Companies spend a tremendous amount of time, money and effort every year to improve the productivity of their sales teams. The intervention strategies range from sales training efforts to coaching initiatives to sales tools to marketing materials. These efforts tend to be laser focused on helping sales reps enhance their ability to sell more effectively.
All of this, of course, makes great sense since companies in B2B markets recognize that it’s increasingly difficult to win by product alone. Companies need a competitive sales team and what it takes to be competitive is greater than ever.
The strategic question facing companies that are serious about improving sales productivity is whether there are stones unturned. Are there other areas of focus that could improve sales productivity that historically have received less than the optimal attention?
Our answer to that question for most companies is – yes. And, our suggestion is “push the more button”– that is help sales reps be able to spend more time selling versus doing something else. Here let’s restrict the definition of selling to planning, doing and reviewing actual interactions with customers.
How great is the opportunity? Substantial. Emma Brudner reported the results of a sales productivity study where sales reps spent only 33% of their time selling. Other studies have reported the figure to be a low as 10%. It is difficult to impact the bottom line by helping salespeople get better at something if they aren’t doing the something.
So let’s take a look at some ideas that companies might implement to increase the time sales reps have available to spend on selling versus tasks such as: searching for or developing content or carrying out administrative activities or completing CRM tasks.
- Take a time profile snapshot. We have found that many front-line sales managers have only a vague impression of how their sales reps are prioritizing their time. If a company emphasizes the need to have a more accurate answer, a number of good things happen.
First, the sales managers isolate some of the best practices for optimizing the time spent on selling – that is what are the good folks doing on a good day. Second, they can determine which sales reps need the most help. Third, they can identify the time sinks and fourth, they can identify whether it would make sense to invest in tools or additional support personnel to help the cause.
- Help front-line sales managers be a filter not a funnel. All sales managers get a tremendous amount of internal requests from top management related to answering ever-popular questions such as: Are you meeting your sales figures? Here the trap is passing all these requests directly on to the sales team and getting them bogged down with paperwork and activities that reduce selling time. The most effective sales managers handle it differently. They are a “filter not a funnel.”
Simply put, they filter the information “coming down” from the division or central office and only funnel to their sales team the information the sales person needs to succeed. They eliminate the clutter going to the team thereby freeing up time for the salespeople to spend on selling.
- Recognize and reward. Reinforcement works. There are incentives for all sorts of sales activities. So if a company wants to increase the time spent on selling, they should put in place ways of recognizing and rewarding reps that are getting it right.
If you need some encouragement for “pushing the button,” make a rough estimate of the impact on revenue if each rep spent 10% more time interacting with customers – for an additional shot in the arm think of the secondary payoffs.
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