Visit Our Blog

Triggering sales productivity by Understanding Return-on-Effort

  • Tweet
  • Tweet

There is much talk these days of a need for better, deeper, integration of marketing and sales. In my view, it’s desperately needed, but must be done in ways that address the underlying reason why executives are demanding it – they want a higher return on investment (ROI) from marketing and sales. At its core, this requires finding ways to improve the return-on-effort (ROE) in sales.

In recent years, marketing automation, sales enablement, and Sales 2.0 tools have helped marketing and sales teams be more informed and efficient. Despite these advances, declines in sales productivity continue (according to CSO Insights, quota attainment declined, again, in 2009). There’s a need for marketing and sales to combine expertise and resources in new ways that actually fix this underlying sales productivity problem. This requires that marketing and sales find ways to create:

  • more helpful buyer experiences
  • simpler, smarter, user experiences for sales reps
  • better metrics on the impacts of sales efforts


Why does improved sales productivity require more helpful buyer experiences? Ask someone who’s trying to buy something from another business today “what’s the hardest thing for you to find these days?” They’ll tell you it’s … help. Most sales people are too busy to be helpful. When help is scarce, offer it abundantly to buyers who’d most appreciate it and buyers will notice.They’ll do the extraordinary - they’ll engage in the process. They’ll reward sales effort with their attention. It’s key. It’s also, in McKinsey’s view, a money-making strategy.

The second key to improving sales productivity is to give sales people much simpler views of the massively useful information now available. Today, in many sales teams, there’s an all-you-can eat 24/7 information buffet in play. There’s so much work to be done, and so much information available with which to do it, that important callbacks aren’t occurring. Often it’s because sales people don’t have the time to call. In some cases, they’re flooded with so much information that they’re missing opportunities to re-engage with interested buyers who, with a bit of help, would buy.

From what we’ve seen, the more information sales reps have the less of it they’ll ever consume. Barry Trailer’s noted the same in CSO Insight’s formula for sales productivity. What’s needed therefore are interfaces that reduce the flow of information to sales people and add some smarts to the information that’s flowing. What’s needed are interfaces that make it much easier for sales people to understand everything that’s going on and then choose, wisely, where best to invest their efforts. When Sales Reps’ can make smart choices, easily, of what to do next, and with whom, their efforts have more impact. It’s an important second step.

The third key to improving sales productivity is measuring the buyer impacts of selling efforts. We’ve come to a point in B2B sales where our ability to measure content consumption and do clever things with it (like lead scoring) is really impressive. Being helpful, however, requires useful sales conversations, not just content consumption. This requires auto-analytics that reveal the buyer impacts of sales conversations without the hassle and imprecision of self-reporting by Reps. Metrics which reveal, for instance:

  • How many good sales conversations the sales team is having every day (based on what prospects go on to do after a sales conversation ends)
  • Behavior-based conversions of prospects through the sales funnel. This means a shift away from measuring, for instance, how many proposals the sales team produced today to measuring, instead, how many prospects read proposals today.
  • What marketing and sales activities are triggering the highest and fastest buyer impacts.


When it’s clear what buyer impacts accrue from sales conversations, marketing and sales gain new opportunities to solve problems together. Silos between marketing and sales disappear. Armed with a common lens on ‘how things are going’, they can improve practices in ways that improve results.

As a postscript on the above, McKinsey’s found when retailers improve the helpfulness of their customer’s experience, conversions from browsing to buying increase 1.5 - 2 times.

This entry was posted in Conversations, Metrics, Process, Productivity, Return on Effort, Usability and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Triggering sales productivity by Understanding Return-on-Effort

  1. Keith Bossey says:

    John, I think you are right on the money with this post. The line between sales and marketing continues to blur. The results of sales prospecting should be filling the marketing pipeline and marketing's efforts should be making their way into the sales pipeline as they play a greater role in prospect education. The problem you bring up is a big one. Getting the right information at the right time is a hurdle. Solving it goes beyond better sales/marketing cooperation. What's called for is IT/business cooperation. I was recently asked to speak on a sales call for a major global software company and their goal is to drive these IT/business discussions. Reaching that goal couldn't come at a better time.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *



You may use these HTML tags and attributes:

Our 5 Ingredients for Buyer-Guided Sales Performance ...