Updated: Nov 5
Do your efforts to improve efficiency end up costing you sales? The value of efficiency is not merely to expedite work, but, more importantly, to improve profit from work. Efficiency is only valuable if it doesn't impede effectiveness, as it often does in sales organizations.
In an effort to increase profit, some companies make the mistake of trying to improve efficiency. That is, it is a mistake to focus on efficiency if there are problems in your ability to be effective. Does efficiency interfere with your ability to improve sales – to improve profit?
It’s more efficient to email prospective clients than to make phone calls, although the most direct means by which to engage prospects is, generally, the most effective means
It’s more efficient to send a mail merge than to write tailored messages, although we know that personalized messages are—in all respects—more effective than group messages
It’s more efficient to assume, speculate, and generalize than to investigate and assess in order to discover and know—specifically—, although testing and analysis is more effective for knowing which data is accurate and what the data actually reveals
It’s more efficient to remain with the current practices than to learn and change, although effective sales practices evolve to accommodate changes in the business world
Consider how efficiency hurts profit in many sales organizations. These are the four most common areas in which efficiency hurts sales:
1. Mass prospecting
Mass prospecting privileges quantity over quality. The idea is based on the notion that buyers will find you if you yell, "Here I am!" to a large audience. The problem is that an indiscriminate approach to selling disregards differences among buyers, the value of targeted messages, and market data, which, if understood and applied, could (and often do) prove to be far more effective than the shotgun approach. Additionally, mass prospecting runs the risk of offending people, some of whom might have become customers, if they had been respectfully approached.
2. Email outreach
More so today than any previous time, salespeople resist phone work, although statistics continue to reveal that phone work is more effective than email in connecting with prospective clients. According to research published by Yesware and BIA Advisory Services, phone calls are ten times more likely to lead to sales, which, in part, is due to the perception that email is often spam, even when sent from a known vendor. While email may reach more people in a shorter period of time, it is ineffective if it is unread.
3. Generic messages
Generic messages may be sent to a targeted audience, but, like mass prospecting, they reflect little regard for differences among those in the group. Generic messages may go out to those who've opted-in to receive email from a seller. However, if the content is irrelevant to the specific or prospective buyer, those hard-earned subscribers may be lost. Often, sellers are lazy. They know little about their prospects, which means they're only able to send out generic messages. If your message cannot provide specific value, the efficiency of generic messages will undo your potential for greater sales effectiveness.
4. Blanket strategies
Sales do not occur spontaneously; sales are always the result of some sequence of events—a process. In order to optimize the effectiveness of a process that converts the potential for sales into actual sales, a strategy may be useful. Many sales operations concern themselves with one step in their process: "closing.” And they resort to a blanket strategy. The point of a strategy is to aid the achievement of an objective. In sales, each step in the sales process should have its own objective. Moreover, as sales situations vary, it may be necessary to use different strategies. While a blanket strategy is easier to develop and teach to sales reps than multiple strategies, sales work is about the discovery and improvement of how to sell.
Solve the Problems of Efficiency
If you consider sales "just a numbers game," that may be the root of the problem. Instead, consider sales a profession tasked to discover and then improve—with efficiency—the process and strategies that build a company's profit. The proper order for that pursuit must be to first prioritize effectiveness and next refine that effectiveness with efficiency. A couple of suggestions:
Explore options for a more effective means by which to identify, engage, nurture, and secure sales. To begin, suspend the pursuit of efficiency and focus on the discovery of a more effective means by which to sell. Aim to improve ratios and percentages in areas of sales work— identification of qualified prospects, response from outreach efforts, etc. Discover or improve strategies to sustain engagement and advance prospects through each step (not just the final step) of your sales process.
Once you've achieved satisfactory results from your sales efforts, then you are ready to look at how efficiency refinements may improve that accomplishment. Such changes, however, cannot sacrifice the results from work that have proven to be effective. Only then will efficiency add value and be worthy of its place in your business.
The Heart of the Problem
The common denominator in efficiency failures is one of the greatest problems in the sales profession today: the lack of knowledge about how to sell. At base, the fallback to “efficiency” stems from a lack of knowledge about how to improve effectiveness. One of the greatest pitfalls in sales is the lack of respect for the uniqueness of prospective clients. Clients value a personal connection, which is a demonstration of regard for someone. If efficiency costs you effectiveness, then it is a liability in your business, not an asset. If efficiency becomes a substitute for improved sales work, it is impossible for you to reach your sales potential.
Remember: the point of productivity is to achieve meaningful results from an effort to reach a goal. Efficiency has no place in your sales operation until reliable effectiveness from sales activity has been established. The purpose of efficiency is to improve profit from work that has proven to be effective.
Copyright © 2020 Steven Robert Young. All rights reserved.