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Your Sales Reps Aren’t Selling Two-Thirds of the Time, Here’s What’s Holding Them Back

Artificial intelligence and automation can help your team reclaim their time and get back to what they do best.

Think of the average work day for a sales rep. How much of their time is spent in meetings with potential clients? How much time do they spend catching up on administrative work? 

According to recently released State of Sales research, sales reps only spend one-third of their time selling. The majority of their day gets bogged down by housekeeping duties, such as logging customer information and manually putting together quotes and contracts. Yikes. 

All that time adds up as reps adapt to virtual sales and they’re asked to accomplish more with less. What was once considered a minor frustration can translate into major losses in revenue.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Sales operations experts can automate those extra to-dos, getting your reps back to doing what they do best: selling. They can deploy an arsenal of digital tools and artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms to get your team working smarter, not harder. Automation is just one of the latest growing trends in sales operations that’s changing the way we work.  

How can we help sales reps reclaim two-thirds of their day? Below are three time-consuming tasks technology can help eliminate.

Superfluous data entry, like the logging of sales data and customer notes

Only 57% of sales reps log their calls even though many sales leaders consider it an essential task, according to State of Sales research. That’s because taking notes after each call cuts into valuable selling time. Automation can lessen the volume of data entry your reps have to do without sacrificing precious data. 

“The most obvious task to automate is always going to be data entry,” said Valerie Papa, a manager on the revenue operations team at Andela, a remote engineering services firm. “We hate to have sales reps spending time entering either meaningless data or data that could be pulled automatically from elsewhere.”

The most obvious task to automate is always going to be data entry. We hate to have sales reps spending time entering either meaningless data or data that could be pulled automatically from elsewhere.

Valerie Papa, a manager on the revenue operations team at Andela

To address this challenge, the best sales ops teams study the sales process from end to end and constantly ask: what if a tool can do this process?

Papa has successfully cut down on administrative clutter by asking folks across her firm about what clogs their day, and then suggesting the right automation tools.

“We build automations that have information flow into Salesforce, whether it’s concerning account opportunities, quote lines, or contacts. By using tools like LeadIQ, we’re able to fill in more blanks for reps so they don’t have to go searching for things. We also avoid duplicative data entry,” said Papa.

Tools such as Salestrail or RingDNA Intelligent Dialer automatically log inbound and outbound call outcomes in the CRM software, providing better insight to sales managers about rep performance. They work by showing whether the call was answered, the call duration, and what was achieved during the call – then organizing that information into the CRM without manual entry. 

“The sales rep’s job is to sell effectively,” said Kenny Goldman, co-founder and partner at Kicksaw, a sales ops consulting practice. “Part of that entails data administration and data entry, but they shouldn’t be relied upon for your entire process to flow.”

Goldman adds that sales motions that hinge on reps entering in metrics can be a recipe for headaches down the road. “Sales reps are human, and they’re going to make mistakes. They’re going to be inundated. They’re going to have other priorities. They’re not incentivized to enter data into Salesforce every day. They’re incentivized to close revenue.”

Companies that protect their sales reps from extraneous data entry achieve results.  According to State of Sales research, 69% of high performers automated this task compared to 46% of low performers.

“There is no better way to increase productivity than by using these tools because the automation is all there. The sales rep should never be sitting down and wondering what should I do today?”

Sales reps are human, and they’re going to make mistakes. They’re going to be inundated. They’re going to have other priorities. They’re not incentivized to enter data into Salesforce every day. They’re incentivized to close revenue.

Kenny Goldman, co-founder and partner at Kicksaw

Speed up how your team prioritizes leads and opportunities

How do reps know which opportunity to chase first? Choosing the wrong one 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 in order to hit their quota. 

AI tools powered by data can prioritize those leads for you, ranking them by the highest likelihood to close. Some tools even let you set up automatic calling.

“With a power dialer, sales reps didn’t have to think about who to call first, the dialer did it for them thanks to the automation my team put in place,” Papa said.

Papa is also a fan of LeanData, an automation tool that lives on top of Salesforce and assigns leads based on recent prospect activity or how far along a deal is in the process.

“It’ll alert sales reps to actually follow up with this person and prioritize them because it’s considered a ‘hot’ lead,” Papa said. “We can set reminders that pop up if they haven’t followed up in a certain time frame.”

To keep these automations as accurate and up-to-date as possible, lean on your company’s sales ops professionals. This will ultimately result in fewer lost opportunities.

Sarah Borrmann, director of sales productivity and operations at Illusive Networks, a cybersecurity solutions firm, said: “I’ve seen teams waste a lot of time chasing leads that are unqualified or not relevant because the lead scoring systems were not in good shape. It was my responsibility to recalibrate a lot of that activity.”

Borrmann adds, “There is no better way to increase productivity than by using these tools because the automation is all there. The sales rep should never be sitting down and wondering, ‘What should I do today?’”

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. Especially for reps who deal with a large number of prospective clients with varying needs, manually customizing each quote from scratch can hamper efficiency. In addition, the sheer number of departments that tend to be involved in producing a quote can also slow down the process. 

“You have executives who are very particular on how things are communicated through a quote. You have finance who wants to only provide certain offers. You have sales leaders who want to hit certain targets, so they’re very concerned about discounts and how you price things out,” Goldman said. “Finally, you have the sales person who’s responsible for acting as that liaison between the company’s desires and the prospect’s desires. They’re stuck in the middle.”

This is where your sales ops team can help. It can set up the automation tools that account for competing needs while supporting your sellers on the front line. 

Papa uses a configure, price, quote (CPQ) program. The software allows her team to supply pre-approved quote templates, while giving reps the flexibility to configure them based on customer needs, apply the right discounts, and route it to the right person for approval. 

“Our entire system hinges on CPQ. We do everything out of Salesforce,” Papa said. 

Automating quotes or proposals also helps reduce mistakes. According to State of Sales research, 65% of high performers automate this task, compared to 37% of low performers.

“I’ve seen many cases where a sales rep accidentally entered one extra, or one less, zero on a quote to a prospect. With enterprise-level contracts, it’s actually a huge concern,” Goldman said. 

There are only so many hours in a day, but a sales ops team can help your reps make the most of them. By automating some of the more tedious tasks, your reps will be able to spend more time doing what they do best: closing deals.


Anita Little is a writer, editor, and content strategist based in Los Angeles. She has spent 10 years working with traditional media outlets from Playboy to Ms. to Elle. She graduated from the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism with degrees in digital journalism and political science.

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