A Startling Sales Productivity Statistic

I was introduced to Nancy Nardin of Smart Selling Tools through her business partner after the recent @Sales20conf event in San Francisco and she presented some startling numbers on sales productivity.

An organization with $100M in sales should generate 28M in incremental revenue by increasing their time spent with prospects from 37% to 45%.

Why is face time so low and how to increase sales productivity?

According to CSO Insights 2013 Sales Performance Optimization survey, salespeople spend only 37% of their available time selling, (= face-face or on phone talking to customers).

Chart from CSO Insights 2013 Sales Performance Optimization Survey.

There are a finite number of sales days (215) and selling hours per year (1720), so how to get more selling time from those fixed hours and improve sales productivity?

This got me thinking about what prevents salespeople from spending more time 1:1 speaking with buyers – when this is the highest value thing a salesperson can do when they are “on-the-job”.

The analysis in CSO Insights SPO report supports the conventional wisdom that more time spent selling to customers does in fact translate into more revenues per rep., and begs the question, so how do we help reps get more time to sell. (Click here to participate in the 2014 survey)

In past 15 years, the amount of 1:1 selling time has eroded from 47% in 1998 to 37% in 2013 (CSO Insights). In 1998 the sales tools we had then were the phone, Email, the Internet (many first generation Websites with information only), CRM, an information provider for contact names and host of docs created by marketing, including brochures, presentations, .pdf’s and of course our demo.

Over the same period, we have equipped salespeople with many more tools, applications, smartphones, tablets, reporting systems in the name of improving productivity. The result of all these investments is that in 2013 we get less time selling to prospective customers – despite all of the tools and productivity aids introduced in the past 15 years and we have reduced salespeople’s efficiency. Part of the problem is buyer’s disengaging from the sales process and assuming control over the buying cycle, but there are other factors.

Barriers to Change

Despite billions are being spent on sales enablement globally every year, we have very little to show for it. “$Billions are spent on sales performance initiatives every year, yet 90% of companies have no idea if it’s paying off. Dave Stein ESResearch)

A big part of the challenge for managers, trainers and sales enablement professionals is human behavior – fixed, routine, ingrained. Salespeople tend to operate from their comfort zone and despite coaching, training and tools, it’s very difficult to affect behavior and to create lasting change.

Motivation for change and knowledge that it is possible, coupled with a multi-faceted approach phased over time where incremental improvements are achieved vs. looking for silver bullets is the right approach.

I would argue that we don’t need more tools, we need better tools, better content, less overhead and better sales management skills and better sales coaching.

Let’s look at how we could theoretically make sales productivity improvements by breaking down the activity segments in the sales person’s day.

Major Levers that can improve Productivity

Here are some proven ways to spend more time and increase the value of the time spent 1:1 with buyers.

1. Get on-Message – craft your messaging and value proposition around your buyer’s goals and issues and how they can use your products and services and create a structure where messaging elements are shared, kept updated and easily accessible across the company. Aligning sales and marketing messaging has benefits for both sales and marketing to amplify brand. (70% of sales and marketing executives said the biggest threat to their growth was their inability to differentiate. – S&MM Magazine)

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2. Reduce Time on Lead Generation/Researching Accounts from 20.9% to 17.0% = 3.9%

    • Implement Inbound Marketing: Biggest opportunity of upside here to improve sales productivity by generating quality inbound leads which cost 60% less than traditional outbound sourced leads. Some level of cost will be transferred to marketing, but ROI is worth it if we can free up this time for more time 1:1 with buyers.
    • Currently 45% of sales reps generate their own leads, vs 30.5% generated by marketing (CSO Insights 2013 SPO).
    • Speed of response is directly linked to increased qualified opportunities in the pipeline. (Now that you are generating inbound leads, if you call them within 5 minutes of receiving the lead you will double your pipeline of opportunities within weeks, vs calling them the next day) The following clip with sales guru Anthony Iannarino quotes Andy Paul and his book Zero time Selling and puts the case for responsiveness well)

3. Reduce Meeting/Admin Tasks from 13.8% to 11.3% = 2.5%

  • Sales admin chews up a lot of sales reps time and there is constant push-back from salespeople on enforced use of systems that don’t benefit them.
  • CRM is not going away however, the goal is to increase the value sales reps get from using the CRM system.
  • Capturing and sharing best-practices and tribal knowledge, indexing it and making it available by keyword search will help reduce time wasted searching for and recreating documents.

4. Reduce Admin time on Post Sales from 16.9% to 14.4% = 2.5%
(order processing, account management etc.)

  • Again, sales admin chews up a lot of time and a certain amount is unavoidable.
  • Focus on improving communication with customers by categorizing, capturing and sharing frequently used communication chunks.

5. Reduce Time spent on Other from 11.4% to 10.3% = 1.1%

  • Other includes training and travel and it is often wasted. Sales is moving inside rapidly as communications technology and training delivery mechanisms negate the need to leave the office.

How to Move the Needle

According to IDC up to 28 hours of a knowledge workers time  (salespeople are knowledge workers) is spent searching for and recreating documents. Finding and recreating documents via numerous portals, email and file management systems is one of the most frustrating aspects of a salesperson’s daily routine.

Here is a list of the admin tasks salespeople perform on a daily or weekly basis and a place to focus our attention to move non-selling time to 1:1 time as mentioned above.

  • Locating Sales Resources via portals and Intranets, Wikis
  • Building industry knowledge – learning about buyers needs
  • Learning from captured best practices and shared local knowledge
  • Writing and sending solicitation emails.
  • Linkedin connection requests
  • Deciding what to say – creating and finding call prompters
  • Reviewing and adding to buyer personas – what your buyers care about
  • Selecting and using Who I’ve helped stories – conversation starters
  • Preparing post sales-call follow-up – meeting summaries and next step emails
  • Sending Emails with links to resources, videos, whitepapers
  • Creating and modifying presentations and validating current messaging.
  • Creating and modifying proposals and RFP responses and validating pricing terms etc.
  • Creating follow-up information
  • Creating & Sending emails
  • Proving ROI and Value – finding and sending links to resources
  • Preparing and sending quotes

How We Can Help

WittyParrot helps marketers and salespeople to capture and share a single version of the truth. 

The always-on WittyWidget enables salespeople to quickly find and reuse chunks of relevant information to save time and improve productivity.

WittyParrot helps marketers and sales enablement professionals to create, manage, share and track reusable business content.

Looking for some sales productivity tips from the experts? Download our 25 Sales Tips from the Experts eBook



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Topics: Sales Enablement, sales productivity


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