We recently read an interesting HBR blog posting by the Sales Executive Council (SEC) – entitled: Are Your Sales Reps Spending Too Much Time in Front of Customers? The SEC has been tracking how reps spend their time for about 8 years – crossing industries and geographies.
In the post, the SEC shares that how sales reps spend their time has undergone “a dramatic shift” over the past five years: non-face-to-face sales activities have increased 21% at the expense of actual selling time in front of the customer – which is down 26%.
How is the non face-to-face sales time being spent – on planning! Before and after the sale, reps are spending more time planning – qualifying accounts, strategizing on accounts or creating account plans on the front end and on post-sales activities like conducting win-loss analysis, updating account plans, or providing customer support.
And the impact? This research supports what many sales leaders have been saying for years – sales success is about much more than being a persuasive presenter. In the past, successful sales reps spent more time in front of the customer than average reps. This research suggests high performers are spending more time (about 25%) – lining up internal resources and making about 10% fewer sales presentations to customers than less successful sales reps.
Why has this happened? According to the SEC, customers have fundamentally changed how they buy. With simpler, product sales, a sales rep just had to get to the decision maker, make a compelling pitch and close the deal. That’s why top performers had to spend more time with customers. But today, sales reps are selling complex solutions – requiring them to do more account strategizing and call planning before meeting face-to-face with customers. They also have to be prepared for the back-and-forth business conversations with customers inherent in “getting the solution right” as well as navigating more complex decision making processes. That’s why top sales reps take the time to understand how a deal impacts stakeholders and take more time in planning and preparation.
We thought this was an interesting research report and one that warrants additional discussion. If you would like to read the study in more detail, click here to read the report: Sales Process Trends: Examining Recent Trends in Sales Rep Time Spend and Drivers of High Performance.
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