Protecting your Sellers’ Time: Looking Beyond the Obvious
In the world of inside sales, timing is everything. But – according to a Forbes report, only 35.2% of a sales rep’s time goes towards activities directly related to revenue.
You can’t simply expect effective time management to be the main productivity driver for your organization. Any good seller can arrange their daily activities in order of priority and follow it through – but the main goal of any seller is to sell.
In this article, we’ll explore the importance of protecting seller ‘revenue time’, and how leaders can design their operations to sustain greater productivity from each team member, maximizing ROE.
Why Protect Seller Time?
When we think about ‘protecting’ seller time, we really mean ‘maximizing’ each seller’s time spent on actual revenue-generating activities.
Productivity is one of the greatest challenges faced by almost every sales team. It helps to measure how efficient the efforts of your people and organization are, and whether the activity level is generating an intended outcome.
But, seller effort and productivity aren’t always the main motivators for results. To ensure you’re getting the most out of your people, you need to put sellers in a position to do what they do best: sell. Set them free from the time-consuming constraints of support, top of funnel prospecting, customer complaints, or other non-revenue-generating activities.
That’s not to say that it’s not important to support client issues for retention. Protecting seller time is more about understanding and assigning considered roles and responsibilities for each member in your team – and preventing them from wandering. Identify that a seller’s key responsibility is net-new business, and create the environment where they have the opportunity to just focus on that, without being pulled in other directions.
Where Does all my Sellers' Time Go?
The typical salesperson’s day is filled with a variety of outreach, prospect qualification, lead generation and nurturing activities. For many, it can feel like there’s never enough time in the day to succeed – which can be stressful.
Successful businesses rely on revenue and salespeople attract revenue. When their time isn’t confidently protected, businesses potentially lose out on opportunities to scale, grow, and attract net-new revenue opportunities.
So what are the greatest time-wasting expenditures?
Demand Generation Traffic
The number one time constraints for a salesperson are inbound, non-revenue generation activities such as existing customer maintenance or brand awareness. Customer enquiries. Service support calls. Contract disputes. Payroll issues. These are, of course, ALL relevant business activities – but they should not be activities that fall into the seller’s remit, even if they were the original point of contact for that buyer.
Between 40 – 55% of calls, chats and web forms are non-revenue generating activities or existing clients. If an inside seller is part of a team that is receiving general inbound calls, that’s a monumental sacrifice of their time.
Too often, businesses root prospecting in guesswork. Without a rigorous understanding of a prospect – or a lack of relevant contact data – sellers will spend a large percentage of their time just researching and prospecting.
Everything within the sales process – from qualifying to contract negotiations – is relevant to revenue opportunity. However, it can take from 8 to as many as 14 attempts on average to get to a decision-maker – with a 5% connect rate. So, while still explicitly a revenue generating activity, the return on effort here is incredibly low. Seller time is better placed on activities that create a faster path to revenue, rather than just wasting time curating data and researching prospective accounts – that doesn’t need to be their role.
How to Protect Sellers' Time
Before changing your strategy in search of greater rep productivity, consider two clear points:
- Is my seller touching, engaging or focusing on anything for the company that is NOT a direct net-new opportunity?
- Of the net-new activities they perform, are they able to spend their time focused on achieving the highest ROI, or exceeding review targets?
There’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to protecting the time of your salesperson. Different organizations bring different industries, products, services, sizes and languages. These in turn bring different audiences. Different audiences bring different approaches to selling and tonalities.
There are, however, steps you can take to put your team on a faster path to revenue growth. In the following section, we’ll outline four considerations to support you getting the most out of your salespeople.
Assign the Right Responsibilities
As a leader, it’s your responsibility to leverage the individual strengths of your team. Far too often, teams lack alignment because there isn’t a clear, identifiable understanding of role and responsibility for each person. Role specialization is critical to the effective running of any organization.
Not recognizing the role of the seller is one of the most time-costly mistakes a leader can make. An inside salesperson does not NEED to be the person who sources, contacts and sells the deal. You wouldn’t ask a field seller to spend 80% of their time trying to find people to visit.
It’s never a good idea to have your inside sellers as part of a generalised response handling unit. Many organizations make this mistake because they believe it will result in an increase in genuine sales opportunities. If a salesperson is handling the unqualified, they’ll spend anywhere between 40-55% of their ‘money’ time dealing with support or client services conversations.
For an effective, streamlined inside selling team, you need to assign separate roles for pipeline generation and separate roles for physically selling. It’s that simple. Don’t blur the lines too closely. Be transparent on the responsibilities of each department.
Improve Lead Qualification
No matter how convincing your approach is, some leads will never prosper. Sellers can often be caught stranded, chasing down the unqualified rather than actively pursuing net-new business.
To maximize time spent physically selling, leaders need to supply the context to reach the right person in the right place, at the right time. As mentioned, if you have an inside seller who is actually able to convert interest into visible revenue, they shouldn’t be spending 80% of their time researching prospects, contact data, assets or demos.
