Time is money, sales teams need to spend it smarter
The age-old saying ‘time is money’ is one that is often bandied around in business circles, but perhaps none more so than in the Sales department. All evidence points to the fact that sales reps, whose livelihoods depend on hitting a revenue target, will want to spend as much of their time selling as possible. In reality though, are sales teams actually spending enough time doing what they do best, or are they being held back by other tasks?
A 2018 Forbes study showed that on average, nearly two-thirds (65%) of sales reps’ time is spent on non-revenue generating activities. It’s a startling statistic that shouldn’t just concern sales professionals, but wider business leaders too. After all, for the latter, who may be less involved in the day-to-day running of a sales operation, learning that your sales team spends the majority of its time on activities other than selling is a difficult pill to swallow.
So what’s putting pay to more time selling?
According to the Forbes article, the sales department’s primary time-sap culprits are; general admin such as travel and expenses, internal policies/approvals, and product issues. Combined with a B2B selling environment where sales cycles are longer and reps spend more time on due diligence to ensure the validity of a prospective client, it’s easy to see why time invested in non-sales activities has come to outweigh that spent on lead nurturing.
Of course, there are many traditional time management tricks that sales reps ought to be deploying to help themselves, yet in today’s competitive environment these, in isolation, are not enough to create significant and sustainable gains.
Smart selling versus ’sixth sense’
It won’t come as news to anyone that the use of technology within the sales function has rocketed over the past twenty years. The same can be said of Marketing, Finance and pretty much any other business function. What is surprising in the case of Sales however, is that despite 62% of sales reps spending most of their time using technology, the vast majority of this is spent in emails, with only a very minute 0.4% of time being spent using tech that gathers and provides valuable sales intelligence.
There is very little logic to those numbers and they send a strong directive to sales managers: start working from data-driven intelligence now. In order to work smarter, and save time, use technology that provides key insights into which prospective clients warrant their time and monetary investment. The days of ‘gut feel’ and ‘sixth sense’ are over, and those who fail to transition to a smarter way of selling will see the effects on their declining bottom line.
CRM: friend, not foe
Although there is a growing awareness as to the importance of sales intelligence tools, sales reps are still spending less than 18% of their time in customer relationship management (CRM) tools. This astounds me. Why is this?
The same Forbes study revealed that CRM ranked as the Sales department’s biggest frustration. Some sales teams report their “CRM system” to be 100% spreadsheet based with core data sets being difficult to access and compare, while others who do have a CRM platform are seemingly not living in it as they should be - perhaps because of poor user experience or a lack of engagement given the myriad of other systems they’re required to use to perform their job. Either way, it’s clear that many sales reps are not receiving the benefits that an optimum CRM system can deliver.
How do we change this?
The short answer is to integrate intelligent sales technology and CRM data to make non-revenue generating activities fast and seamless, making them more productive in the meantime. The advantageous bi-product here is that they’ll want to increase their use of these aids as a means of hitting their revenue targets sooner, and with less stress.
An example of this can be illustrated in the context of business travel. Sales people travel frequently in order to win and grow revenue, and in many cases, researching and booking business trips can leave them with a heavy administrative load (as much as 15% of a sales rep’s time is spent on administrative tasks according to the Forbes study). For an activity that, in itself, does not reap revenue return, that’s a key time-sap for Sales.
So it’s clear to see the benefits of having all this travel and expense spend data alongside your customer data; suddenly you have the ability to reconcile business travel spend with wider, cross-functional CRM data. You’ve opened up a whole new level of insight and opportunity for the company: which prospective customers are sapping sales time but yielding no return? What stage of the sales cycle are you most likely to require face-to-face meetings to win business? Which customers warrant a continued or even increased time investment? The benefits to having this visibility into the ROI of your sales teams’ travel and expenses speak for themselves.
This cannot be ignored and if you’re an organisational leader who is seeking new ways to outperform your competitors on the revenue front, this is further evidence for a greater use of smart technology that integrates with the organisation’s wider CRM data. In doing so, you will give your sales reps the gift of time, enabling them to spend more time doing what they do best and bringing in more of that all-important revenue.