You Don’t Need More Salespeople, You Need More Productivity

Let’s say you’ve got more opportunities than (you think) your sales team can handle. What’s the solution?

Hire more salespeople, of course.

Wait a minute.

You may not need more salespeople. But you may need more productive salespeople.

Before you hire anyone, ask yourself two questions about your sales team:

  • Do they have enough selling time?
  • Are they using their selling time effectively?

Maximizing Selling Time

The chart to the left shows how salespeople spend their time. They spend only two days a week dealing directly with prospects and customers.

They also spend over a day a week on research and lead generation.

What if you could increase real selling time by a half-day a week? That’s a 25% increase. How much additional revenue would that generate?

Here are six ways to minimize nonselling time.

  1. Automate Prospect Research — By poking around the internet for business, your salespeople are wasting their time. They should be subscribing to alert services, using business intelligence services and tapping social media sites.
  2. Delegate or Outsource Lead Generation and Cultivation — Your marketing department should generate the leads, cultivate them and turn them over to a salesperson only when the leads are sales-ready. Left to their own devices, most salespeople haphazardly generate and nurture leads.
  3. Standardize Proposals and Contracts — If your salespeople are creating their own proposals and contracts, they are wasting time and putting the company at risk. Have your lawyer and CFO create the templates — with an assist from the marketing department.
  4. Standardize Sales Tools — Salespeople love to create their own brochures and presentations. That’s another waste of time. And they may not even convey the right message. Your marketing department should create the sales tools.
  5. Delegate Cross-Sell/Up sell — Salespeople should not spend their time selling small projects to existing customers. Train your client services team to do the low-level selling. Let your outside salespeople focus on doing the bigger deals with bigger customers.
  6. Delegate Customer Service and Administration — Dealing with clients and customers on routine matters can consume an enormous amount of a salesperson’s time. Make sure your client services team handles customer service and customer administration tasks. Involve the salesperson only when there is a serious issue — or a big opportunity.

Making the Most of Selling Time

Let’s say you’ve taken the steps above, and your salespeople indeed have 25% more selling time. What now?

Focus on three areas:

  • Pursue the best opportunities.
  • Generate consistent sales activity.
  • Create a standardized sales system.

The Best Opportunities

Dead-end situations can be a trap for salespeople. Sometimes they pursue opportunities where there is no possibility of success. Other times they don’t know when to abandon an opportunity.

Coach your salespeople on how to identify good opportunities so that they avoid dead ends. A particular company may be an attractive target. But does your salesperson have the right connections there? Is the deal worth pursuing?

Similarly, you can teach them to recognize when a deal is going nowhere. Then, it’s time to get out and move on to more promising opportunities.

Sales Activity

A key determinant of sales success is the salesperson’s activity level. Your salespeople should have weekly numerical targets for:

  • New contacts
  • Phone calls
  • Phone discussions
  • Meetings
  • Proposals
  • Events attended
  • Referrals generated

Initial contacts lead to phone discussions. Discussions lead to meetings. Meetings lead to proposals. Proposals lead to business. That’s how sales are made.

Often, it’s a numbers game. If your salespeople don’t make enough contacts, they won’t have enough conversations that eventually lead to meetings and proposals. It all starts with activity.

Again, you can fix this. Perhaps, a salesperson needs to put in a greater effort — or maybe clarifying the message will do the trick.

A Sales System

A salesperson may be calling on the right people, but still not getting results.

If he is not documenting his sales interactions, follow-ups may be falling through the cracks, missing opportunities. He may also be alienating prospects and customers because he fails to follow up as promised.

Is your salesperson using your CRM system? Is he summarizing his sales calls and meetings appropriately? Does he have an up-to-date task list?

You can fix this, too. Perhaps he needs some coaching on your sales process or a tune-up on using the CRM system.

Less is More

Seasoned field salespeople are expensive. According to Four Quadrant, LLC, the cost of a salesperson can be $380,000 a year. You can add the cost of recruiting, training and management time, too.

What happens if the new hire fails? You’ve got severance costs and more management time. After that you’ve got to hire someone else and the process repeats itself. You’ll be better off if you can get more out of your existing sales team. Hiring more salespeople should be a last resort.

About the Author | Peter Helmer

Peter Helmer is a principal in The Sales Management Group (SMG) which provides interim sales management and sales consulting services to middle-market companies. SMG works with CEOs and sales leaders to improve sales efficiency and effectiveness. SMG’s services include: sales audits, compensation plans, sales leader onboarding, and territory management plans. Peter writes the Sales Management Blog.

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