7 Ways Top Sales Reps Spend More Time Selling
Sales reps have a job to sell.
Their success is measured by how many deals they close, how many leads they convert, and how much revenue they generate—not just in the short-term, but over the lifetime of their accounts.
But here’s where things get interesting: Sales reps spend just over a third of their time actually selling. That's it!
Plus, the average sales rep in the U.S. has a salary of $56,970. That means you could be spending $36,916.56 per year on one sales person’s time that doesn’t result in revenue.
So what are sales reps doing when they aren't selling? They're handling all the other tasks that they have to do to create selling opportunities.
If you want a more efficient and profitable team (or if you're a sales rep trying to close more deals), you have to automate and optimize the other two-thirds of your day. This guide will show you how to do that.
How to Automate Time-Wasting Tasks
To spend time wisely, you need to know where you’re losing it.
Research by Inside Sales found sales reps waste time the most time on administrative tasks, external meetings, and research.
The good news? Most of these things can be automated—meaning those sales tasks still get done, but don’t need a human to painstakingly do them every day.
Let’s dig into three use cases:
- Logging a lead in your CRM
- Responding to emails from co-workers
- Tracking how they spend their time
...all waste precious minutes that your sales team could spend selling. So much so, that this type of admin work accounts for almost 15% of a sales rep’s daily schedule. It's what they spend most of their time on, and it's where there's the most room for improvement.
How to Automate: Create workflows in your CRM to automatically do any task that you would manually do multiple times a day. A few things you can (and should) have workflows for are:
- Follow-up emails based on a prospect's activity (or inactivity) with your website
- Moving leads from one stage of your pipeline to another, and creating any tasks that should be associated with that move
- Notifications for notable accounts to track progress
- Reporting and updates
Another thing that's good to do is integrate Toggl’s time-tracking data with your dashboard. That way you'll get a better feel for how you spend your time and where you can improve.
You have to follow-up if you want to close sales. In fact, about 80% of sales close after the 5th follow-up!
But general follow-ups—those where your reps aren’t convinced the lead will convert based on previous contact, and almost just to tick a box—costs them 11% of their time.
How to Automate: Create a lead scoring system that tells your CRM what a “high quality” lead looks like (I'll cover this more in a minute.) Then, create an email automation series to follow-up with those leads after a certain length of time. You won’t need to do it manually—or remember which leads need a reminder email.
You can also reduce the number of follow-ups and tasks needed to close a deal by texting with prospects. The research is clear that you'll get more responses and close more sales.
In any job, there should be time set aside specifically for self-improvement and figuring out how you can do your work better. Plus, your co-workers and directors need progress updates.
What you don't want is your sales team stuck in internal meetings, which currently account for 8% of their time (over 3 hours a week).
How to Automate: You can’t automate face time, but you can automate reports so you can much more quickly visualize how you're doing, how you compare, and where you can improve.
There's always something else you can analyze, but start with your conversion rates at each stage of your pipeline. Then look at account lifetime values.
You can also use software like Doodle to schedule regular meetings at times that will be most productive for everyone.
7 Revenue-Generating Tasks Your Sales Team Should Be Doing
Once you’ve automated those three time-sucking tasks, it's time to double down on revenue-generating tasks. Here's what top sales performers are doing, and how you can spend more time selling.
1. Build solid buyer personas.
Did you know that 50% of sales time is wasted on unproductive prospecting? Searching LinkedIn for leads, and scouring the people you’ve already connected with takes valuable time from your workweek.
You can cut that time down with one of these three options:
1. Outsource it: Hire a virtual assistant to take over the research. These people are typically paid per hour. You can cap this at a certain amount to know what you’re spending. They will prepare a streamlined (but detailed) list of leads you could target. Fiverr and UpWork are good starting points for finding virtual assistants if you don't already have a source.
