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Five Tips to Improve Sales Effectiveness of Smaller Teams

by Dave Egloff  |  November 7, 2019  |  Submit a Comment

Nearly all sales leaders have an eye on sales effectiveness. However, it is those leading smaller sales forces that should be the most keenly aware of where sellers are losing productivity due to ineffectiveness. With fewer sellers, each hour of work time lost is more consequential as compared to larger sales teams.

Sales leaders should be proactive in maintaining and improving sales effectiveness.  While likely beneficial for all leaders, here are five tips that will particularly help smaller sales organizations.

1.  Understand your buyer’s journey trumps your seller’s process

The modern-day B2B buyer’s journey is not a linear process.  Yet, Gartner observes many sales processes are still defined as a sequential path.  This misalignment can negatively impact how leaders interpret the overall pipeline and how sellers identify opportunity risks or delays.

Sellers need to adapt to buyers – it won’t be the other way around.  As sales leaders appreciate and adjust the buyer’s journey, pipeline and opportunity management will become more effective.

2.  Focus on the best opportunities… good may not be good enough

There is an adage in baseball – good hitters swing at strikes.  This translates well to sales.  When resources are limited, sellers should prioritize the best opportunities.  Yes – this seems downright obvious.  However, the real challenge comes when sellers must decide to disengage.

According to Gartner’s research, high performing sales managers prioritize this concept in their coaching conversations.  The best managers focus on deciding if a customer is a good fit.  When there isn’t a good fit, sales managers may need to disengage and redeploy their sellers to where they will have a greater impact.

3.  Tier customer accounts… they all can’t be key accounts

Tiering customer accounts is a prioritization exercise.  Typically, top tier customers get the most proactive and customized sales engagement.  Of course, this also drives up the cost of sales.

While sales leaders promote an account up a tier to improve the coverage and effectiveness, they can also demote an account to improve sales efficiency.  Demoting accounts puts sales growth at risk so sales leaders should only consider demoting accounts that are relatively smaller sized, lower growth and requiring less engagement.  Note: “relatively” refers to how the account compares to its peer group in the current tier.

4.  Explore new efficient routes to market… keep an eye on ROI

In a 2019 Gartner study, leaders were asked to compare routes to market in terms of the current ROI and expected importance to achieve goals.  When examining the current levels to those anticipated in 5 years, the most significant jump was in e-commerce.  In other words, leaders expect e-commerce to increase in importance in meeting their sales goals – even in complex B2B sales environments.  Resellers and Inside Sales also saw an uptick, although more modestly.

These lower-cost, higher-efficiency sales channels represent a shift in thinking.  Plus, new tools and technology are going to be at the heart of change.  Sales leaders, even those managing fewer sellers, will be able to extend their reach to penetrate and serve new markets.  Certainly, conflicts can occur, and new challenges will arise.  However, sales leaders must keep an eye on what’s to come.  If not, they run the risk of losing sight of what could be someone else’s competitive advantage.

5.  Minimize time spent on non-selling activities… to maximize sales outcomes

Sellers’ time is limited and valuable, especially for top performers.  Therefore, sales leaders must ensure that sellers focus on buyers and selling activities.  Unfortunately, internal complexity and demands are growing.  Administration, documentation, team meetings, one-on-one’s, training, town halls, etc. are all important.  However, they also erode the time available for selling activities.

Small teams are most susceptible to seeing these internal demands limit sales productivity.  Sales leaders can mitigate this issue by either imposing an informal cap of time spent in internal meetings – perhaps 15-20% each week.  Alternatively, leaders can empower sellers to ask for a justification for low priority, non-selling requests and perhaps even decline requests.


Ultimately, the keys to success are around focus, prioritization and proactive decision making.  Sales leaders rarely have the luxury to wait and see.  However, when resources are limited, this pressure is amplified.  Luckily, the benefits of managing and improving effectiveness are also amplified.

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Category: sales-operations  sales-performance  sales-strategy-and-design  

Dave Egloff
Senior Director
1 years at Gartner
20 years IT Industry

Dave Egloff is a Senior Director, Analyst in the Gartner for Sales Leaders practice. His current work focuses on key initiatives in sales strategy, sales operations and sales compensation. Read Full Bio

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