The following article, by Vickie Elmer, appeared in the Washington Post, Friday, December 8, 2006. It is in reference to this survey from Industrial Performance Group.
The Harder Sell
The sell, sell, sell strategy for sales staff may now be sell, fill out paperwork, look up some details, go to a meeting, sell.
Salespeople, on average, spend only 38 percent of their time pushing products or services, and even peak performers figure they are selling during just 58 percent of their work hours, a new survey of 1,502 salespeople shows.
The average salesperson spends as much time on operations and management tasks, such as turning in information or expediting orders, as he or she does talking to customers, according to the survey for Industrial Performance Group.
One-fourth of the time is spent dealing with mistakes, finding information or expediting orders. Altogether, two-thirds of time goes to non-revenue-generating activities; only one-tenth of a work week — four or five hours — is devoted to prospecting and locating new customers, according to the survey.
That’s because many companies have cut customer service staffing and have inefficient or outdated work processes.
The result: Salespeople are swamped with other tasks, costing companies in their bottom line.
I’ve seen situations where this scenario is most certainly true, and I’ve seen situations where salespeople are only spending a fraction of their time selling even though the excuses are really not valid. The best way to determine the legitimacy of the sales department’s claims of overwork is to perform a process-mapping study.
Process mapping simply involves the following steps:
- Obtain buy-in from the head of Sales to study the efficiencies (or lack thereof) within the sales organization.
- Interview managers and senior sales people and ask specific questions to ascertain exactly what they spend their time doing.
- Gather a small but knowledgable group of sales people and support staff and conduct a series of meetings in which you learn – step by step – the exact processes followed in each of the following categories (at a minimum):
- Prospecting / Pre-Sales
- Ordering / Implementation
- Account Management
- Cancellations / Upgrades
- Build flowcharts to document each process and put them together with a comprehensive report of the findings including quotes and other information from the interview process.
After this exercise you should be able to determine if the organization is suffering from massive inefficiency, or horrible mis-management. If you don’t have the in-house expertise to determine if your sales organization is “normal” I would highly recommend spending the money to bring in a real expert with plenty of experience to assist.
The bottom line is, a company will not grow without sales, and selling cannot occur without support from the rest of the organization.