performers vs. poor ones and to properly set expectations for those ramping up. What should be expected of a new rep in 60, 90, or 120 days, for example?

Sales organizations have long known about the “mighty middle”: that if you can coach and develop middle-of-road performers, you can make a huge impact on results. But separating the top from the middle is not as easy as it might seem. If a rep makes quota, is that a good rep or a lowball quota? Conversely, if a rep only attains 75%, is that a low performer or an unreasonable target?

Meeting sales productivity challenges in 2019

This year will see more sales organizations trying to tackle questions like these and others as companies commit to transforming their sales teams. With an overwhelming variety of options and high stakes, it’s no easy task.


To learn what your sales organization needs to do to stay ahead of the curve in 2020 and beyond, watch the on-demand webcast featuring Korn Ferry and other industry experts.

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