3. Make it easier: Add tools to your arsenal like Voila Norbert, ContactOut, Skrapp, or NinjaOutreach to free-up the bulk of the time you spend prospecting. These tools don’t automate the entire process, but they make it easier.
The good news? There’s a solution for every budget.
The not-so-good news? You’ll need to create buyer personas before doing any of them.
Buyer personas, also known as “customer profiles," are documents that detail every trait your customer shares—such as their age, job title, challenges, and motivations.
They take time to create, but 24% of companies gain more leads by using buyer personas. Those leads are almost always higher quality, too, which makes it easier for you to convert them.
2. Use lead scoring to prioritize follow-ups.
Follow-ups account for a huge portion of a sales rep’s day, but you shouldn’t get rid of them—especially when 80% of sales are closed after the 5th to 12th contact.
Instead, use lead scoring to prioritize which people you follow up with.
Lead scoring gives each prospect a score based on their behaviors and interactions with your brand. You then use that score to rank your leads from hottest to coldest, and use that rank to determine who you follow up with first.
You can build your own lead scoring template in three simple steps:
- Writing down the qualities that make a lead “good”. (For example: They’ve attended a webinar, been given a sales demo, downloaded your eBook, or opened your email.)
- Ordering those qualities in order of importance.
- Giving each quality a score, with each quality decreasing in score as they become less important.
Here’s what that might look like:
William Taylor also told me how they use specific data to do this at MintResume:
“Today, there are so many document management and automation tools available commercially that offer extremely useful data such as document views, forwards, and electronic signature notifications.
All this information can give a sales rep the power to know exactly when to follow up. Armed with this data, you no longer have to question whether or not a proposal or contract has been received or reviewed.”
How you score leads will be unique to your company, and should be based on lead engagement. Someone with a score of 40 is much more engaged than someone with a score of 5, so to increase your chances of closing a sale, you want to focus on the person with the higher score.
But lead scoring helps with more than just priority.
Lead scoring should affect your approach to following up, too.
People with higher lead scores should have a more aggressive, personalized follow-up. For instance, instead of sending them pre-made templates, send customized emails or text messages to convince them to buy.
But what about prospects with a low lead score?
If you have time to follow-up with them, do so (only once you’ve worked at converting your high-scoring leads), and don’t spend too much time on them. You're probably better off looking for easier opportunities.
3. Track a lead’s website activity.
Did you know that if you call a lead within the first five minutes after they've submitted a web form, they're 100x more likely to get on the phone?
Use a tool like Leadfeeder, Lead Forensics, or Snitcher to find those people (or companies) browsing your website. Or create a workflow in your CRM so that as soon as a new lead comes in, you get a task (and notification) to follow-up.
Once you’ve got their names, you could:
- Find the contact you want to speak to using LinkedIn, and plug their details into Hunter.io to find their email address.
- Find the “About” section on their LinkedIn or Google My Business profile and call them.
You could also check whether your CRM offers pixel tracking—a small piece of code that matches the visitors on your website to the leads you’re already working on. If it does, you might be able to trigger a task or notification to call them immediately, without needing to periodically check their on-site activity.
Agile’s CRM offers this feature:
This could work into your lead scoring model, too. Give people a higher score if they’ve visited your website - or a specific page of it, like Pricing - and prioritize them for your follow-ups.
4. Automate your pre-sales live chat support.
One report found 82% of shoppers expect an immediate response to their customer support request.
The bottom line: Your potential customers aren’t willing to wait.
But while you and other reps do their best to meet that requirement, you spend time answering smaller questions instead of focusing on converting big accounts.
In an ideal world, marketing and other employees take care of all this pre-sales work for you. But that's rarely the case.
Luckily there is a way to do both: Chatbots.
Tools like Acquire have automated chatbots that you can use to set up answers to commonly asked questions. Simply upload a list of FAQs, and using machine learning to predict answers to other questions that your leads are asking.