Identify the right individual(s) to qualify leads, and have them supply sellers with warm prospects to convert at the demo stage – at the right place and time. That way, instead of a seller spending 20% of their time selling to a ‘potential buyer’, reps can spend 100% of their time pursuing hot prospects and leading them through the sales cycle stages.
Invest in a Data Partner
If you want your sellers to excel and maximize their time spent selling, equip them with top-quality prospecting and B2B data. Data adds value to your existing CRM, creates richer contact profiles and supports sellers in seamlessly contacting, engaging and nurturing their prospects – without extensive, time consuming research.
By investing in the services of a quality, reliable data partner, sales teams can avoid data decay and reverify crucial prospecting information that is essential to qualifying leads. In doing so, your organization will be able to maximize selling time and reduce tireless efforts crawling the web for contact information. From connecting with prospects to closing decision-makers, confident data increases results at each step of the sales cycle.
Sales automation is not new ground. When it comes to increasing sales productivity and streamlining routine, the quickest and most effective route is automation. By freeing up time spent on administrative tasks and CRM reporting, leaders can unlock more time for them to spend on closing deals. In fact, according to McKinsey – a third of all sales related tasks can now be automated.
Most sales teams will already be using a CRM for data management, which is ideal for automatically logging communications and pipeline engagement – but that’s not the be all and end all of what automation has to offer. Optimize other features like automated email workflows based on client interactions, enrich your pipeline with lead scoring analytics, streamline onboarding and even schedule meetings – with the right technology at your fingertips.
Though, automation doesn’t just mean sending emails through a sales engagement platform. With the right processes in place, organizations can bypass the common inbound time constraints associated with customer experience. For example:
- Website FAQs to Support Inbound Traffic
- Chatbot, Live Chat & Conversational Intelligence
- Triage (IVRs, Playbooks)
- Triage Process to Push Genuine Inbound Revenue Opportunities into Separate Funnels
Protecting Seller Time: What's in it for me?
One of the biggest barriers to a sale – from a prospect’s perspective – is a lack of simplicity. Modern buyers want seamless, quick and quality interactions, rather than lengthy customer service queues and endless call transfers between departments.
By protecting the time of your best performing salespeople, you can best position your team to ensure that each call is directed to the salesperson most suitable for that prospect. Freeing up capacity creates availability – meaning that each initial prospecting call is with someone who understands the process, industry, sector, territory, etc.,for that particular buyer – thus improving the quality of the prospect journey experience. Not to mention, the reputation of your organization.
Improved Cost Effectiveness:
Salespeople are typically more expensive than other resources in any organization, so it’s financially more viable from a profitability, capacity and quota perspective to ensure their time is spent actually selling.
Increased selling time directly correlates to an increase in revenue. If you’re sincerely looking to improve your top line, you need to take salespeople away from customer service or support and reinvest their time back into what they do best. Often, hiring support, inbound or customer services personnel can improve these processes dramatically.
A lack of time means a lower earning potential. If a salesperson’s quota is low because they’re forced to work in other areas, then their earning potential is hugely reduced. Reps simply aren’t going to tolerate spending their time or effort (that could be spent making money for themselves) responding to difficult customer queries.
Salespeople WANT to sell – they don’t want to be answering customer complaints. By protecting the time of your key salespeople, you support the creation of a strong organizational culture that understands where each individual excels, and affords them the time to do so.
As the old adage goes, “time is money”. Every minute of your sellers’ time counts and taking steps to protect the productivity of your team will undoubtedly result in increased revenue growth.
Start by narrowing your focus and planning ahead, work smarter with the tools available to you, and collaborate with other departments to understand where individual sellers can provide the most value, in the most suited roles for their skill sets.
Before you begin to make changes, ensure you carry out the following essentials:
- Do a proper time and motion review on how much time your sellers are currently spending on different activities in the funnel.
- Compare those elements of the funnel to what actually drove revenue opportunity, as opposed to activity.
- Specialize and understand your skill sets.
- Consider what you can feasibly automate.
Need a faster solution? We can help. At InsideOut, we have experience in optimizing hundreds of inside sales teams, helping them to best prioritize and protect the time of their top performers.
We understand that your sellers don’t have the time, capacity or patience to constantly deal with customer service calls – or even prospects that haven’t been correctly qualified.
Operating as an extension of your existing team (and your frontline for a selection or even all of your inbound enquiries), our services can support your organization in maximizing selling opportunities and ensuring engaging, memorable interactions for every single enquiry.
Originally from Iver in the United Kingdom, which she will proudly tell you is near where the Queen lives, Christina moved to the U.S.A. in the early 2010s before founding InsideOut in 2015. Fast forward 12 months to 2016 and InsideOut had 150+ employees and a 7,500 square-foot facility based in Florida! With 25+ years in sales and operations, the majority of which has been at board level, those who have met Christina would agree that she strives for operational excellence on a daily basis, consistently working to develop the individuals at InsideOut and help them unlock their full potential.