Hiring Sales Talent Feed

Turnover: The Silent Sales Killer

TroyHarrisonToday’s post is by speaker, consultant, and sales navigator Troy Harrison, author of Sell Like You Mean It! Email him at Troy@TroyHarrison.com, or visit www.TroyHarrison.com.

 

 

I answered the phone this afternoon, and an earnest voice said, “Hello, Mr. Harrison? This is Chris, and I’m your new representative with Company X.  I’m calling to introduce myself and see if we could set up a time to chat so I could learn about your business, and we could see if Company X could do more for you.” 

Company X is a vendor with whom I have done business for six years. I’m loyal to this company because it provides a service that helps me. I spend quite a bit of money with this company, and I’m sure that when Chris looked at my account, he figured he had a pretty solid customer and a good sales call. That’s why I’m sure that my response was a huge surprise to him (and it might be to you, as well).

“I’m sorry, Chris, but that wouldn’t be a good use of my time or yours,” I told him. Chris seemed shocked, so I decided to explain fully. 

“You see, I get a call just like this every six months from your company. About every six months, more or less, I have a new rep who wants to spend time being a resource to me. I’ve had several of these conversations, and I just don’t have the time for another. I’m already buying what I need from your company, so there’s no up-sell potential for you. I wish you the best. I have your contact information, and if I need you, I’ll call.”

He said, “Well, I do appreciate your candor.”  

I told him, “I’m not trying to be rude. I’ll tell you what, call me on your one-year anniversary, and I’ll give you all the time you want.” 

Chris was disappointed, but I meant what I said. I doubt, based on past experience, that I’ll get that call on his one-year anniversary.

Turnover in sales is a sales and relationship killer. Sooner or later, customers get tired of hearing, “I’m your new salesperson.”  For those salespeople who jump jobs and are saying, “I’m now with a new company,” your customers get tired of that, as well. In both cases, credibility and relationships are the victims.

The reason I wouldn’t speak with Chris was exactly as I told him: it wouldn’t be a good use of my time. By the time he’s getting it figured out, he’ll probably be gone, and I’ll be getting a call from yet another new salesperson. I like to train salespeople – but only when I’m paid to do so.

Here are the raw facts: there is a learning curve for salespeople in any job. Stats show that salespeople reach basic competence in six months, become profitable for the hiring company between month 12 and month 18, and don’t reach full productivity until year three or year four.  When salespeople change jobs within that three-year window (or worse, the one-year window), that tells me that they don’t know what it’s like to reach full productivity.

Ultimately, excess turnover is a problem for our profession, but there are a few things that salespeople, sales managers, and company owners can do to curb it.

For Salespeople

Stand and fight. There are many stated reasons that salespeople short-time a job; however, the main reason is that things get a bit tough, and the salesperson bails. Sales isn’t always an easy career, but the best, most successful salespeople fight through the problems and emerge victorious. 

Stop chasing shiny objects. One of the biggest reasons for turnover is that salespeople chase.  What do they chase? Shiny objects. To put it another way, they chase the new opportunity that seems so much better than the current job – more money, better technology, different territory, etc. I recently interviewed a guy who said that he was a “chaser of the best technology in [his] space at any given time.” This was to explain six job changes in the last 10 years, none of which produced significantly better results or income. Don’t get me wrong: I know that there are times when the only way to advance your career is to make a change, but those changes should be infrequent and well thought out.

For Sales Managers

Hire smart. Too many hires are simply future turnover in the making. Sales managers, lacking a good basis or tools for hiring, simply make “gut hires” that don’t produce results. Lower turnover is the result of good hiring practices.

Coach before firing. Once you have hired someone, you owe it to yourself, as well as to your hire, to give him or her every reasonable opportunity to succeed. That means termination should be a last resort, not a first. The first resort is to troubleshoot and coach your salesperson. You should terminate only when you can look at yourself in the mirror and honestly say that you gave your salesperson a shot. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that both hiring and coaching are well covered in my Unconventional Guide to Sales Management audio course.

For Company Owners

Take a long-term approach. Building a quality sales force isn’t something that happens week by week or necessarily quarter by quarter. It happens over the long haul. In the case of the sales rep who contacted me, I’m sure that ownership or upper management has established a set of standards that basically wash out new sales reps after about six months, hence my frequent calls from new reps. 

