Eliminate, Offload, Expedite or Automate?
Reduce the amount of time sales reps spend on non-core-selling activities. Re-evaluate sales productivity in your B2B organization using The SiriusDecisions Sales Activity Matrix.
On the surface, the secret to time management is simple: Be sure to spend most of your time on activities that are both urgent and important. The trick is to accurately determine what activities fall into what category and then ruthlessly avoid those that don’t meet that litmus test. Easy to say, but not always so easy to do in our distraction-filled, always-on, always-available world of chat, email, mobile phones, multi-tasking and interrupt-driven workdays.
The SiriusDecisions Sales Activity Matrix assigns sales activities to the four quadrants of core selling activities/direct engagement, core selling activities/internal, non-core-selling activities/direct engagement and non-core-selling activities/internal. One of the goals for sales operations is to reduce the amount of time sales reps spend on activities that fall into the lower left quadrant (e.g. non-core activities/internal).
The first step is to document non-core-selling activities and determine how much time reps are actually spending on specific activities. Sales rep surveys are a good place to start but should be supplemented with an annual time-and-motion study to facilitate a more fact-based analysis. Stack-rank the list of activities by the average time spent per week. Sales operations can then select the top time drains and assess potential actions that include eliminating, offloading, reassigning, expediting or automating activities.
- Eliminate. Activities that fall in the non-core selling category are often necessary administrative tasks, but not necessarily tasks that the sales rep should be performing. Some tasks can be identified as low value and should be considered for elimination.
- Offload. In some cases, it may be possible to reassign a task to a lower-cost resource. For example, have a shared administrative resource collect receipts and create expense reports so that all the sales rep needs to do is review, approve and forward the report to his or her first-line manager.
- Expedite. If reassignment or elimination of the task is not an option, a process audit and redesign may be required. Start by interviewing key process participants and mapping the current state, looking for inefficiencies, duplication of effort and rework. Include owners, participants, checkpoints and controls in the new process design, then test the new process on a small scale or in a controlled environment to identify where modification or adjustments are needed before broad implementation.
- Automate. Some time-consuming processes are candidates for automation that can simplify and improve workflow. Before rushing out to purchase or build a new tool, however, assess the impact and total cost of ownership of the technology, including implementation, integration, training and maintenance costs. Be sure to have a thorough implementation plan to drive user adoption and sustained benefits.
While it’s not feasible to completely eliminate non-core-selling activities – sales reps still need to submit expense reports, answer emails, manage customer orders and attend internal meetings – continuous assessment and reduction of time spent on low-yield activities is a key step toward increased sales productivity.