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How Much Time Do Your Salespeople Spend Selling?


I just reviewed the 2011 Sales Optimization Survey from CSO Insights. This research organization surveyed more than 2,000 companies worldwide and collected information on more than 100 metrics related to sales effectiveness. What struck me as most interesting is how salespeople invest their time:

  1. A little more than 41 percent is spent selling by phone or face-to-face. What’s interesting is that many technology vendors claim their solution will save time and that salespeople will be able to spend more time with customers. Looking at the same data point from CSO Insight’s 2006 survey we learn that five years ago salespeople spent 46 percent of their time selling by phone or face-to-face. That’s when we had less technology. But technology is not the primary thief of selling time. The best explanation of the gradually shrinking slice of time is that customers want to spend less time with salespeople since they spend more time than in the past researching vendor solutions. In many cases customers have completed 70 percent of the buying cycle before they begin a dialogue with a salesperson. The survey also pointed to a very clear relationship between time spent with customers and sales reps making quota. For example, salespeople who spent 35 percentor less of their time selling by phone or face-to-face achieved quota only 55 percent of the time; however when salespeople spent more than 45 percent of their time selling, the chances of them making quota went up to 62 percent. More belly-to-belly selling time fattens salespeople’s wallets.
  2. Twenty-four percent of the salesperson’s time is spent on generating leads and researching accounts. This time segment has grown from 19 percent as reported in 2006. Does that mean this is a negative trend? CSO Insight researchers looked at the survey responses from companies that spend more time on contact and company research and found that they have higher conversion rates of leads to first calls. Here is where great technology can make a huge difference. Smart salespeople can research a prospect company within 45 seconds and access company data and social-media information within minutes. Given the right tools, salespeople can learn about their prospect’s business realities and personal tastes faster, cut call preparation time in half, and map out a winning strategy before dialing for dollars and engaging prospects in a meaningful dialogue.
  3. Nineteen percent is spent on meetings or administrative tasks This is the area that deserves the most attention. Most sales meetings are called without an agenda, and salespeople are forced to listen to an emotional stream of consciousness from their manager(s). The best way to cut the time spent in sales meetings in half? Ask everybody attending to stand throughout the meeting. When nobody can sit down, mental productivity goes up. People will come to a decision faster, and small talk will evaporate. The more pressure people feel on their feet, the faster their minds will go from a problem to solutions.
  4. Nearly sixteen percent is spent on other tasks such as service calls, training etc. There will always be “other” tasks in a sales office: ringing the bell when somebody sells something, reading this magazine, writing handwritten thank-you notes, congratulating another salesperson on a job well done. 

The best way to approach the dilemma of salespeople spending less time with customers than in previous years is to reframe the issue. The solution isn’t about the management of time; it is about the management of actions. Only a better sales process will lead to greater sales progress.

Disclosure: CSO Insights is not a client of Selling Power.


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Very insightful article. For me, the ability to leverage technology for research is a huge thing that both buyers and sellers are coming to terms with, but an area in which most sales are somewhat further behind. As a buyer, I expect access to 90% of the information that I need online, allowing me to qualify the product or service before I speak to anyone. I can then have an intelligent discussion with a sales person about my needs. As a sales person, I should have a fairly good idea of what the buyer is going to ask for before I speak with them.

The other key thing that this article raises is that the small amount of time that buyers and sellers spend together should be useful time. These interactions are still far too dull, poorly structured and unhelpful. Using technology such as iPads to stimulate the meeting with visual content, and having a more natural conversation focus, carefully structured by the sales person in reaction to the buyers responses, will both help to make these sessions more valuable for both parties.

Jonathan London

I think a critical element of time management of what the time is being spent on. Are people scurrying around chasing anything and everything or is it focused on their sweetspot?


You have raised excellent points and the break down in percentage is very clear. I personally think that if salesforce is capable, speaks truth, make customers feel better by putting their snaps on company's office etcs, involving customers in short term decision making about prodcuts then this will feel make them feel very personal and we would have a personal relation with them. All these strategies are to keep them with the company. But yourr post is really good.

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