Hire a quality sales manager. Quality sales managers coach and improve sales performance; they are drivers of the sales effort, not the passengers. If that’s not your sales manager, it’s time to invest in coaching or training for that person – or rethink who you’ve put in that managerial position.

Turnover has many costs, but it doesn’t have to be a sales killer. The right approach to building a sales force can greatly reduce turnover – which puts profit on your bottom line.


Are Salespeople Born Competitive?

Kevin McGirlToday’s post is by Kevin McGirl, president of sales-i, award-winning business intelligence software that simplifies and improves the sales process.

 


What brings out our inner Usain Bolt? No, I’m not talking about how fast we can run. I’m talking about that competitive edge and drive to succeed. Are we born with it, or does it emerge when we pick up the phone in our first sales role?

It’s a question I’ve thought about a lot. In an industry such as sales, where a strong stereotype of the typical employee exists, can we determine whether it is the job that forms the personality or the personality that is destined for the job?

Recently, I set out to find an answer and, along with my company, surveyed 254 sales professionals across the United States and United Kingdom. The results showed that a salesperson’s personality and subsequent career may be decided from an early age.

Kevin McGirl blog post INFOGRAPHIC  (1)

Here’s a quick summary:

  • Sixty-eight percent say they were made to earn their pocket money as a child.

  • Thirty-one percent were first employed at age 13.

  • Seventy percent belonged to at least one school sports team.

  • Thirty-six percent selected “competitive” as a principal childhood characteristic. Qualities including “social,” “driven,” and “positive” were also indicated.

  • Ninety-two percent have at least one sibling (39 percent have more than three), and 38 percent are the eldest (eldest children tend toward diligence).

  • Sixty-six percent were popular at school. Only 7 percent were unpopular, while 3 percent say they were bullied.

  • In the United States, 55 percent of those with a parent working in sales chose sales as a first career choice.

When analyzing these results, I thought it useful to get a psychologist’s point of view. Enter professor Cary Cooper, CBE, from the United Kingdom. He confirmed that the survey reveals an unmistakable personality type for salespeople and commented that what’s really important for salespeople is to define themselves as competitive, driven, pragmatic, and confident.

This “unmistakable personality type” is something that employers might want to look for in candidates when hiring. Making the wrong hire is costly to the business, so if a future selling star can be identified by his or her personality, then great!

Sadly, reality is never as simple as that; hiring someone who fits a profile won’t guarantee striking employee gold, and I caution anyone from hiring a person based purely on confidence. I know plenty of confident, driven people who would struggle in a sales role. I also know people who, while quiet and demure in their personal lives, are selling gods in their professional ones.  

Ultimately, it is the sales manager’s responsibility to tease the best out of the team. Personality will get someone only so far, and whether a person is competitive or not, he or she will still need the right training, plenty of support, and the right technology to succeed. In fact, of the salespeople we spoke to, 57 percent told us that nurturing by managers and team leaders has helped them improve their selling ability.

So what’s the real takeaway from this survey? Good, nurturing leaders are key to a team’s success. Yes, a person with a particular personality type is more likely to end up working in sales, but personality doesn’t promise success. Concentrate on up-skilling staff, giving team members the tools they need to succeed and nurturing their talent, and you’ll soon find yourself with a high-performing sales team that meets and exceeds targets month after month.


Developing Top Sales Talent

LaVonKoenerToday's post is by LaVon Koerner, Chief Revenue Officer of Revenue Storm, a global sales consulting and revenue acceleration firm. Hear him present "Decoding the DNA of a Rainmaker" at the Sales 2.0 Conference in San Francisco on May 5–6, 2014.

Perhaps the single greatest mistake in developing sales talent today is operating in a go-to-market-strategy vacuum. A go-to-market strategy is the purposeful and defined strategy to serve customers, win market share, and outperform the competition. Before beginning any training or coaching, the go-to-market strategy your salespeople will be expected to execute must be identified.

So which go-to-market strategy should your salespeople execute? Each strategy demands different types and degrees of competencies and attributes for sales professionals to be successful.

