A research study by McKinsey Global Institute reported that salespeople on average spend less than 13 hours a week actually selling.
Considering that going out and selling solutions is what salespeople actually are best at, and what is most profitable for them and the company they work for, it’s a little disheartening that so much time is spent doing other things like office tasks, answering emails, researching leads, and internal communication (I’m guessing this includes one too many meetings a week).
However, I’m not so sure we can eliminate those other tasks and give salespeople back another 20 hours a week. And even if they had that extra time, I’m not sure they’d be spending it in the most effective way. It’s not about how much time we have to actually sell. It’s about how much time we waste on trying to get to that point of the selling process.
The Evolution of the Sales Cycle
Think about your organization for a moment.
Maybe you are a salesperson who gets bogged down in the initial stages of the selling process, trying to find qualified prospects that will actually meet with you.
Maybe you’re a sales manager who is tired of begging your salespeople to hit the streets… only to find them returning frustrated and deflated from a stressful day of cold calling.
In both cases, it’s less a lack of time and more an issue of time well spent. Banging our heads against the wall to track down one prospect that will finally set a meeting (hopefully not just because they wanted a free lunch or couldn’t say “no”) isn’t the most effective use of those precious 13 hours.
Either way, the way we sell solutions has changed… and that’s because the way our customers purchase them have evolved too. The salesperson is no longer the end-all-be-all to understanding a product or service, its benefits, how it works, or how to purchase it.
Decision makers are able to search online for what they need to know about your industry, your company, and what you sell, oftentimes long before they are ever even ready to talk to a salesperson. Meanwhile, salespeople are knocking on doors and sending emails to potentially qualified prospects… that just aren’t ready to talk to someone. It’s a waste of their time and can be frustrating to the prospect.
The Solution: How to Stop Cold Calling
By utilizing a content strategy paired with sales enablement and inbound marketing tactics as a means to generate new leads, and nurture those qualified but “not ready to talk” leads, salespeople can stop wasting those precious 13 hours a week. This doesn’t actually mean that traditional prospecting or outbound sales should be left in the dust, it just means that most of your prospects won’t actually be cold.
Here’s how: Salespeople no longer have to spend this time trying to sell to unqualified prospects and can instead spend that time contacting and consulting with decision makers who’ve actually raised their hand.
Inbound tactics give sellers invaluable lead intelligence to approach prospects at the right time, and in the right way. This eliminates guessing what their needs are or how to approach them, because the approach is warmed up via online lead generation efforts or the utilization of a personalized approach built on the foundation of making every single touch one of value to the prospect.
The way buyers research and purchase solutions has evolved. It’s about time we catch up and stop wasting our time the old-fashioned way, and instead meet them where they are in the buyer’s journey and deliver value to the relationship before they’ve even connected with a salesperson.
This is how we increase the performance of solution-selling salespeople and take advantage of the limited time they have. While we can make changes to cut down on certain tasks, we can’t eliminate email, paperwork, training, and sales meetings. But we can make sure sellers are spending more time talking to qualified prospects that are actually ready to talk. This is why marrying outbound and inbound methodologies is the key to success in 2018 and beyond.
Editor's Note: This post was originally published on on September 10, 2014, and has been updated.