Sales Activity Shift


An American study of over 5,000 salespeople suggests that in just a few short quarters of the last decade, face-to-face selling time fell off a cliff. A 26% drop apparently.

If these end-of-’09 stats were a week’s worth of selling, then your diary’s activity would breakdown roughly like;

1¼ days on pre-sales
1½ days actual selling time
1½ days on post-sales
¾s of a day on admin

The findings are the findings, I suppose, but how only an hour a day gets chowed by non-sales and admin tasks is a mystery. I also find it alarming that post-sales work is the same as selling time. Even if you’re an account manager you shouldn’t be a delivery project manger too. Still, contact with prospects is shrinking. And most salespeople I know, despite these figures being two years past, would agree with that.

Yet the most astonishing finding the surveyors posit is this:

star sales reps are spending less time presenting and persuading, and more time planning and orchestrating stakeholders

It seems that they uncovered a correlation between hitting your numbers and spending more time internally that was previously in reverse.

They attribute this in large part to the increasing complexity of what’s being sold. I’m not sure I buy this. What’s needed is a counter-balance. Imagine if the same survey was conducted of how buyers spend their time. I’m not necessarily referring to those people with words like ‘procurement’ on their business card. Take any Board member for instance. I wouldn’t be surprised if they consciously cut down on vendor interaction between 07 & 09 to concentrate on internal affairs.

This point is also borne out by one of the authors own comments on the HBR reproduction;

We too have seen the bar for what earns you face time with the customer go up as well

Suggesting what got you in front of people yesterday isn’t what’ll secure discussion today.

There’s also some interesting considerations in the comments, such as “solutions fatigue” and call serendipity. They do though offer sage advice in one related post on where to now focus your energy;

More time aiming, less time shooting, and a stronger dependence on the expertise of the manager

As an aside, they graph the above pic differently elsewhere. Which representation do you prefer?


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