Offering-Centric

  • Selling process: A transactional sales focus with short and uncomplicated sales cycles to one decision maker who has a budget for off-the-shelf products or services.
  • Distinguishing competencies and attributes: Sales professionals need to have solid product proficiency and tactical selling skills, as well as strong sales attributes that include enterprise, persistence, self-sufficiency, and emotional resilience.

Operations-Centric

  • Selling process: A process sales focus with longer and more complex sales cycles to multiple influencers across functions to sell a bundled combination of products and services.
  • Distinguishing competencies and attributes: Sales professionals need to be proficient in solution creation and consultative selling, as well as be creative, adaptable, and strong in solution orientation.

Strategy-Centric

  • Selling process: Longer and more complex selling cycles as a result of the seller’s creating the buying cycle momentum with a key executive sponsor through thought leadership.
  • Distinguishing competencies and attributes: Sales professionals need to be business advisors with proficiency in thought leadership, establishing executive credibility, competitive selling, and financial acumen in the business domain, as well as posses perceptiveness, teamwork orientation, leadership skill, and a strong sense of responsibility.

Partnership-Centric

  • Selling process: Long-term organizational partnership, with a sales cycle that could take years from start to finish and may require board-level involvement from both organizations.
  • Distinguishing competencies and attributes: Sales professionals should have mastery in the cluster skills of relational, demand-creation, and tactical selling, as well as strong social sophistication and decision-making skill, a high level of aspiration, and little aversion to risk taking.

Regardless of how you believe your sales organization should approach selling, your guiding principle should be hire to attributes and develop (train and coach) to competencies (knowledge and skills). If salespeople could be developed simply by good training, then the billions of dollars spent on sales training every year would yield a bountiful crop of rainmakers; however, this is simply not happening, and the old 80/20 Pareto principle of distribution (80 percent of the sustained revenue performance comes from 20 percent of the sales professionals) has actually become 90/10 in many organizations.

Success in such roles as entrepreneur, software designer, or salesperson is based on something over and above skills or knowledge: an individual’s attributes play a critical part in his or her success or failure in that role. Likewise, it is much easier to train and coach a person with strong sales attributes on the required product or selling skills than it is to try to teach a technical person without sales attributes to sell successfully. Once you’ve identified the people with the right potential based upon their alignment to your go-to-market strategy, then your attention should turn to profiling roles and development of the behaviors needed in order to advance your strategy.

Sales success no longer depends on how many salespeople you have; rather, it depends on how many of the right competencies you have judicially deployed in the pursuit of your targeted market. If a company has clearly defined its go-to-market strategy, calibrated the specific competencies necessary for advancing that strategy, can select people with the greatest potential, and can implement a competency-specific developmental program, then revenue acceleration will be achieved.

Join Revenue Storm at the Sales 2.0 Conference in San Francisco on May 5–6, 2014, and hear LaVon Koerner present "Decoding the DNA of a Rainmaker."


Get Sales Results without Adding to Your Head Count

Neha gohilToday's guest post is by Neha Singh Gohil, director of knowledge management at Prialto.

This post originally appeared on the Prialto blog http://blog.prialto.com/quality-v-quantity-on-a-sales-team/ and is used here with permission.

 

How many salespeople does your company need?

The precise number depends on the size of the company, your product, and a dozen other variables. But having worked with a variety of sales teams over the years, we’ve noticed a consistent pattern across companies. Often, sales managers who feel their team getting overwhelmed turn to new hires as a knee-jerk solution.

Bringing on a new person entails time spent on a recruitment strategy and lots of money spent on salary, benefits, and the like. In most of these cases, we’ve found an easier solution. Rather than focus on the number of sales reps on board, why not increase the amount of time they spend on selling?

Sales managers tend to treat their best sales reps like generalists. Though they’re hired to sell, sales reps are asked to spend many hours a week entering data into CRM systems, creating sales-performance presentations, or compiling their expenses. Time spent crunching data is taking away from time spent selling the product.

The situation is akin to asking your product engineer to draw up your sales deck. Yes, the engineer knows the product and its purpose but is unlikely to have the sales skills that your reps already use. And pitching isn’t why you hired an engineer. Similarly, data crunching isn’t why you hired your sales reps.

