• Revenue Operations Chief Revenue Officer

Managing Seller Activity and Seller Productivity

Cornelius Willis headshot

Cornelius Wills
CMO, Clari

For Mark Ebert, the senior vice president of sales at 6Sense, core activity metrics are key to managing seller activity and productivity.

Not long ago, sales professionals could game the system to hit their activity numbers. Maybe they exaggerated their prospecting, or sandbagged their forecast so they could sweep in as a hero at the end of the quarter. 

Today, there’s a different level of transparency thanks to revenue operations. Successful teams not only know how to work hard, they know how to work smart.

I spoke with Ebert during my latest episode of Club Revenue, brought to you by Nasdaq, to understand how 6Sense manages seller activity and productivity to drive revenue.

Track the activities that move deals 

While most leaders focus on activities, Ebert says tracking activities just to track data is pointless. For him, it’s about making the best use of the seller’s time. Sure, you could track how much outreach a rep has done, but does that really tell you anything? 

The key is figuring out the metrics that really power deals, and tracking those. What matters are the activities that move a deal forward, such as the speed of follow-up and the number of follow-up activities, that drive an open opportunity forward.

In the enterprise realm, you might track the number of accounts in a rep’s territory that haven’t logged activity in the last 30 days. Or, to ensure they’re multi-threading, track how many personas are being engaged in an opportunity. 

Different markets require different metrics 

6Sense sells to enterprise, commercial, and SMBs, with different activities and productivity metrics for each. They have strategic reps, who sell to enterprise companies of 5,000 employees and above.

“We have to think about them as distinct, different kinds of businesses,” Ebert says. “A strategic rep may only have 15 to 20 accounts to work, while a commercial rep is working hundreds of accounts.” 

Commercial business takes a hybrid approach. Reps handle both inbound and hunting. Their tracking includes how quickly they follow up on inbound leads, and how well they convert their first meeting into an active, qualified opportunity.

On the other hand, a strategic seller has metrics such as the number of meaningful conversations they have with the personas they’re selling to. 

Ebert explains that 6Sense sells to eight personas across their target markets, split evenly between marketing and sales. Reps are expected to have conversations with at least one person in marketing and one in sales.

Build a high-rigor, high-consistency organization

6Sense breaks activity metrics into two distinct areas: effort and execution. In their dashboards, a rep has red, yellow, or green light based on how they performed in different areas. 

That tells managers where to coach each week. It also provides transparency that didn’t used to exist in sales organizations. 

“If the data is available, we want to make use of it and turn it into something that helps our sellers get their job done and over-perform,” he says.

That’s a huge evolution in expectations. When Ebert was a business development representative, he says everyone worked the system. “We’d call the same number a hundred times until we hit our number. And we’d get away with it.”

Ebert admitted it can feel controlling to track activity to that level. But reps understand that the aim is to help.

“Nobody wants to make 200 calls a day. If we can help you find a way to make 50 and get the same output, we all win,” he says.

Changing expectations for enterprise sales reps

The goal today is to coach reps to reach their full potential. If they’re in a dry spell, leadership’s function is to find out where they’re struggling, so they can help.

Ebert shares his own experience to illustrate this point.  

After six years in his first sales job, he was closing a deal every month. He thought he had sales figured out. But at his next job, he needed nine months to close his first deal.

“This was truly an enterprise sale, but the conversation with my manager at the time, thankfully, was, ‘We're doing all the right things. We're progressing the opportunities the way we need to. Be patient. They'll come. Don't rush.’”

As Ebert says, everyone has a dry spell. A sales manager’s job is to support those reps and help them stay on track, working the pipeline in a healthy way until the business comes.

But sometimes, a deal isn’t going to progress. This is another area where reps need coaching.

6Sense has mapped their sales cycle by segment and sales stage. They know how long it should take for an opportunity to move from one stage to another, and they’ve set up alerts for deals that don’t progress. 

Rather than asking reps to force a stagnating deal to move forward, they analyze whether the account is in a buying cycle and ready to buy. If the opportunity appears cold, they encourage the rep to move on to another account.

This is yet another way to help reps work more efficiently.

Recognizing successful sellers

I asked Ebert if he’s found a particular activity that’s consistent among high-performing reps.

They’re diligent about time, Ebert says. They understand that time kills opportunities, and they focus on progressing a deal rather than letting it stall and sit still.

And they understand that the data helps them.

“The most successful reps are the ones who know their own metrics,” he says. “It’s always a little scary when the manager knows more about a rep’s numbers than the rep does.”

The future of sales execution visibility  

Ebert sees artificial intelligence as key to the future of sales success.

First, AI will help sellers and managers have more productive conversations. AI will also identify an individual seller’s best activities for achieving closed-won business, he predicts. 

“Every seller will have a unique equation for what gets them to their number, based on their different strengths and weaknesses,” says Ebert. 

Ultimately it’s about making the seller’s job easier by tapping into their strengths. 

Watch Club Revenue

Club Revenue is Clari’s new video series on Nasdaq, airing bi-weekly. 

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