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Why Your Sales Reps Aren't as Efficient as They'd Like to Be

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We all possess a finite amount of daily energy. How it's harnessed directly determines the quality and overall quantity of our achievements. So, when using sales reps for lead prospecting, a lot of organizations are really setting themselves back.

Sales reps are paid to do one thing and do it well—close new business. Anything else is a waste of their time, energy, and company resources.

Sales reps are not paid a premium to send emails, leave voicemails, try to get buyers back on the phone, or hack switchboard numbers.

Unfortunately, the average sales rep leads a distracted, inefficient daily career:

  • 12.73: The number of calls to connect when calling prospects with direct phone numbers
  • 22.5: The number of dials required to land a meaningful conversation. That number rises to 30 in "highly solicited divisions." All that happens even before one conversation.
  • 3:1: The ratio of meaningful conversations to one appointment
  • All that takes 60-90 dials to get an appointment with a prospect.

Spending hours of the day on the tedium of reports, planning, and organization can make anyone feel unproductive. How would you feel if a significant portion of your time was being taken up by other responsibilities outside of your purview?


A low-cost, overseas teleprospecting company can do all that.

Someone who can speak intelligently and persuasively with high-level executives should not be out digging dirt. Moreover, when firing on all cylinders, sales reps are worth their weight in gold because they're bringing home the bullion.Yet, on average, sales reps spend only 22% of their time selling.

And what's more, 23% of total time was being spent on administrative tasks, according to Pace Productivity. Yes, each lead must be managed, organized, and developed. That's a full-time job on its own.

Here's a look at some factors contributing to sales reps' inefficiency.

1. Always more data

With new sources of data always available, more time is required to build and fix lists.

2. Increasing error

Email and call automation have increased the rates of error. This is a numbers game. More outreach creates more work, such as errors in response handling, follow-up, territory and account conflicts, sales system updates, etc.

3. Task and technology overload

High-volume prospecting means more time-consuming, draining minutiae on sales reps' plates. Ever-expanding to-do lists, follow-up tasks, apps, and technology can eat up hours of time. That doesn't even include the training time required for the new technology.

Sales Benchmark Index research shows us that 70% of buyers prefer to work digitally. Though that may cut into the number of total dials, it increases the importance of email and other multi-touch strategies.

All those ancillary tasks take away from the time sales reps spend doing what they were hired to do: sell!

4. Inbound overflow

The faster the response time on an inbound lead, the higher the rate of conversion, according to a recent study. A very good conversion rate from lead-to-opportunity is 30%. Of all those contacted, 70% won't turn into anything. A salesperson responsible for multiple deals as well as following up with inbound and outbound leads cannot possibly keep up.

Moreover, 27% of reps state that an over-long sales cycle is a major factor in decreasing sales effectiveness, according to CSO Insights. From this, we understand that sales reps are being worn down and missing out on qualified leads because they can't keep up with daily inefficiencies.

5. Decision fatigue

When you're called to make decisions repeatedly, the quality of your decision-making decreases. This is called "decision fatigue." Given the multitude of daily requirements, we're seeing the "death-by-a-thousand-papercuts" decrease in sales reps productivity.

Though a trained sales professional can hear "no" and keep plugging along, the process of prioritizing and qualifying leads and evaluating those already in the system is a heavy drain. People only have so much stamina.

Say a sales rep made 80 calls today and was rejected 78X. For the duration of those two important conversations, just how sharp can the sales rep be expected to be? Especially when the calls come at the end of the day?

Keeping sales reps on task means keeping them focused upon key sales and not much else.

Avoiding the prospecting headache

What if you could get sales reps selling 50% of their day? 75%? 100%? What would that do for your sales pipeline?

What we're ultimately looking for is specialization. So, let's talk sales development.

A sales development rep can bridge the gap between your sales earners and prospecting efforts. Because the sales development rep (SDR) solely focuses upon outbound prospecting, quota-carrying employees can keep their energy directed at closing deals.

SDRs will move the leads through the pipeline and toward a sales opportunity. Think of them as the mirror to executive assistants. Every executive has someone to manage and optimize their day to day.

Your sales team directly interacts with these decision makers. Shouldn't it be prepared to engage with executives on equal footing? That requires clarity, persistence, and energy.

Moreover, with lead lists in the hands of SDRs, sales executives aren't left picking up the prospecting slack while sales reps are closing deals.

Marketo provides data showing the benefits of sales development to sales reps:

  • 5% increase in selling time can yield a 20% increase in revenue.
  • 1% increase in pipeline value that can yield a 25% increase in revenue.
  • 15% decrease in sales cycle length that can yield a 30% increase in revenue.

Knowledge is power

Ultimately, your sales reps will be more effective with better information. Specific buyer firmographics, demographics, position within an organization, and buying intent should all arrive neatly packaged to the sales team to best fill the pipeline in the time members have.

Your sales team should only be engaging with those who can make decisions. Otherwise, you will be paying them to prospect or do lead development.

Sales reps have a great quantity of resources (e.g., webinars and whitepapers) at their disposal to best engage decision makers and drive sales. But sales reps need to know where those qualified leads are within their buying journey. And they need to know about pain points.

Knowing that can be hard. Some 40% of the C-suite execs are not on LinkedIn today. This means additional research.

Sales reps are 46% more likely to be successful when they reach a director, and 148% more likely to be successful when they reach a vice-president, according to Vorsight.

Even if the sales team isn't dealing with a decision-maker straight away, finding a qualified lead that can carry the torch and champion your product higher up the ladder can make all the difference at the end of the quarter.

So, do you have the data to give your sales reps the qualified leads they need? And do you want to invest in a sales development team?

If you're hesitant, several companies can provide different examples of how to free up sales reps and fill the pipeline: email scenario automation. In-house tools allow reps to set off an entire (personalized) scenario in just one click. Doing so saves them a lot of time and hassle. The way to do this is to use your own flow of predictive outbound leads or to engage directly from social networks (mostly LinkedIn) or Salesforce.

After a 30-minute morning session with automated email engagement scenarios, a sales rep is set to handle positive responses and set meetings. With a full repertoire of high-level opportunities, sales reps are engaging three to four decision makers before lunch arrives. Even without multi-touch practices, automated sales engagement drives results.

It also saves money. With the proper tools, sales reps can act in a decisive, laser-focused fashion. Plus, it can spare the cost of implementing an entire SDR team. That's the benefit of a sales automation solution.

* * *

Multitasking is a sure way to let things slip through the cracks. If sales reps are to maximize the opportunities they've been given, start prioritizing the quality of work they do.

Find other ways to cover the sales development and data-collection processes. To remove pressures from your sales reps, focus on creating a streamlined sales process elsewhere in your organization.

Managing data and responsibilities is a huge factor in these days of shifting roles and emergent technologies. Ultimately, deciding how to free up your sales representatives at an efficient cost is essential to healthy, robust sales pipeline.


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Robin Nichol is content marketing team leader at IKO System, an outbound prospecting and email engagement platform for B2B sales and marketing professionals.

LinkedIn: Robin Nichols

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  • by @tngbond Sat Aug 27, 2016 via mobile

    Brilliant article. The sales and marketing organisation needs to adjust given the escalating but important tasks social selling demands. SDRs, SSAs (social selling assistants) and well defined methodologies and enabling technologies built around the sales rep will maximise pipeline and revenue.

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