It’s very true – many of the best companies are struggling with the amount of time their sales reps spend in front of prospects.
Great field sales reps are horrible admins. Don’t believe me?
Ask any marketing director in charge of providing marketing support to a sales team. Ask a VP of sales that’s charged with herding the cattle. At any tier, the response is the same.
I’ve worked with hundreds and hundreds of field sales reps over the years and the absolute best sales reps are coin operated. If a task gets in the way of selling, they don’t do it. Why should they?!
The rest of the “good” and “OK” sales reps that make or come close to their number are better than the great reps at administrative tasks. The trade off is less sales!
And, it’s not just the administrative tasks but also how reps manage their time. I haven’t yet met a lousy admin who’s a brilliant time manager or an admin that’s great at sales. Have you?
Recently the #1 sales rep at a global software company surprised me when he abruptly resigned, walking away from a six-figure income!
He told me, “Even though I killed my number this year, [sales] management hated me because I was lousy at completing the-ever growing list of admin stuff and I need time to sell!”
Reality check: leave your best sales reps alone to sell and find other ways to automate administration and streamline their time management. This will improve sales productivity.
In a blog post on Salesforce.com, Fergal Glynn, VP of Marketing at Docurated, wrote about The State of Sales Productivity (including a nice infographic) on the Salesforce.com blog.
- Sales productivity is a top driver for hitting new revenue targets.
- Organizations are investing more and more in sales productivity.
- Sales productivity is often marketing’s responsibility, however marketing does not prioritize sales productivity projects.
- Measuring productivity can be more expensive than realized productivity gains.
- Most organizations define productivity as just efficiency and are missing the gains that effectiveness can bring new sales is the #1 priority for sales execs.
I get it – the more productive a sales rep is, the more effective they are – duh!
But with good sales reps being horrible admins, I wondered how they really spend their time when they’re not in front of prospects and customers.
What are the top three time wasters sales reps are facing and management is overlooking?
How Sales Reps Spend Their Time
As a sales and marketing analyst at FatStax, my role is speaking with field sales reps and finding out what stops them from doing what they love most, closing business.
Here is what I learned about the top three areas where sales reps typically spend most of their time and ideas on how they can be more productive and increase sales efficiency.
1. Never Ending Administrative Tasks
The biggest concern a rep has is wasting time on meaningless tasks. From our conversations, most reps don’t see the value of the CRM beyond their weekly meeting with their team leader. Logging all this data wastes countless rep hours without any discernible investment that will pay out dividends in the future.
Education & Automation of Tasks
Leading edge companies take one of two tacts to solving this issue. Both tacts play into the sales reps primary driver; financial remuneration. The first tact is to simply educate the reps. Most companies don’t take this simple tactic, showing the rep the value of their data and how it helps the company grow and expand.
This does two things, it makes sales reps realize that their efforts are valued beyond their desk and department. As well, it allows them to see the bigger picture that they work in.
If their data is considered viable by sales ops and marketing, it means more organic growth, more inbound leads, more money, more company growth, and by extension more opportunities for career advancement and more money in their paycheck.
Another one of the ways to improve sales productivity is automation. There are so many tools out there that help reps move through their data faster and more efficiently. For larger organizations full time CRM staff, that build out custom automation that help reps with their admin work, will quickly be worth their weight in gold as reps will spend less time on admin work and more time doing what they want to do most, sell to prospects.
2. Too Much Time Spent Sourcing Leads Vs. Prospecting
A sales rep needs to be ready to replace any prospect in their funnel at any moment. Many companies have fully functional sales development rep (SDR) teams that help to build field reps pipeline.
However, a rep is solely responsible for their own pipeline and cannot be reliant on their SDRs, most of whom are gunning for higher paying sales jobs, so they need to prospect on their own.
Many reps don’t know where to look for prospects and spend a lot of time trying to find the right company and the right targets. On top of that, most sales reps are not nearly as efficient as their SDR counterparts, who live in the CRM and work with all their prospecting tools on a daily basis.
How do sales reps spend less time hunting for leads so they can spend more time actually prospecting?
What we’ve found from our conversations with sales reps is that the CRM is not actually built to help them prospect. If they need to prospect, they use their company purchased aggregator (e.g. Data.com, NetProspex, Zoominfo, DiscoverOrg, etc…) LinkedIn, or even a purchased list.
Prospect Faster with Pre-Qualified Targets
The companies that preloaded their CRM with pre-qualified viable targets helps reps to prospect faster and easier. This allows reps that were looking for new accounts to target to run one simple report, find unassigned or un-targeted accounts, and pull them into their prospecting pipeline. This simple action increased work efficiency by saving reps countless hours that would have otherwise been wasted simply trying to find targets.
Totally makes sense right? And it’s not that hard to do.
3. Researching Their Own Products
The third activity that chews up a significant amount of the sales reps time is research.
From the SAP commissioned report, “The Future of Sales”, one of the biggest frustrations prospects have with sales reps is their lack of understanding of their own products and their competitors products.
Sales reps are selling to highly technical buyers, who have a breadth and depth of knowledge that the rep cannot dare to compete with. They need to do hours and hours of research on their own product lines and call in domain experts from within the company to assist in the sales process.
Make it Easy to Find Relevant Information with a Mobile Sales Tool
The most salient weapon in a sales reps arsenal is information. However, the best and most relevant information is sometimes not easy for them to find in a timely manner.
From our conversations with field reps, we’ve found that the best reps rely heavily on their company’s web-based catalog and on their mobile devices. While file sharing through Dropbox and other company based servers is ok, the mobility, ease of use, and searchability of these formats leaves much to be desired.
FatStax has run several surveys with our clients and we’ve found that the FatStax mobile sales enablement platform helps reps reduce the amount of time they spend doing research. It also enables the reps to find the correct, relevant material and provide it to their prospects in real time. The increased work efficiency with the tool has provided ways to increase sales productivity for some companies so much so that there was an article written about it in Global Manufacturing.
Many of the best companies are still struggling having their reps spend a significant amount of their time with prospects. At FatStax, we’ve uncovered the three main reasons why reps don’t spend more time with prospects. We’ve also outlined the ways that some of the top performing companies, like Reebok, Bradley Corporation and others, are working to improve sales productivity and increase work efficiency. By unshackling their reps and having them spend more time with prospects, they can sell more.
Got a question or want to chat with an expert? We’ll be happy to share some best practices with and chat about your pain points.
Just drop us a line!