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Lost Squirrels: Putting Sales Where it Belongs

Sales Management

Mostly statistics just annoy me, but every now and again I am absolutely gobsmacked by one. Like this gem I picked up from Sirius Decisions at a marketing conference: sales people spend only 18% of their time in front of customers.

You read that right, folks. Your Sales Squirrels are spending less than one-fifth of their time actually in front of customers. I’m sure you promptly went where I did which was, what the hell are they doing the other 82% of the time? So I did an informal survey of some buddies and asked them to stick their heads in the sales bullpens and find out. Here, with no statistical validity whatsoever, is what we determined:

  • Spraying Febreeze on their telephone headsets -2%
  • Setting up the fantasy football league – 2%
  • Arguing about the fantasy football league – 3%
  • Bragging about their prowess in the fantasy football league -5%
  • Watching Dumb Ways to Die (or just about anything else) on YouTube (thanks to my Friend Eve-Lynn for this one) – 5%
  • Glaring at the expense reporting application (hoping perhaps that money will come out of the screen) – 3%
  • Complaining about product delays – 9%
  • Mucking with the corporate PowerPoint you spent days getting approved – 2%
  • Re-designing the collateral you spent weeks getting approved – 2%
  • Not entering leads and contact information into the lead and contact management system- 4%
  • Rejecting perfectly good leads because they came from the website- 3%
  • Looking at new golf bags online -1%

I know at least one of you just did the math on that and, despite a Liberal Arts background, realized it adds only to half of the non-customer time. And that’s actually good news because I very much doubt we can do anything about this 41%. Here’s where I think the rest goes:

  • Waiting for contract approvals from the Hand Wringers
  • Waiting for proposals from the proposal writers
  • Waiting for discount approvals from the Keebler Elves
  • Waiting for pricing from marketing
  • Waiting for sales materials from marketing
  • Waiting for positioning and scripting from marketing
  • Waiting for leads they can use from, you guessed it, marketing

Oops. Now I know that what we consider a pricing document, most Sales Squirrels consider a starting point for negotiating with us; and I know that sales materials and scripts aren’t actually necessary if you know the product.

I also know that there is a vigourous debate in most companies around what constitutes a lead. Marketing tends to come down on the side of anything furry and dead, whereas sales would rather see something plucked, glazed and trussed with little paper hats on the drumsticks.

So let’s agree instead that part of marketing’s role is to keep sales people busy doing things that don’t involve Nerf products. For 2013, pick one thing that could put sales people in front of customers another 2% of the time. Fix a broken process, speed up another process, help the Keebler Elves off the discount ledge and work on new guidelines (I know the Squirrels will ignore them, but not right away). Two percent more time in front of customers could mean serious revenue or better retention or nothing much at all. But two percent less time scurrying about in the office has a value all its own.

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