If you stop treating sales reps like generalists, then you can get a lot more out of a lot fewer salespeople. Sales-development folks have a very specific set of soft skills. Here’s how you should be using them:

  1. Presenting: Generating sales decks, portfolio pitches, case studies, etc.
  2. Relationship building: Nurturing contacts and carrying them through the sales process
  3. Pitching: Making qualification calls, introducing the product to new leads and identifying the right targets
  4. Leading a prospect to close: Homing in on real opportunities and getting prospects what they need to make the purchase

This expertise is not easily quantified, and the “tasks” are often ongoing or difficult to complete in a set period of time. Maybe that’s why so many sales managers seek to fill in reps’ so-called slow times with a variety of other tasks. These often include tasks that require hard, quantifiable skills and fail to capitalize on a salesperson’s core competencies.

If your sales team seems understaffed, try cutting out these tasks from your salespeople’s schedules:

  1. Entering and updating meeting data in a CRM system
  2. Lead prospecting
  3. Sending email blasts
  4. Compiling expense spreadsheets for particular accounts
  5. Playing email ping-pong to schedule sales meetings

Off-loading these administrative hassles will not only free up your sales reps to sell but will likely boost their morale and motivation, too.


4 Tips for Hiring Great Salespeople

Mustafa Kapadia-Professional-4Today's post is by Mustafa Kapadia, North American Sales Leader at IBM. It appeared originally here on his blog

 

 

Hiring great sales talent is brutally hard. The most sophisticated organizations get it right only 75% of the time. Others consider themselves lucky if they hit the 50% mark. And if that is not bad enough, consider the cost of a bad hire. Hiring mistakes can impact sales, market share, team dynamics/morale, and management time, just to name a few.

So what should organizations do to help increase their odds of getting a rainmaker? Consider the following. 

1. Create a “want list" and stick to it. 

It’s easy to think that you have found the perfect candidate when you see only his or her best behavior: telling you exactly what you like to hear, spouting out the company mission statement, and raving about your product. Instead, evaluate all potential candidates against a list of desired criteria and personality traits. But don’t stop there. Create your entire hiring process around this “want list," from the job description, to initial phone screening, to interview format, to questions, and even interviewers.

Once created, stick to it. Don’t abandon it because you just came across a shiny new candidate. Instead of your gut, make the process work for you.

2. Never hire alone.

Have the candidate interview across the entire team, from managers, to colleagues, to subordinates. Collect opinions from everyone. It is the best way to get the full picture. If possible, get the hard-ass from your department to interview; someone who is tough, practical, and unsentimental. Leverage those types to cull the crowd.

Some organizations prefer a group interview format; my personal preference still leans towards the more traditional one-on-one. Group interviews have merit but they are susceptible to group think (especially if the boss is in the room) and you can never get to know the candidate at a more personal level.

3. Give an assignment. 

Talk is cheap. If you want to see your sales candidate in action, give him or her an assignment. Case studies, a type of an assignment, are extremely effective in the consulting world. The same theory applies to sales hiring.

Assignments can be something as simple as a short presentation on a product (yours or your competitors), market trends, orals pitch, or competitor analysis. Each of the above examples will give you insights into the candidate’s strengths, help you see them in action, and provide you with free work/insights.

4. Let them talk. 

Fight the natural tendency to talk throughout the whole interview. The urge is even stronger when you like the candidate and want to sell the job. The best strategy is to ask a question, shut up, and listen. As the candidate continues to talk you will find out fairly quickly if he or she is a good fit. Pay special attention to not just what they say but how they say it.

Despite your best efforts, bad hires will happen. It is inevitable. So what do you do then? Recognize the mistake, take ownership, and act fast. While it might be painful, owning up to your mistake in the short run is good for the organization, your career, as well as the person you are letting go. Sales is a people business and only the best teams win.

What are you doing to hire great sales talent? Share your thoughts in the comments section. 


Signs That Your Top Salesperson Won’t Make a Great Manager

Josiane Feigon Today’s post is by Josiane Feigon, author of Smart Sales Manager and Smart Selling on the Phone and Online and founder of TeleSmart Communications.  

 

 

 

Does this scenario sound familiar?

You’ve got a great team of inside salespeople and one of your star players, Bulldog Bob, is killing it. His numbers are higher than everyone else’s – he’s a total bulldog when it comes to chasing deals and closing business. He is self-sufficient, requires little guidance, and is independent. Bob has been in sales for a while and has progressed from all the various teams. His team is inspired by his success. 

