Improving Sales Productivity – Part 1: Giving Sales Professionals More Time to Sell

Do you know how your sales organization is spending most of its time? In this two-part blog series, we’ll take a look at how sales organizations are actually spending their time and how sales operations can play a key role in “giving time back” to sales professionals as well as sales managers. This week, we start with salespeople and how they are spending their time.

Sales continues to spend two-thirds of their time on non-selling activities. (Click to tweet)

With so many sales technologies available today, you’d think sales teams would be more efficient and able to spend more time engaging with customers (a.k.a. selling time). But the reality is, how salespeople are spending their time hasn’t shifted much in the past year or so. In 2018, when we looked at how sales professionals were spending their time, only one-third (32%) of their time was spent on selling. (Click to tweet) (2018-2019 Sales Performance Study)

So what are they doing with the remaining two-thirds of their time?

Most fall into the category of non-selling activities such as post-sales and administrative tasks, internal meetings and receiving training or coaching. If you total this up, that’s 68% of their time spent on non-selling activities! While activities such as prospecting and preparing for calls, receiving training and coaching, and even time spent traveling are legitimate non-selling activities, they are still spending slightly more than one-third of their time (33.6%) on post-sales and administrative tasks.

Sales operations can help “give time back” to sales by improving sales efficiencies around prospecting and post-sales tasks. (Click to tweet)

1.Collaborate with marketing and sales enablement. Sales spends 18.1% of their time on prospecting and preparing for calls. Some organizations may invest in sales and business development resources (SDR/BDR) to help with these activities. Others may also use sales technologies to help automate processes around account and contact research; compile analysis based on firmographics, buyer personas and buyer intent; and streamline calendaring and outreach tasks. In either scenario, sales professionals are still spending time on prospecting and preparing for calls, which they should. So how can you help make these activities more efficient for sales professionals?

Sales operations can take sales efficiencies to the next level by ensuring an integrated, continuous sales experience with the introduction of new sales technologies by proactively collaborating with marketing and sales enablement. (Click to tweet)

Partnering with marketing, sales operations can drive alignment with existing campaigns that might already be in place. For example, will the prospects on the marketing campaign lists be the same as the prospects the new sales technology identifies, and what messaging will they receive from marketing? By compiling this information with marketing, sales operations can proactively inform sales professionals who, in turn, can spend more time customizing their messaging for prospective buyers instead of spending time looking for this information from marketing.

Sales operations also can partner with sales enablement and take into account any relevant non-technology-related considerations with the introduction of the new sales technology. For example, does value messaging need to be adjusted based on the prioritization criteria (industry, buyer persona, etc.) used by the new sales technology? If it does and sales enablement develops updated value messaging that aligns with the prioritization criteria, sales professionals can spend more time qualifying prospect engagements instead of adjusting the value message on their own.

By looking at the sales experience holistically with marketing and sales enablement input, sales operations can reduce the time sales professionals spend looking for information or updating outdated content and spend more time qualifying prospects and turning them into opportunities.

2.Include feedback from post-sales teams into the design of your sales process and technology implementations. The level of sales professional involvement in post-sales tasks varies depending on whether an organization has additional resources such as order fulfillment, implementation and customer success teams in place. But they still need to be engaged with post-sales activities to ensure the solution they sold is implemented successfully at the customer site. According to our research, sales spends 18.8% of their time on post-sales tasks. The more efficient sales is at managing post-sales tasks, the more they can redirect the additional time gained as a result to selling-related activities.

Sales operations might already be involved in helping to align process and system handoffs with the post-sales teams involved. So one way to improve sales efficiencies even more is to include order fulfillment, implementation and customer success team feedback into sales process definition and sales technology implementations. (Click to tweet)

When defining and documenting the sales process, sales operations should make sure to understand the post-sales team’s processes end-to-end, not just the initial handoff points from sales to post-sales teams. For example, by understanding what information the implementation team needs to help with its scoping efforts, sales operations can better identify where in the process sales could capture this information and document it as part of the sales process. This will help sales reduce the time they spend providing information to the implementation team, as they would have already captured it in CRM as part of the sales process. Here, sales operations should be careful not to include too many additional steps in the sales process.

If sales operations can identify sales efficiencies in prospecting and post-sales activities and give back even just 10% more time to sales professionals, that’s 4 hours (or half a day) more they can spend selling in a 40-hour week! So what are you waiting for? Find out where your sales teams are spending their time, and start thinking of ways to help them redirect more of their time to selling.

 

Questions for you:

  • Do you know how your sales teams are spending their time? If yes, when was the last time you looked at the breakdown?
  • How much time is your sales team spending on prospecting and call planning? What about post-sales tasks?
  • What new ways can you think of to help improve sales efficiencies with prospecting and post-sales tasks?

 
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4 Comments
  • Dave Brock
    Posted at 12:32h, 25 June

    Great post. I’m interested in why you consider Prospecting non sales time? I’ve always viewed prospecting and finding opportunities a critical sales function. Despite the leads that might be provided, sales people always have to invest time in prospecting, finding, developing, and qualifying new opportunities.

    Am I misunderstanding your data?

  • Yuri Dekiba
    Posted at 14:20h, 25 June

    Good question Dave. Yes, we would consider prospecting as well as some of the post-sales activities like account management as part of selling time. In this case, we broke out prospecting and post-sales activities separately from selling activities (where you are having some sort of interaction with a potential buyer), to identify areas we could improve efficiencies around. Since there are methodologies, skills, and tools that can help with sales efficiencies, and these can vary by type of activity (prospecting, selling and post-sales), we broke them out. I hope this clarifies things a bit more.

  • Kevin Decker
    Posted at 15:55h, 01 July

    Hello Yuri, I like the post. I have a slightly different take on item 2 in your post. The sales team should be well aligned and partner with the delivery teams so nothing is lost in the translation. Once a deal is qualified and there is a defined project the salesperson and delivery resource tag team the scoping session. This frees the sales team up to further the deal on the business side and ensures the delivery team does not miss anything.

    This also eliminates any animosity between sales and delivery like you see in many large corporations. Sales and delivery alignment are critical to project success and delivering WOW through service. In addition, by pairing sales and delivery together it really helps the delivery team understand the business value context.

  • Yuri Dekiba
    Posted at 19:20h, 01 July

    Kevin, thanks for your comments. You make a valid point around sales and delivery teams tag teaming the scoping session. Depending on the complexity of your service offering, this can indeed be an approach that works. In such a scenario, it’s important for the sales team to identify the right contacts within the buyer’s organization for the delivery team to engage with. Considering there is an average of 6.4 decision-makers in an account (per our 2018 Buyer Preferences Study), the person who has the level of information the delivery team requires for scoping sessions may be different from the person sales has been engaging with primarily. It’s also important to time such a scoping session appropriately – If too early, you may overwhelm the customer with too much detailed requests; if too late, you may be challenged to re-negotiate the original estimation should it need to be adjusted.

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