Sales productivity – it’s the time, stupid

Increasing sales productivity

Increasing sales productivity

In 1992 James Carville casually noted – “It’s the economy, stupid.”  At that moment he coined a phase that became a de facto slogan for the Clinton campaign and subsequently went on to foster a number of like expressions that are now part of our political culture.  We thought that Mr. Carville would not mind just one more variation on his theme.

Senior sales leadership spends a great deal of time thinking about how to improve sales productivity.  They invest in sales training .  They change compensation systems and territorial designs.  They purchase CRM systems and commit time to working with Marketing to achieve better coordination.

We suggest there is one additional often under used yet effective and affordable strategy – get serious about freeing up the sales team so they have more time for selling.

This idea was recently reinforced in an article from McKinsey.  The authors noted that top performing sales companies have about the same number of people in sales roles as low performing companies. However, the striking difference is they have “30% more sales staff in support roles.”

The idea is to free up the sales team to do what they do best and uniquely – selling.  The problem is salespeople are doing a bunch of stuff that isn’t what they do best and others can do. The authors share a case in a leading high technology firm where the sales team spent 28% of their time in low value administrative activities.  After some coaching they found they move some things around and substantially increase the sales reps’ time for selling.

So if there is something that can be done that is effective and affordable for improving sales productivity then examining some ways for making it happen seems like an okay idea.  Five ideas for increasing the time sales reps have available for selling are:

  • Staffing.  Add additional staff to a variety of sales support functions.  This might include adding technical experts to the sales team or establishing an inside sales group to handle lead identification or augmenting the administrative sales support.
  • Adding Channels.  Increasingly companies are moving to multiple channels.  In some cases it can make sense to consider value-added resellers or outsourced agents.  In others it might mean considering the aforementioned idea of an inside sales group or investigating the merit of a major account group.  Although this idea will probably lead to more over all sales people, each group is spending time on what they do best.
  • Becoming a Filter not a Funnel.  Too often sales managers are a funnel not a filter when it comes to handling administrative requests.  In most companies some of these request can be handle by someone else, some can be cut in half, and maybe some can just be ignored.
  • Sales Training.  Sales Training can help sales reps both become more effective and more efficient.  For example, how much time does your sales team waste chasing bad business – that is an identifiable number that needs to be known.  And, learning how to better qualify accounts is an identifiable and learnable skill.
  • Implementing Technology.  Over the last several years a fair amount of money has been spent on sales technology – for example investments in CRM systems.  One of the reasons that CRM systems have gotten a bit of a bad rap is the time reps have to spend interfacing with the system doing things they dislike, aren’t particularly good at and reduce their selling time.  There has got to be a better way because some people are getting this right.

Best suggestion – find the time to reduce the time your sales team spends not selling.  Over time it will make a difference that matters.

If you found this post helpful, you might want to join the conversation and subscribe to the Sales Training Connection.

©2014 Sales Momentum LLC




About Richard Ruff

For more than 30 years Dr. Richard Ruff and Dr. Janet Spirer - the founders of Sales Horizons - have worked with the Fortune 1000 - such as UPS, Canon USA, Smith & Nephew, Boston Scientific, Owens & Minor, Textron - to design and develop sales training programs. During his career Dick has authored numerous articles related to sales effectiveness and co-authored "Managing Major Sales", a book about sales management, "Parlez-Vous Business" which helps sales people integrate the language of business into the sales process, and "Getting Partnering Right" – a research based work on the best practices for forming strategic selling alliances. Dr. Ruff received his Ph.D. in Organizational Psychology from the University of Tennessee and a B.S. from Rennsselaer Polytechnic Institute.
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1 Response to Sales productivity – it’s the time, stupid

  1. Solid and succinct. Great share, Richard. Would love to check out the McKinsey post, but seems to link to a file instead of a URL. I believe this is the reference:

    – Karl

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