Sales is a high-pressure, fast-moving job. The common mantra among many sales teams is "always be closing," which encourages agents to finalize deals with clients as quickly as possible. It shouldn't come as any surprise, then, that speed is a common characteristic among many of the top sales teams throughout the world.

What may be unusual, however, is that many of the businesses polled by Selling Power might not be operating at the top speeds they think they are. Research conducted by Frost & Sullivan suggests productivity is among the top five functional challenges that leaders within the sales world face. So, this begs the question, what is throttling the productivity among sales departments globally?

One potential cause is the fact that sales departments are tasked with too many laborious tasks. These includes time-consuming administrative activities, such as creating sales quotes and figuring out commissions, that occupy the time of key sales team members, preventing them from completing other, more important functions. The solution to this problem may lie within automating these arduous activities.

"Highly competitive sales teams move quickly because they move efficiently," explains Selling Power. "By automating many of their processes and eliminating administrative hurdles, these teams experience increased productivity and shorter sales cycles."

For example, a sales leader could spend more time on other management functions by expediting commission-related tasks through sales performance management (SPM) and incentive compensation management (ICM) platforms, or sales agents could use sales quote software to more quickly create winning proposals.

The key is maximizing time. If a task that can be handled by a computer, businesses should strive to automate it so they can better focus on functions only humans can carry out. "The most effective technology solutions not only empower the individual, they also make the team a smoother, more effective unit," Selling Power adds.

Businesses need to think of SPM and ICM software as tools and make them work for the company. Although they may cost some money to implement and take time to learn, in the long run, they are often pivotal to developing more successful sales units. Many businesses see returns on investments within a year of initial integration.