In an effort to increase profit, some companies make the mistake of trying to improve efficiency. However, it is a mistake to focus on efficiency when you haven’t fixed problems with effectiveness. Here are a few examples:

  • It’s more efficient to email prospective clients than to make phone calls.
  • It’s more efficient to send a mail merge than to write tailored messages.
  • It’s more efficient to assume than to investigate in order to discover.
  • It’s more efficient to remain with current practices than to learn and change.
  • It’s more efficient to speculate and generalize than to examine and analyze in order to know, specifically.

Efficiency is only valuable if it doesn’t impede effectiveness, as it often does in sales organizations. The value of efficiency is not merely to expedite work but, more importantly, to make work (and its results) more profitable. Do your efforts to improve efficiency end up costing you?

4 Areas Where Efficiency Can Cost More Than It’s Worth

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 — all of which, if understood and applied, can (and often do) prove to be 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

Now, more than ever, salespeople resist phone work, despite the fact that research continues to reveal that it is more effective than email in connecting with prospective clients. Phone calls are often more likely to lead to sales, in part due to the perception that email is often spam, even when it’s from a known vendor. While email may reach more people in a shorter period of time, it is ineffective if no one reads it.

3. Generic Messages

Organizations may send generic messages to a targeted audience, but, like mass prospecting, they reflect little regard for differences among specific audience members. Generic messages may go to people who have opted in to receiving emails from a seller, but if the content is irrelevant to the recipient, those hard-earned subscribers may be lost. Many sellers 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 your generic messages will undo your potential for greater sales effectiveness.

4. Blanket Strategies

Sales do not occur spontaneously; they are always the result of some sequence of events — in other words, a process. In order to optimize the effectiveness of a process that converts the potential for sales into actual sales, it’s useful to have a strategy.

Many sales operations concern themselves with one step in their process — closing — and resort to a blanket strategy. The point of a strategy is to aid in achieving an objective, and each step in the sales process should have its own objective. Moreover, as sales situations vary, it may be necessary to use different strategies for different situations. While a blanket strategy is easier to develop and teach to sales reps than multiple strategies, sales is about the discovery and improvement of how to sell.

The Heart of the Problem

The common link in these efficiency failures is one of the greatest problems in the sales profession today: the lack of knowledge about how to sell. At its core, 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 your sales team its effectiveness, then it is a liability, not an asset. If “efficiency” becomes a substitute for improved sales work, it will be impossible for your team to reach its sales potential.

Solving the Problems of Efficiency

If you consider sales just a numbers game, that philosophy 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 first to prioritize effectiveness and next to refine that effectiveness with efficiency. Here are a couple of suggestions.

First, explore options for a more effective means by which to identify, engage, nurture and secure sales. 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 specific areas of sales work — the 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, you are ready to look at how efficiency refinements may improve those results. Such changes, however, cannot sacrifice the results from the work that has proven to be effective. Only then will efficiency add value and be worthy of a place in your business.

Remember: The point of productivity is to achieve meaningful results from an effort to reach a goal. Efficiency has no place in your sales process until you have established reliable effectiveness from your team’s sales activity.

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