The life of a modern sales professional is as complicated as ever. There are meetings with staff, vendors and (of course) potential and existing customers, as well as phone calls, reports and the daunting task of coordinating it all. Moving product is as essential a process as there is in the world of commerce, yet in many organizations it’s among the most unrefined, and salespeople (not to mention the company sales numbers) often pay the price.They report that while selling isn’t necessarily as solitary a proposition as it was in the past, there are basic parts of the job that need modernizing in order to improve organizational efficiency and avoid personal burnout. In this post we discuss some of the most common problems facing sales professionals and some emerging technologies you can use to address them.
Challenge No. 1: Spend more time selling
2/3 of sales reps’ time is spent on tasks other than selling
A recent survey found that salespeople typically spend just one-third of their workweek actually selling. A huge part of the rest is spent on administrative tasks, as well as tabulating reports and nurturing existing customer relationships. It’s an alarming statistic. What if doctors spent two-thirds of their day pushing paperwork rather than researching or meeting with patients? In the sales world, this also raises relevant questions: How many potential customers are lost to other firms offering similar products simply because they’re reaching them more consistently?
How to spend more time selling: While there’s no one sure-fire way to free up time from internal responsibilities, there are ways you can make the time that is committed to sales more efficient and more productive:
- Prioritize your day. Treat emerging leads as opportunities that could disappear if not handled appropriately. Getting snared deep in paperwork can wait.
- Reach out for help among your peers. Don’t embrace the 12-hour workday just because you don’t want to burden others with administrative duties.
- Use workflow automation tools available to help you stay on top of your work – not vice versa.
Challenge No. 2: Stay productive and efficient on the go
44% of professionals use their mobile device for work over 20 times a day
The stereotype of salespeople leading a nomadic existence has largely faded, thanks to modern innovations like the internet and video conferencing. Yet a sales force willing (and enabled) to pound the pavement can make a huge difference in many industries. And mobility, of course, is changing the face of business. Work management platform Wrike conducted a 2016 survey of organizations from various industries, investigating the use of portable devices in the corporate world. More than 43 percent of respondents said a mobile device is critical for their work. As a salesperson, you need the functionality of virtually every tool in the traditional office – communication, product information, customer relationship management (CRM) data, historical data, sales guidelines and much more – at your fingertips no matter where you are at given point in time.
How to maximize productivity on the go:
- Ensure your sales team is equipped with up-to-date mobile devices
- Update company systems (CRM, contract management, document management, etc.) to be fully mobile friendly
- Ensure that your sales team can efficiently complete core tasks on the go, such as:
- eSign contracts
- Retrieve and view documents
- Review and approve documents and forms
- Access account details via CRM
Challenge No. 3: Jump internal organizational hurdles
Sales professionals often cite internal dysfunction as a major impediment to their productivity. One common example in many companies is the relationship between Sales and Marketing. Though these two departments typically serve similar functions regardless of the type of business involved, in many cases they don’t communicate on a level commensurate with this relationship. Marketing research firm Marketo released a study underscoring this problem. One fundamental issue between the two departments, according to research, is that Sales and Marketing often have different and sometimes conflicting goals: Marketing often looks at the long term, setting far-reaching goals such as progress in branding and name association. Sales, predictably (and understandably), is more concerned with meeting highly quantifiable goals, often based on previous sales periods or quotas set by manpower and established sales margins.
Tips to get marketing and sales pulling together:
- Provide each access to the same internal information, such as budgets and lead generation progress. A centralized data source can help get them on the same page.
- Set up systems for automating and tracking projects that both work on together. For example, an automated workflow for collateral requests.
Challenge No. 4: Keep communication and contract execution moving quickl
Miscommunication can happen inside organizations, but it can also be a problem for companies attempting to come to terms with existing and potential customers. This can present itself in the form of proposed basic agreements, as well as highly detailed contracts. Keeping this data secure is vital. A survey performed in early 2017 of companies spread over diverse industries worldwide found that 75 percent of respondents said their firms create sensitive documents at least once a week, and 35 percent said they do every business day. To handle this sensitive data, and to keep negotiations on track, you need a centralized repository for the information, one that can be readily shared with clients with a mutual interest in the details.
Tips for closing deals faster:
- Identify the key participants on both side of the negotiations, to keep the group manageable and build a rapport and mutual trust.
- Use contract automation software to keep track of changes made and establish a current version for all involved to maintain.
- Review contracts to remove any unnecessary conditions or sections before sending – every extra section is another opportunities for objections or delays.
- Allow eSigning contracts – studies have found that 86% contracts with eSignatures are signed and returned within a day – much faster than those that request a physical signature.
Challenge No. 5: More meetings with customers, fewer meetings with staff
If you’re like many of your sales colleagues, you may feel that you spend more time talking about your work than actually doing it – that is, you’re frequently in internal meetings or training new employees instead of creating and developing leads.The Harvard Business Review, in fact, released a study which showed large companies can sacrifice hundreds of thousands of man-hours in a year just in conducting weekly executive meetings. This obviously impacts more than just the sales force, but it’s hard to find a better example supporting the old adage that time is money than salespeople tied up in a boardroom. This is similar to the previously discussed challenge of handling administrative tasks, but can become even more of a time drain, especially in the case of highly established salespeople working in an organization where employee turnover is a substantial problem. Often, a salesperson who has excelled at his craft becomes impeded by this competence, since he then gets pulled in any number of directions – few of which lead to advancing leads and closing sales.
How to reduce time spent in meetings:
- Ask for an agenda for the meeting beforehand. This tends to streamline the proceedings and provide an additional sense of purpose.
- Workflow management software allows multiple parties to work together to complete a project without gatherings for updates, deadlines and task assignment.
Challenge No. 6: Focus on your core tasks that drive revenue
As a salesperson, how much time do you waste chasing down people within your organization and coordinating tasks? Another advantage of the open sharing of information within an organization is that it helps specify the duties and expectations of everyone involved. This can become a huge benefit for salespeople in particular, who often become the public face of the company and thus the de facto point person for any issue a potential or existing customer faces. For instance, in software companies, salespeople report that any time a customer has a technical issue or is faced with a standard situation they can’t handle themselves, the customer often avoids the standard protocol of contacting customer service representatives – and reaches out to the salesperson, with whom they’ve already established a relationship. This obviously places extra strain on your sales force, pulling them away from their central of mission of developing leads, and can even marginalize customer service professionals trained to diagnose and solve problems reported by leads who’ve obviously already been converted.
How to reduce time spent managing other departments’ jobs:
- Work with each department to establish clear processes for requests, so there’s no confusion on how or to whom requests should be made.
- A solid workflow automation dashboard gives you an easy way to initiate requests and track the progress of each request at a glance.
Saving time with sales process automation
As highlighted by the above challenges, one of the common themes sales teams face is improving efficiency and saving time. Saving time means that you can focus more of your time on the sales activities that bring revenue through the door. Contract automation software can help you improve sales team efficiency in several ways:
- Simplify contract management.
- Streamline the negotiation process and close deals faster.
- Reduce administrative time.
- Improve communication and reduce the need for meetings.
Want to see how automating your sales processes can help your sales team to generate revenue and create efficiencies? Contact the OnTask team to schedule a demo.