Sales Reps Spend Less Than 37% of Their Time Selling (and Only 18% Inside CRM), New Research Shows

11/10/2017 09:12 am ET
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There’s a groundswell occurring in the way corporate sales teams and representatives sell, new research is suggesting. InsideSales.com Labs (a division of AI-fueled sales acceleration company InsideSales.com) released a new Time Management Study this week. The research is based on responses from nearly 200 sales reps including more than dozen in-depth interviews, to provide a closer look at the way today’s inside and outside sales reps are spending their time.

The results are beyond surprising: When it comes to time management, the majority of salespeople are failing the course.

Only slightly more than one in four reps follow a structured time management system, the study reports. This, in itself, may be somewhat worrisome. More shocking still is that revenue generating activities (in a nutshell, the activities in selling) make up nearly 37% of their time.

A full 63.4% of salespeople’s time is focused on activities other than selling, a stat that makes most sales leaders cringe.

Inside Reps are Less Focused than Outside Reps

Field reps are more effective at focusing their time on selling activities than their inside counterparts by a margin of 17.5%. For these individuals, customer meetings and interactions account for the highest time spent (15.7%). Administrative tasks such as dealing with internal policies and approvals ranks next, at 12.8%, and researching target accounts and contacts, at 12%, places third.

What’s working and what’s not working?

Sales reps across the board reported that time spent on Facebook and catching up with colleagues was 7% more effective than internal meetings and dealing with internal policies. Internal meetings were reported to take nearly 10% of a sales reps week.

The most effective sales tasks were reported as planning and following up on sales calls. But reps ranked core activities, such as running external meetings and prospecting, toward the bottom of the effectiveness scale indicating many reps are still uncomfortable with their primary role of selling.

What about CRM?

The declining dependence and use of customer relationship management (CRM) is the study’s most surprising result. Of available systems, CRM has long served as the foundational system for sales. But examining the typical work week of a sales person revealed that only 18% of time is spent in CRM while 61.7% is spent in sales technologies. Worse still, because of CRM’s inefficiency, reps spend 9.7% of their time (over half their total amount in CRM) in spreadsheets to help them accomplish CRM-related tasks more effectively. In terms of valuable systems, CRM ranks last and was explicitly called out by respondents as the most frustrating facet of system surveyed.

On the flip side of the equation, prospecting tools highlighted by email for sales-related purposes was where reps spent the majority of their time (33.2%).

What should these outcomes be teaching us?

Both sales reps and companies need to up their game. Reps who reported following a structured time management philosophy spent 32% more time selling than reps who didn’t. That’s a big number that illuminates the importance of sales representatives taking a disciplined approach to selling. For companies, they need to look to empower rather than hinder internal sales reps - currently they spend nearly 20% of a typical work week trying to navigate internal challenges.

Additionally, the results uncover some problems for CRM tools and their desire to foster sale productivity. CRM was reported as the most frustrating tool and only received high marks for being a record keeping system (spreadsheets nearly received the same ratings). Companies and sales reps are looking past this system of record and focusing on systems that support sales growth. What’s the answer? According to InsideSales.com, it’s artificial intelligence. Companies will achieve their desired sales growth as AI brings together sales technology applications with CRM.

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