Everyone wants their sales team to be more productive. And despite all the hype about the internet and emerging technologies, the basics of selling have remained pretty much the same over the past 40 years. Salespeople need to find prospects, identify needs, present solutions and close sales.

But when salespeople either don’t have enough time to do these basics or don’t have a prime focus on them, then revenue and profits are sure to suffer.

A recent study of more than 1,500 salespeople conducted by the Industrial Performance Group (IPG) found that salespeople spend just 38% of their time selling. Even more eye-opening was the revelation that 23% of their time – nearly three months a year – was spent dealing with problems and mistakes, searching for information and expediting orders. That’s not a revenue-producing use of a salesperson’s time.

Enabling salespeople to have more time to sell seems like an obvious way to boost sales and profits. Yet in my experience very few management teams have paid attention to this issue.

The IPG study confirmed one thing I’ve observed over the years. Top performing salespeople spend 20% more time selling than the average or below-average salesperson. That’s not 20% more time working, that’s 20% more time selling. That’s about 11 weeks a year more than the low performer.

Top performers have more time to sell because they aren’t constrained by the common organizational and self-imposed barriers that hinder sales performance. Most companies could achieve double digit growth with little risk and low cost by identifying and addressing common barriers that are keeping salespeople from achieving peak performance.

Here’s a plan of attack to address common barriers to better productivity.


Barrier # 1 – Outdated Processes

Your company has developed processes for certain sets of tasks that produce an outcome: placing an order, doing an installation, bringing a customer online. Although business conditions may change, work processes tend to stay the same, leading to inefficient or outdated processes.  

Identify the challenges and mistakes that occur repeatedly in your business. Then look at the processes most closely related to those challenges and mistakes. Map out these processes and get the people closest to them to work together to develop and implement solutions.


Barrier # 2 – Lack of Focus

Top performing salespeople spend twice as much time prospecting and analyzing customer needs compared to average or below-average performers. 

The IPG study found that average salespeople spend only 8% of their time on these activities. That’s not enough.

For better sales, you need to determine why your salespeople aren’t doing more prospecting. You must act to free up your salespeople, so they have more time to prospect. And you must set the expectation that prospecting is a big part of their daily activities.


Barrier # 3 – Outdated Training

Today’s customers are savvier than ever before. They have access to information and reviews online. They’re more price sensitive and are always looking for great value.

If salespeople lack the ability to differentiate their offering in ways that bring value to a customer, then they are simply selling a price-sensitive commodity. The customer won’t see the true value of the offering and will demand a lower price, go elsewhere or simply do nothing. 

Think this isn’t happening in your business? Take a look over the past six months at the amount of discounted or “extra incentive” deals like extended payment terms your business has given to customers.

Sales training today must help salespeople clearly differentiate their product from others. It must train salespeople to properly communicate with prospects via email, text, chat and even video.It must teach salespeople how to prospect and conduct research using internet tools, search engines and social media.

Right now, take the time to assess if your sales training is appropriate for selling in today’s price-sensitive, ultra-competitive, ever-changing world. Deliver the training your team needs for better performance.

Brian Offenberger, CeM, CSMA, is the founder of NJL Sales Training, a salesperson performance accelerator. He’s also an expert in internet marketing and social media. Visit his website at www.WeTrainSalesStars.com.