Expert Panel

Common job issues and solutions in Sales

Sales people should be selling…so why overload them with other tasks?


{#/pub/images/AreSalesEnablersDisablingYou.jpg}On average, salespeople spend less than 35% of their time actually selling. 


This finding, reported in Clearslide’s "4 Reasons Why It’s Time to Reboot Technology,” is not a big surprise to most sales professionals. But it certainly gets the attention of sales managers and senior sales leaders.  


No one wants it to be this way. Everyone knows that more time spent selling adds up to more goods and services being sold. More revenue. More profit. So why is this the way things are?


I think it’s because Sales Managers underestimate just how much time they’re requiring sellers to spend on activities that are not actual selling. 


It’s not that Sales Managers set out to deplete your selling time. In fact, just the opposite is true. Most Sales Managers are diligently working to equip sellers for sales success. This is known as “sales enablement.” 


Sales enablement simply means enabling sales. This broad term refers to any activity or effort or product that supports making sales. To enable means “To make able; give power, means, competence, or ability to. To make possible or easy. To make ready; equip.” 


So sales enablement includes the work managers and sales organizations do to make sales people able, to give power to sellers, to increase the competences or abilities of sellers. This includes training and coaching and sales meetings.


Sales enablement also means making sales possible or easy. In other words, the systems or processes that make it easier (not harder!) to make sales are covered in this part of the definition.


Finally, sales enablement means making sellers ready to sell and equipping them for the work of selling. Some examples would be the tools, technology and resources that organizations provide.


As a seller, you may see all these sales enablers differently. You may see them, instead, as sales disablers. 


To disable means to “make unable or unfit; weaken or destroy the capability of; incapacitate; cripple. To make incapable.”


Of course, no sales manager intends to weaken or incapacitate their own sales team. But it’s happening with alarming frequency. So let’s explore why and how it happens.    


Take a look back at the call outs listed above as sales enablers. Here’s a compilation:


  • Training

  • Coaching

  • Meetings

  • Systems or processes

  • Tools

  • Technology

  • Resources 


As you review this list, here’s the moment-of-truth question. How many of these take your time away from selling? 


This really is a delicate balance. Although these are all sales enablers, each one can potentially become a disabler if not used thoughtfully and in a way that is balanced enough to allow for adequate selling time. If not in balance, sales time is eroded. 


And there’s a multiplier effect. Sure, you can make time to attend training and work before and after to shore up sales as needed. In isolation, that single training event will not disable you from selling. It will, in fact, enable you to sell more over the long term.


But the training isn’t the issue. It’s the training plus the coaching on the new material plus the reports you still need to generate through your CRM and the additional work you are required to do because of the nifty tools and resources you’ve been given.


It’s a matter of simple overload.   


Chances are, as a front line seller, you already know this because you’re living it. The problem is that your manager and your senior leaders don’t understand. They think you’re a slacker when you don’t get systems updated, reports generated, orders in on time and goals attained. They probably haven’t walked in your shoes because the onslaught of sales enablers came after they’d already moved into management. 


So what’s a seller to do? 


You probably won’t like this answer, but it’s the only reasonable way to quantify what’s happening and demonstrate how you are being disabled. 


You need to keep a time log for a solid week. It’s not easy, but it’s irrefutable and you need solid proof in order to have the conversation that comes after you gather the information only a time log can show.


A good time log accounts for every minute of every workday. It doesn’t exaggerate or estimate. It is credible and complete. Ideally, it is done by an entire team so there is a body of evidence gathered. I recommend keeping a time log by hand or with a digital voice recorder. Once you’ve compiled the data, use a simple software program to graph your findings.


Here’s what you need to look for. In your sales organization, what percent of sellers’ time is spent on selling? What percent is spent on administrative tasks? What percent is spent on activities that supposedly enable sales? A pie chart illustrates this nicely.


Now you are ready to present your findings to your manager. You can expect that he or she doesn’t know these percentages for time allocation and may be alarmed at first. One of two things will happen next. There will either be a decision to change a few things internally so you can spend more time selling (if so, honor that and show the results you implied were possible) OR there will be a conscious decision to leave things as they are. In the latter outcome, at least you will know that you are doing what is expected of you. The upside, no matter what the outcome, is that everyone will have clarity and expectations based on reality.   



{#/pub/images/DebCalvertNew.jpg}Written by Deb Calvert, President, People First Productivity Solutions-Author of the DISCOVER Questions book series, Deb has worked as a sales productivity specialist and sales researcher since 2000. She is certified as a Master Sales Coach, Master Trainer, and host of CONNECT! an online radio show for selling professionals where listeners ignite their selling power in just an hour. Deb helps companies to boost productivity through people development. This work includes leadership program design and facilitation, strategic planning with executive teams, team effectiveness work, and performance management program design. 


Do you have a sales question for Deb?  Please visit our Sales Community, she will be happy to help: Ask an Expert


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