As a rule, sales reps hate administrative paperwork and sales managers want to see greater productivity. Why can’t both get what they want? The problem, as indicated by a recent time study, is that too many sales reps are spending 78% of their time doing things other than selling. Regardless of the precise percentage at your business, moving the needle on this number could significantly expand your revenues without adding headcount. In light of these findings, two questions immediately come to mind: what are sales reps doing beyond sales and what will happen if they stop doing it?
The data in this study came from Pace Productivity, which launched a time study to answer three of the most common questions sales managers had about their reps:
- What do sales reps see as their top priorities?
- How are they spending their time now?
- What's the smartest path to maximizing productivity?
The answers will vary based on factors like growth stage and industry, but the study did suggest some best practices. At the start of the survey, sales reps were asked to identify their top priorities should be (they could choose more than one):
- 41% said prospecting, generating sales, writing orders, marketing
- 36% said building relationships, going to meetings, contacting customer;
- 20% said providing customer service
- 10% said planning
Yet that's not how their actual work weeks were structured. Here's a chart of what sorts of actions kept them busy.
Sales reps surveyed said that the top category of tasks, consuming 23% of their work week, was administrative tasks. Selling came in second, representing just 22% of their time.
Administrative tasks included actions like:
- General admin/paperwork - 5.1 hrs/wk
- E-mails, non-sales - 4.2 hrs/wk
- Internal calls - 4.0 hrs/wk
- Maintaining CRM - 2.2 hrs/wk
- Correspondence - 2.0 hrs/wk
- Handling mail - 2.0 hrs/wk
- Head office reporting - 1.3 hrs/wk
- Filing - 1.2 hrs/wk
- Expense reporting - 1.0 hrs/wk
- Personal training - 1.0 hrs/wk
- Reading - 0.4 hrs/wk
Note that administrative tasks did not include actions like order processing, which took up another 12% of their work week.
Sales in this time study included activities such as:
- Making cold calls
- Calling to stay in touch with existing customers
- Attending sales meetings
- Making sales presentations
- Writing and editing sales content
The full definition of "sales time" is a bit subjective. For example, sales reps listed travel as taking up 13% of their time and meals/breaks at 6%. However, sales reps frequently use these blocks of time to jump on their smartphones for follow up calls and sales related apps. In those cases, critical contact info and customer notes can get lost unless the company has a mobile app that handles data collection.
The category "planning" is also a grey area. It includes planning out their schedules as well as their sales presentations. The most productive sales reps spent 2-3 hours in planning, giving them 26% of their week for sales. Less than 2 or more than 3 hours pf planning tended to be counter-productive and hurt sales performance.
The report concluded with a suggestion for an ideal sales workweek based on how reps prioritized their responsibilities. Here's a pie chart of a sales schedule for greater productivity in an more efficient organization.
Research on the ROI of productivity
Bain & Company’s research on workforce productivity and performance found that:
- Inspired employees produce up to 2.25 as much as satisfied employees
- Top companies in each industry are 40% more productive than the rest
- Greater productivity results in profits that are 30%–50% higher than competitors and more reliable growth rates
Businesses lose 20% of their productive capacity to “organizational drag,” which are processes that waste time and prevent workers from doing their jobs more efficiently.
The companies that will pull ahead in 2018 will be the ones that inspire employees to be more productive.
The sales productivity platform
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