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Your Reps Aren’t Selling 66% of the Time — Here’s How to Get Them Back on Track

A woman speaking on a phone, something sales automation could free up more time to do.
Automating data entry and lead management can help reps spend 15% to 20% more time selling, leading to more closed deals. [Luis Alvarez / Getty]

Use these three sales automation tricks to free your reps from time-sucking manual work.

Are your sales reps spending their time selling? Seems like an odd question to ask, but research shows why it’s relevant. 

According to our latest State of Sales report, sales reps only spend one-third of their time on revenue-generating tasks. The majority of their days get bogged down by housekeeping duties, such as logging customer information and manually building quotes and contracts. Yikes. 

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.

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Here are three ways sales ops and technology can help eliminate time-consuming tasks.

1. Reduce superfluous data entry, like the logging of sales data and customer notes

One in four sales reps would rather wait in line at the post office than manually enter customer information, according to a recent Salesforce survey. That’s because taking notes after each call cuts into valuable selling time. Fortunately, automation can significantly lessen the volume of data entry your reps have to do (and the time spent on it) without sacrificing precious customer insights.

“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 for sales reps to spend time entering meaningless data or data that could be pulled automatically from elsewhere.”

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 sales automation tools.

“We build automations that have information flow into Salesforce, whether it’s concerning account opportunities, quote lines, or contacts,” Papa said. “By using lead and contact management 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.”

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. 

“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.”

Sales reps are human, and they’re going to make mistakes. They’re going to be inundated.

Kenny Goldman
Co-Founder and Partner at Kicksaw

Goldman adds that sales motions that hinge on reps manually 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 a CRM every day. They’re incentivized to close revenue.”

Perhaps even more important, manual data entry is inefficient and delays updates to deal records, which means reps and sales leaders eyeing deal progress don’t have access to the real-time information they need to make smart selling moves.  That’s why companies that protect their sales reps from extraneous data entry with automation achieve results.  A study from research firm McKinsey shows that automating data entry and lead management can help reps spend 15% to 20% more time selling, leading to more closed deals. Win-win.

2. Speed up how your team prioritizes 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. Recent Salesforce research reports that nine out of 10 salespeople say intelligent insights, like up-to-date information on leads,  help cut closing times significantly. 

The right intelligence tools can prioritize 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.

With a power dialer, sales reps didn’t have to think about who to call first, the dialer did it for them.

Valerie Papa
Manager on the Revenue Operations Team at Andela

“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.

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 reps are focused on the best opportunities. 

“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,” said Sarah Borrmann, director of sales productivity and operations at Illusive, a cybersecurity solutions firm. “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 focus on today?’”

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. 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 reps who want 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,” said Goldman. “Finally, you have the salesperson who’s responsible for acting as that liaison between the company’s desires and the prospect’s desires. They’re stuck in the middle.”

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. 

Papa at Andela uses Revenue Cloud, a configure, price, quote (CPQ) solution, to make this happen. 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 them to the right person for approval. 

Our entire system hinges on Revenue Cloud. We do everything out of Salesforce.

Valerie Papa
Manager on the Revenue Operations Team at Andela

“Our entire system hinges on Revenue Cloud,” she said. “We do everything out of Salesforce.”

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. 

“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 – with the right tools – 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: focus on quickly closing more deals.

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Jen Gustavson Writer, Salesblazer

Jen Gustavson is a writer from Salt Lake City, now living in Brooklyn, New York. Her 15-year writing career spans print journalism, consumer brand work, B2B content strategy, marketing and creative agency leadership, and beyond.

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