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Why businesses waste 66% of their sales people's time

Of the many Managing Directors and CEO's I work with, when I ask what they wish most for their business they answer almost universally “more sales”.

Given this answer, you’d be forgiven for being surprised at the fact that businesses waste about 66% of their sales people’s time.

Where does the sales person’s time go?

Where does the sales person’s time go?

Larato has measured how sales people’s time is being used in UK providers of Information Communications Technology. The results paint a picture full of opportunities to create more time for sales people to sell.

Wasting time

The average B2B sales professional in the UK ICT markets has just 34% of their time in which to sell. The other 66% is taken up solving post-sales problems, going to internal meetings, travelling, doing administrative tasks, researching and generating leads.

Interestingly, ICT sales people spend 11% of their time travelling which is counter-intuitive when many of the solutions they are selling facilitate remote working and collaboration over distances.

Almost a quarter of a typical sales person’s time is spent generating leads and researching prospects.

This is a waste of sales people’s time. There are two reasons why.

  1. Today, most buyers have researched the problem they want to solve, set their requirements and reviewed their options before talking to potential suppliers. To generate leads in today’s markets, suppliers must out-educate the competition to gain mind share and shape prospects’ visions early. This job is most effectively performed by marketing teams focussed on communicating clear value propositions across multiple communications channels, particularly social media.
  2. A lot of basic account research can be done by other, more junior, people. It saves money, makes time for sales people to sell and helps other people in the business understand more about customers.

Why?

Why do these businesses squander so much of their sales people’s time? It comes down to attitudes, culture and leadership. Here are some real examples of what business leaders in UK ICT companies have said about sales…

“Our technical people are more valuable than our sales people…”

“I have all of my sales people in the office one day a week. I want to look them in the eye and know that they are working for the other four days…”

“Sales is a bit of a dirty word…”

“All my sales people do is sit by the fax machine and take orders. Anybody can do that…”

This kind of opinion is more common than you would imagine. It's time for a change towards a more positive attitude.

Making time

The good news is that CEO’s seeking more sales can grant their own wishes with some gentle adaptations to the way their organisations value and consume sales people’s time. Lead by example. A CEO’s time is precious. Responsible for the health and wealth of their businesses, CEO’s diaries are typically full to bursting with issues that must be resolved or opportunities that demand their immediate attention. As a CEO, if you show that you value your sales people’s time as much as your own, you will make more time for your sales people to sell because others will follow your lead. By adopting this position, you actively encourage colleagues to think about consuming sales people’s time as if it were yours. In practice, this readily leads to simple changes like shorter, more focussed meetings and fewer in-person visits that can be handled perfectly well over the telephone or a video link.

Significant hidden benefit

There is a significant hidden benefit to making this simple change to the way you, the CEO, overtly values your sales people’s time. When sales people know their time is valued, they behave differently, making more time to sell for themselves. They think twice before committing to internal or customer meetings; they prepare well for sales calls and ask for help with activities like background research from colleagues in appropriate ways. Not only does this create more selling time, it builds better relationships with co-workers that will make your business stronger.

Showing that you value your sales people’s time is a small change with a potentially massive impact on your bottom line.