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July 22, 2014

Salespeople Spend Less Than Half Their Day Selling [Data]

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cirrus-visualization-c5Should salespeople be renamed emailpeople?

Judging by a new data visualization from Cirrus Insight, the average salesperson spends more than half of his day engrossed in some form of communication or research, and less than half doing what his title implies -- you know, selling.

Check out the breakdown below:

cirrus-visualization

The source data, taken from a McKinsey Global Institute report, claims this daily time breakdown holds for all "interaction workers," which it defines as professionals, managers, and consultative salespeople. According to Alice Heiman, founder and chief sales officer of sales consulting and coaching firm Alice Heiman LLC, these numbers are indeed "unfortunately" accurate for salespeople.

“Salespeople need to spend more than 39% of their time selling, but other activities pull them away,” Heiman said. “Hopefully, some of that email time is advancing a sale.”

Dr. Tom Sant, partner at Hyde Park Partners, also cast a wary eye to the amount of time allotted to email.

“Although email is an important vehicle for staying in touch with customers, it can spiral out of control very quickly,” Sant said. “First, it can become an end in itself, so the salesperson feels that by answering emails they are doing meaningful work [when] most of the time, they probably aren’t. Second, it’s too easy to write an email that is confusing or that sends the wrong message, putting down speed bumps that slow our progress toward the goal of a closed sale.” 

Both Heiman and Sant said if they could reallocate the daily time spend, more would be dedicated to pure selling.

But where should these extra selling hours come from? In Heiman’s opinion, it can be pinched from information gathering.

“I’d like 60%+ of each day to be directly related to moving a sale forward. Less time searching for and gathering information,” she said. “That is something a company can do to support sales.”

How can companies better support their sales teams' information needs so more time is spent selling?

Editor’s note: The daily work breakdown data this post refers to is based on “interaction workers,” which McKinsey defines as professionals, managers, and consultative salespeople. In response to comments after the post was published, the data visualization provider produced another version that specifically addresses salespeople’s workdays. You can find the updated data visualization here.

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