Helping Manufacturers And Distributors Improve Sales Performance And Profitability • 800-867-2778 • Issue No. 42

Putting Ideas Into Action
How sales managers are getting more from their salespeople

Many sales managers know their salespeople don’t spend enough time selling. Some turn to financial incentives and technology to solve this problem. But other sales managers are going a step further and finding ways to give their salespeople more time to sell.

In November 2006, we released the results of a 14-month Time Study that confirmed what many salespeople already knew and some managers suspected. On average, salespeople spend just eight percent of their time prospecting and qualifying new customers. Yet they spend 23 percent of their time dealing with problems and mistakes, searching for information and expediting orders.

Overall, they spend 62 percent of their time on “non-revenue-generating” activities and just 38 percent of their time selling.

Our study was widely discussed by trade associations and business media, including Selling Power, the Sales and Marketing Management Newsletter and The Washington Post.

We expanded on our study findings in our popular report 5 Common Barriers. We also used these insights to develop our Peak Sales Performance Work Session, which helps companies find ways to improve sales performance.

More time = more sales

Our study strongly suggests that companies can grow sales by giving salespeople more time to sell. It’s a low-cost, low-risk way to quickly get a higher return on investment (ROI) from your salespeople. It’s also more cost-effective than hiring more salespeople -- especially when qualified people are hard to find.

And the best part is that it’s easy to get started. Even small, inexpensive steps bring results. Several companies have already realized this and have taken action.

Faster, simpler quoting

For example, at one mid-sized manufacturer in the filtration industry, salespeople struggled with a time-consuming, inefficient quotation process. To get pricing as quickly as possible, salespeople were sending the same RFPs to three different people in the company. Then they had to follow up with multiple phone calls to keep the process moving. This cumbersome quotation process squandered time and kept salespeople from achieving their true sales potential.

When the Industrial Performance Group held a Peak Sales Performance Work Session with this manufacturer, the company saw how serious this problem was. They retooled their quotation process and put a central contact person in charge of getting pricing to the salespeople. This led to shorter turnaround times and a 20 percent reduction in departmental costs.

The company estimates that this freed up three hours per week for each salesperson. Three hours per week for 40 salespeople means about 6,000 more hours of selling time each year. Would your company’s top line go up if you had 6,000 more hours of selling time?

At another manufacturer in the electronics industry, our Peak Sales Performance Work Session revealed that salespeople were battling with a difficult database for pricing information. Every time they prepared a quote, they had to update the database on their laptops -- a very time-consuming process, even with a high-speed Internet connection.

The software was hard to use, and salespeople weren’t adequately trained to use it. Salespeople estimated they spent four to six hours a week searching for pricing information. They lost valuable selling time, and they also lost deals because quotes were late.

To solve this problem, the company developed a Web-based system that’s easier to use and no longer requires downloading data.

Quicker customer information

At a manufacturer in the construction supply industry, management had required salespeople to e-mail call reports back to headquarters after every sales call. Management needed this valuable customer information for forecasting and planning.

But many salespeople just weren’t finding time to compose and send the e-mails. And those who sent them spent an average of 2 1/2 hours a week on the task.

The company made a small adjustment: they asked salespeople to just call the information into a voice mail system. Clerical staff then transcribed the information for management.

Now management gets the information they need, and salespeople have more time to sell. The average time spent reporting this information fell to about 45 minutes a week. This may seem like a small improvement, but with roughly 30 salespeople, this freed up approximately 2,700 hours a year.

Fewer e-mails

Sales teams are bombarded with e-mails from headquarters, and this eats up valuable selling time. A Fortune 500 health care company noticed how their district managers were swamped with company e-mails and voice mails. This prevented them from spending more time with their field salespeople.

To solve this problem, sales management appointed a “gatekeeper” -- a staffer who condensed the e-mails into one easy-to-read weekly update. They now estimate that this improvement alone freed up as much as two hours per week for each district manager. They’ve also seen evidence that this extra time has led to an uptick in sales.

Easier proposals

Proposals are important, but many salespeople spend too much time on them and not enough time looking for new customers. To solve this problem, one media company decided to have their salespeople provide key proposal information to the marketing department, who then developed the proposals.

Now salespeople can concentrate on prospecting. The result: With more time to sell, at least one regional salesperson more than doubled annual revenue for her territory.

Boosting sales and profits

If you’re a salesperson, these stories may not be news to you. You probably know demands on your time keep you from selling more.

But some sales managers may still think salespeople just aren’t working hard enough … or that they need better incentives … or that hiring new salespeople is the answer.

However, our study strongly suggests that freeing up time is a cost-effective way to grow revenue and profits.

How much could you gain?

We’ve created a sales calculator that estimates the revenue you could gain for each hour you free up for your salespeople.

To see the dollars-and-cents impact on your business, go to the Sales Performance Calculator.

Tell us your stories

To learn more about how companies are freeing up their salespeople’s time, we’ve developed a brief survey. Please take a few minutes and share your thoughts and experiences with us. You do not need to identify yourself in any way, so be frank in your responses.

We’ll share the findings with you in our next Channel Focus. Thank you in advance for your participation.
Click here to participate in this brief Opinion Survey.

Want to learn more?

If you’re interested in putting this information to work, click here to learn about our Peak Sales Performance Work Session. This informative work session will help your company give your salespeople more time to sell -- with low risk and no additional sales and marketing costs. This lively, interactive session may be just the thing for your next sales meeting.

For more information, call us at 1-800-867-2778

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