Chatbots don't always create a great user experience (people often want to talk to people), but they're a great tool for getting answers to the people who want instant responses. They can also help you turn website visitors into qualified or sales ready leads, which means you'll spend more time selling.
5. Follow-up with old customers for referrals and repeat purchases.
It’s easier (and cheaper) to sell to an existing customer than a new one—so much so, that it costs 5x more to attract a new customer than keep an existing one.
However, this is often a tricky task for companies to manage. For the majority of businesses, the customer is passed from a sales rep to a customer success team after they hit “purchase”.
Technically speaking, the lead isn’t the sales person’s responsibility anymore.
But if your sales team spends their newfound time connecting with customer success teams to get upgrades and upsells from existing customers, everyone is going to win.
Accomplishing this could be as simple as running through your CRM, and sending a quick personalized email to customers about products or features you've added since they purchased.
Or, you could ask customer success teams for a list of people they’ve helped solve a particular problem. You might find a great opportunity to upsell. For example, if a customer hired your pest control services to remove a bees nest last summer, you can follow-up this year to promote your bee repellent.
But here’s where things get interesting.
Happy customers don’t just need to continue with their repeat purchases to net your business extra revenue. They can use that experience to recommend, refer, or introduce you to their network.
Research has found that 92% of consumers trust recommendations from their peers more than advertising.
The best part? All you need to do is work with your customer success team to find happy customers, and provide them with an incentive to refer you—like free entries on a competition, or a discount on their next purchase.
It’s a small task with a huge ROI.
6. Build a solid (and up-to-date) CRM database.
Most sales teams have a CRM to store information about their leads, and what stage they’re at within your sales funnel.
However, inaccurate or out-of-date data can cause major problems, and lose businesses as much as 12% of their annual revenue!
This “bad data” could look like:
- Email addresses for their old company, which they’ve since left
- Zero updates or notes on when the lead was last contacted
- No information on which sales rep is working on converting them
Work around this by spending a few hours manually cleansing your CRM, checking the updates on each prospect you’re working to convert, and even on current customers.
Sure, it takes time. But it's a one-time thing that prevents you wasting even more time in the future—especially if out-of-data leads to lost opportunities or sales reps double dipping on the same prospect.
(It’s bound to be pretty frustrating for the person on the other end, too.)
7. Have your team build a library of relevant content.
Content is a great way to attract new customers, and to prove to prospects that you understand their situation (which builds trust).
Why? Because content can reduce the time your sales team spend on those time-consuming, non-revenue-generating tasks we discussed earlier—like writing emails or responding to FAQs.
That's why it's important to create a library of:
- Help docs
- Video tutorials
Your customers can find them on their own accord, and you can share a link in place of lengthy email paragraphs. It will also save you time from having to prospect.
Potential customers can simply view your website to find the answers they’re looking for.
This helps in the long-run—especially when 47% of buyers view three to five pieces of content before engaging with a sales rep.
It’s easy to find which types of content your sales team needs. Simply ask for a list of their frequently asked questions, or run a survey that asks existing customers, “what questions did you have before purchasing?”
If you see a certain topic cropping up frequently, create a piece of content around it.
It’s a great way to bring new customers on board without your sales team wasting valuable time—and will help you retain existing customers, too.
One Last Step
Are you ready for you and other sales reps to spend more time selling (and making money)?
James Miller of Motus shares how you can quickly (and easily) start banishing time-wasting tasks and focus on revenue-generating ones:
“Our reps have a ten by ten challenge - “can you call ten customers or prospects before ten am?” - to get them jump-started on a productive day. By making revenue-generating tasks the first thing they do in the morning, they're beginning each day with success.”
Start by doing a quick audit of your sales team’s time. Find whether they’re in the majority (wasting time on admin, generic follow-ups, and internal meetings), and try to automate as much of those tasks as possible.
Swap them with the seven revenue-generating tasks we’ve shared here, and there’s no reason why you couldn’t double—or triple—the volume of leads your reps are closing.