Bob is always in your office talking about deals and his future. He tells you that recruiters are tracking him down, enticing him with some nice new offers. He is aggressive, knows what he wants, and reminds you about that promise you made many months back about putting him into a management role.

You have just brought in eight new hires in the last six weeks, and they need to be managed quickly – you want to show some revenue increases fast. You’ve been scattered lately and have several more teams that also report to you. You decide to promote Bob because you know he can hit the ground running and transfer some of his special sales talent to his team. 

What are the chances of survival? Pay attention to the following clues, because they spell disaster:

  1. Those independent, self-sufficient, “bulldog” qualities are great, but they might alienate the team.

  2. Bob’s aggressive personality may be misunderstood as micromanaging, or worse, salespeople may fear they’ll be fired.

  3. When a salesperson reminds you about what he or she wants and tells you that a recruiter is calling, that’s a threat. Chances are this person will threaten his or her team in the same way. 

  4. Just because a salesperson is killing his or her numbers, that is absolutely no guarantee that this same salesperson will kill it as a manager. The two are completely different.

When directors and VPs are scattered or too busy to help coach, mentor, and develop their managers, disasters happen, and by the time managers figure out what happened, it’s usually too late.

Download your copy of the 14 Smart Inside Sales Trends in 2014 report and stay ahead of today's rapidly changing Sales 2.0 trends.


Nature vs. Nurture: Are You Born A Salesperson?

Samet_headshotToday's post is by Hannah Samet, Consultant at Treeline, Incorporated. This post was originally published on the Treeline blog
 
 
 
 

Since beginning my role as a consultant at Treeline, I’ve learned what seems like an infinite amount of information in a comparatively short amount of time.  Not only have I learned about recruiting, I’ve learned about numerous other sales industries as well.  From software/tech sales, to pharmaceutical, to manufacturing, the world of sales is vast and expansive.  It’s hard work,  but I’ve learned that a career in sales offers so much growth and opportunity and that it is nothing like the negative stereotype that we all think of when we hear the word “salesperson.”

I’ve heard many people say that in order to be a good salesperson, you need to ‘be born with it’ – ‘it’ being that natural talent and charm that is necessary to sell pretty much anything.  While charm and allure certainly give you an advantage in sales, I don’t find it to be the most important asset that a salesperson needs to possess.

As a natural introvert, I never dreamed that a career in sales would be a good fit for me.  But as time has gone by, I’ve become more and more comfortable speaking with candidates and pushing myself out of my comfort zone.  Ultimately, the most important lesson I’ve learned during my time here is that being too afraid to take chances and step outside your comfort zone will ultimately lead you to failure.  As a salesperson, you have to be willing to pick up the phone, call people, and be persistent.   Sure, people may be annoyed or uninterested, and it may feel uncomfortable at first, but it’s necessary in order to be successful. After only a few months, I’ve learned to push myself and become a strong salesperson. And I feel this is due not to a natural instinct but being equipped with the right training and management team.

I consider myself lucky that I started my career in recruiting. I have the chance to work with people and help advance their careers both professionally and financially, and that is truly rewarding.

My best advice to anyone considering a career in sales is don’t be afraid.  It may be a cliché, but it’s the most important lesson I’ve learned so far. Starting a new career in any industry is intimidating; you may not be sure what you’re getting into or what to expect, but sometimes you just need to dive in.  If you find a great company with a great team like I did at Treeline, chances are you won’t regret it.

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Where the Good Entry-Level Sales Hires Are

Deeter headshotToday's blog post is by Dawn Deeter, Professor and Director of the National Strategic Selling Institute (NSSI) at Kansas State University and the J.J. Vanier Distinguished Professor of Relational Selling and Marketing. 


Sales leaders face tremendous challenges when trying to find entry-level reps that will succeed out of the starting gate. In fact, as Professor and Director of the National Strategic Selling Institute (NSSI) at Kansas State University, I receive far more calls from businesses seeking to hire salespeople than I do from students looking for jobs.

