Your Reps Aren’t Selling 72% of the Time — Here’s How to Get Them Back on Track
Sales automation is the key to freeing up sales reps from time-consuming admin. But along with the right technology are other strategies for empowering sales reps to work with fresh energy and purpose.
For sales reps, the focus is always on the customer — what do they need? What informs their preferences and motivations? How can we anticipate their needs and meet them in a way that makes their lives easier?
It’s not easy. And the demands and conditions are only getting tougher. Our latest State of Sales report found 69% of sales professionals agree their job is harder now and 82% of sellers have had to quickly adapt to new ways of selling in the face of supply chain issues, inflation and health precautions.
Fortunately, sales reps tend to be a resilient bunch. They thrive on challenges and they’re highly motivated to meet targets.
But that’s not to say they don’t need support or guidance. The research shows that sales reps only spend about a quarter (28%) of their time on selling. The rest of their days are bogged down by housekeeping duties, such as logging customer information and manually building quotes and contracts.
Let’s just dwell on that figure for a moment: salespeople aren’t selling 72% of the time. Something is wrong with this picture.
It doesn’t have to be that way. Sales operations can help automate those extra to-dos, getting your reps back to doing what they do best: selling. How? By deploying sales automation tools and processes to get your team working smarter, not harder. We’re going to look at a few ways to make this happen.
But there’s another important piece to the puzzle. It’s about helping your salespeople find their purpose. And that’s where I want to start.
Support your sales reps to find their ‘why’?
If we’re going to achieve client relevance externally, we need to achieve seller relevance internally. To do that, your talented, motivated, under-the-pump sales reps need to be encouraged to reconnect with their ‘why’.
So, what do I mean when I say your ‘why’?
Your ‘why’ is your purpose. It’s what drives you and gives you fulfilment. For sales top performers it’s about wanting to win — a want that is inherently and naturally self focused. Leaders need to be able to help reps channel their focus from individual wins, to celebrating team wins.
Empower your teams and unlock their potential by engaging an infinite mindset coupled with a willingness to be in service to others. Encourage them to think big, go big, achieve big. Here are some questions you might ask:
- What are your career goals?
- What are your financial goals?
- What is holding you back?
- What keeps you engaged?
Experience has shown me time and again that when you tap into that purpose, you get enhanced creativity, boldness and energy in response. And that’s good for them and good for the organisation. From there, you can map back onto your processes and tools. But start by focusing on ‘the athlete on the field’ and how you can support them to be at their best. There are two key ways you can do this:
Prioritise coaching and training opportunities
Currently, only 39% of sales reps strongly agree they get valuable coaching from their manager and even among high performers, only 29% of sales professionals are receiving 1:1 coaching at least weekly. And this is even though sales training and enablement sits at number three in the top five retention strategies. Given 45% of sales reps are either currently looking for a new role or are planning or considering leaving within 12 months, coaching and training should be a priority for sales leaders.
At Queensland Investment Corporation (QIC) coaching is integral to the sales process. Rebecca Aichholzer, Head of Business Systems Success tells us that by using Sales Cloud “coaching is now baked into every step of the sales process.”
“Hints, tips, and reminders of sales learnings automatically appear as sales reps use the platform.” The QIC team has also harnessed the gamified and simplified learning enabled by Trailhead.
Enable your sales reps to act as trusted advisors
As Sue McEvoy, Head of Sales Australia, FCM Travel says, “Buyers now expect more than simply to be sold to. They want a trusted advisor, someone who will inform them of current trends.” The sales rep role has extended well beyond the point of sale to providing insight and guidance not just into the best value product for the customer, but into the context, trends and specialist topics surrounding that product.
Top performing sales organisations are more likely to equip their sales reps with the training, tools and technology they need to build trusting relationships with customers and open the door to recurring sales. But if sales reps are not enabled to become trusted advisors by their organisations, they might lose their sense of purpose.
How can technology help your sales reps?
Once you have enabled your sales reps to tap into their sense of purpose and be supported in doing so, you can focus on using automation to help them spend more time selling and boost their productivity. Here are three ways sales ops and technology can further empower sales reps.
1. Reduce superfluous data entry, like the logging of sales data and customer notes
“Focus on the tasks your team undertakes each day, week and month, and zone in on the highest value activities, plus the most monotonous or time-consuming tasks,” recommends Cian Mcloughlin, CEO at Trinity Perspectives. “Then research solutions available in the market to remove the most repetitive, time-wasting tasks, freeing up the team’s time and energy for higher value activities.”
This could include building automation into workflows, not just to cut down on time-consuming data entry and retrieval, but to streamline lead and contact management.
At Canva, the sales team is supported by Sales Cloud, which has built-in business rules that help move leads through the sales cycle. And with Marketing Cloud Account Engagement, marketing can quickly create new landing pages and forms to promote events and capture new audiences.
“One of the immediate benefits of Marketing Cloud Account Engagement has been the increased visibility into leads,” says John Eitel, Vice President of Sales, North America at Canva. “Leads are automatically allocated to the right people, prioritised appropriately, and come with added insights that help us reach out more effectively.”
Automatic call dialers and recorders, like Sales Cloud Lightning Dialer, also help by logging inbound and outbound calls in CRM software, providing better insight to sales managers about rep performance — and giving reps easy access to customer insights that help them close more deals. They work by showing whether the call was answered, the call duration, and what was achieved during the call.
Pair this with tools like Einstein Activity Capture, part of Sales Cloud Einstein, and you can automatically sync email and real-time CRM data so reps are always working from the latest information and focused on the most current tasks.
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2. Speed up how your team prioritises leads and opportunities
Choosing the wrong opportunity to chase can result in lost time, and more promising leads can slip through the cracks. Sales reps need to give the most effort and attention to deals with the highest chance of closing to hit their quota. How? By leveraging the most impactful, relevant, and current lead information.
The right intelligence tools can prioritise leads for you, ranking them by the highest likelihood to close and routing them to reps along with relevant lead information, updated in real-time, to accelerate the sales cycle. Some tools even let you set up automatic calling so reps can connect with promising leads faster.
At QIC, Sales Cloud provides the information reps need for each stage of the sales cycle, allowing them to see exactly where leads are coming from and what is driving conversion. It has helped QIC’s real estate team increase occupancy rates of their sites by around 3% per year.
To keep sales automation as accurate as possible, lean on your company’s sales ops professionals to make sure lead-scoring models are set up with the right information. This ensures the intelligent recommendations CRMs deliver to reps are focused on the best opportunities.
3. Scale quote and proposal generation
Generating quotes and proposals is a critical step in the sales cycle, but it can eat up serious time and mental energy. Manually customising each quote from scratch can hamper efficiency, especially for reps who deal with a large number of prospective clients with varying needs. In addition, the sheer number of departments that tend to be involved in producing a quote can slow down the process.
Your sales ops team can help. They can set up sales automation tools that allow sales and finance teams to generate the right quote for each customer with up-to-date deal information.
Automating quotes or proposals also helps reduce mistakes. Research from McKinsey shows that sales automation can help reduce the time it takes to draft requests for proposals (RFPs) by up to two-thirds, while eliminating human error.
There are only so many hours in a day, but a sales ops team — with the right tools — can help your reps make the most of them. By automating tedious tasks, your reps will be able to spend more time doing what they do best: closing more deals. And by empowering them to tap into their sense of purpose and responding to their needs for coaching and enablement, you can help your sales reps be the trusted advisors their customers are looking for and want to buy from.
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