Every day, I talk with sales executives about issues such as sales productivity, effectiveness, efficiency, and profitability. It’s a crucial issue for any sales executive and something they strive to improve.
Every executive I have spoken with is bright and prosperous. They are constantly looking at the sales process, their people’s skills, the tools they use, and other factors to ensure that their salespeople perform at their best. They are constantly improving, looking for an edge or a slight productivity improvement. They want to decrease sales cycle times and improve win rates. They are seeking more efficient and effective ways to fill their funnels.
Self-proclaimed sales guru, my time is spent talking about it and pontificating sometimes. There are hundreds of blogs that offer great ideas for improving sales processes every week. Many Sales 2. o tools and vendors provide tremendous productivity and effectiveness in the execution of the sales process. You can learn how to prospect, find, discover, propose, close, and close more effectively with a lot of training.
Even with all the thinking and hard work, executives tell me that they don’t get as much from their salespeople. This is the most critical question for any assessment of sales effectiveness. It is “How much time are they spending on deals and other activities that don’t directly relate to selling?” What percentage of their time is spent on activities that are not directly related to sales? We do deals. We search for them, qualify them, understand their needs, propose solutions, and negotiate the closing. We do this as efficiently and effectively as possible. We are well-equipped with the most up-to-date tools, excellent management coaching, and the best training. We have all the best trainers and consultants in the world to improve our execution and productivity when we don’t have them.
However, this misses the point. We are only looking at a small portion of the time salespeople spend. We need to do a time and motion study to get a feel for where salespeople are spending their time. (Sorry, the industrial engineering class at college left a lasting impression).
This has been done with several large companies, and the results have been excellent. We simply look at the time salespeople spend. We find that salespeople spend between 11% to 23% of their time doing deals or other related activities. This includes the time spent prospecting, researching, executing the sales process with customers and the preparation time for those meetings. These are the most common issues we look at when evaluating sales efficiency and effectiveness. We are not looking at the time salespeople are spending. This 11-23% is not being affected by productivity gains of 10/20/30% in the way they carry out the sales process.
How about if we looked at the 77-89% of their time? These are the “hidden time-wasters,” but eliminating them or reducing them can make a significant impact on sales productivity without changing the way they execute their processes.
We don’t have control over things like vacations and holidays for some time. We do have some control over a lot of things.
1. Sales requests from within the corporate.
Many people within the company contact salespeople for assistance and customer input. Marketing and product managers are constantly looking for ways to increase sales and gain customer insight. This is great; product managers and marketers are doing a good job. Even though each request may seem small, they have a significant impact on the time of people. One Fortune 100 company found that requests for information were taking up to 20% of salespeople’s time. To get their opinions, it was easy to send an email blast. The product managers didn’t know that their colleagues in the next cubicles were also sending requests, and they were all sending follow-ups.
2. Meeting discipline. It is easy to waste time on pointless meetings.
Waiting for pointless meetings to begin is a waste of time. All of this adds up. It all adds up. Two meetings per day, starting at 10 minutes late, for approximately 236 workdays a calendar year, is just under 79 hours a week. That’s almost two weeks per year for each person who wastes time waiting for meetings. You can think of it as if you had the ability to reclaim this time and use it for sales-related activities without having to do anything else. That’s a 4% increase in selling time. This can translate into productivity by allowing for a 20%-30% increase in selling times, as shown by the above numbers. This can all be done at no cost.
Considering the number of meetings that salespeople have scheduled, and realizing that 10 minutes is not a fair estimate, consider the time that could easily be saved by scheduling meetings on time. Add to this the many pointless meetings, which are total wastes. (Read my other posts about that topic). This problem was solved by a European client who has a unique approach. Meetings are always on time. They can also end at the appointed time. And, most importantly, they are not mandatory. If people feel that a meeting is a waste, they won’t attend. Think about how many panels are cut.
3. Reporting discipline. Let me vent about reporting.
There are many tools that can reduce the time required to produce reports. But I am still amazed at how much time salespeople spend on reporting. I have written about this before, and it is evident that there are plenty of ways to divert this time to selling-related activities.
There are simple and unique ways to increase sales productivity by freeing up time for selling. Take a look at how much time is spent on non-selling activities. It is a necessary and essential part of every sales professional’s job. There is also a lot of waste. Although I don’t recommend that you manage by a stopwatch, the first step in any sales productivity initiative should be to decrease time spent on non-selling activities. You must ensure that they have as much selling time as possible. Next, make sure they are as efficient and effective as possible when selling. This topic is covered in many articles, as well as lots of helpful advice and tools.
Partners In EXCELLENCE is Dave Brock’s company, where he serves as President and CEO. Partners In EXCELLENCE provides global leadership, management, and marketing consulting services. Partners in EXCELLENCE assist clients in achieving their highest performance levels by focusing on the client.