It’s common to hear stories about what a tough job market college graduates face these days, but most of my students are receiving multiple offers before graduation. However, according to a 2011 Sales Education Foundation article, “ROI: Is a University Education Worth the Price?” the job placement rate for 2009 college graduates was 43.5%, while graduates of university sales programs experience a 90% placement rate. One former student in our K-State NSSI Sales Program, Dan, called me on a Tuesday in July hoping I could help him find a job. I made some calls to our corporate partners; by the end of the week, Dan had several interviews. By the following Tuesday, he had been hired by a great firm to be a sales representative.

At K-State, we are transforming students into salespeople by:

  • Providing real-world experience. Students perform multiple role plays in each class, participate in sales competitions on our campus and at other universities, and take on sales internships.
  • Teaching them how to use sales tools. Students in our Sales Management class, for example, learn how to use salesforce.com. In our Advanced Sales class, students put on a benefit auction to raise funds for our program; as part of the auction each student will make 30-50 cold calls, by phone, to find items for the auction and sell tickets to the auction.
  • Providing a realistic preview of a sales career. Through their role plays, internships, and interactions with sales leaders, students have great insight into their role in the sales organization and what it takes to be successful.
  • Helping build their personal networks. Students interact with “real” sales people inside and outside of class, through our executive mentorship program and interactions with members of our advisory board and corporate partner program.

Howard Stevens, CEO of HR Chally and President of the Sales Education Foundation, notes in the article “The End of Sales Education as We Know It” (2011 Sales Education Annual, Issue 4, p. 47) that graduates of university sales programs:

  • Ramp up 50% faster and are 30% less likely to turn over.
  • Have already demonstrated an aptitude and desire for a sales career.
  • Are more focused and in-tune with the numbers and the sales processes needed to achieve those numbers.
  • Are more aware of the specific skills required to succeed in a sales role.

We are certainly seeing these benefits in our students. As a result of these in-class and extracurricular activities, our students are prepared to hit the ground running in actual sales jobs on day one. They are poised and confident due to their experience gained through role plays, class activities, and internships. One employer told an Advanced Sales student she would start her career with that firm a step above entry level because of her cold-calling and prospecting experiences.

If you are a sales leader seeking to hire well-prepared salespeople, you owe it to your bottom line to check out our program, as well as the other programs across the country. To find a list of programs in your area, check out the University Sales Center Alliance (USCA), a consortium of universities with sales programs working to set quality standards in sales education. Also, explore the Sales Education Foundation, which posts the Top Universities in Sales Education each year.

Where did you find your last great entry-level sales hire? Share your stories in the comments section.

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3 Reasons To Apply for Our 50 Best Companies to Sell For List

Selling Power 50 Best Companies to Sell For
Here's some great news to start the summer: Selling Power magazine is currently accepting applications for our annual 50 Best Companies to Sell For list. Here are three reasons I believe your company should apply today. 

1. Every sales organization needs reps who understand today's selling environment.  

As the buyer controls more and more of the sales cycle, reps who practice old habits will become irrelevant. Sales organizations are not going to be able to compete unless they can attract reps who have the right mindset to win in an economy controlled by the buyer.

Takeaway: A spot on our list will showcase that you're ready to have conversations with reps who can help you win against the competition. 

2. Sales organizations are in a war for top talent. 

Sales reps like the thrill of chasing higher commissions -- and many sales managers fear that unless they dangle more dollars for reps to strive for, those reps will jump ship. In fact, it has been proven that a supportive culture and the right kind of praise from top-quality managers can engender just as much (if not more) loyalty.

Takeaway: A spot on our list will announce to the world that you have successfully built the right culture for reps to succeed. 

3. Sales organziations need a budget to help reps succeed. 

Training has really evolved from the old days of setting up reps with scripts and walking them through a sales process. It is really about sales enablement. Yes, reps need to know what to say in front of prospects, but they also need help finding those prospects and getting the mobile and social tools necessary to stay in touch with those prospects. This requires resources. And some CEOs can be reluctant to loosen the purse strings for this badly-needed investment. 

Takeaway: A spot on this list will help you prove that you've earned the budget for more resources to help the sales team win. 

The deadline to apply for the list is June 24th. Visit this link to download an application today: http://www.sellingpower.com/50-best-companies-to-sell-for/


How Much Time Do Your Salespeople Spend Selling?

Successbutton

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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