Sales and Sales Management Blog

July 26, 2011

Managing the Crisis of Time in Sales

Time is one of the most critical factors in sales and it is one of the most difficult to manage.  As I discussed a few days ago, salespeople often are saddled with conflicting demands by management—to sell while still dedicating a tremendous number of hours involved in non-sales activities such as meetings, filling out reports, taking care of internal company matters that could well be handled by someone else, and, of course, customer service issues.

In many organizations there is a virtual time management crisis with their sales teams as they try to figure out how to get their salespeople out into the field selling.

Whether you manage a giant sales force that covers multiple countries or a modest sales team that covers a city or small region, figuring out how to effectively keep your salespeople selling instead of engaged in non-income producing activities is—or certainly should be—a major concern.

For decades managers have tried to find ways to help their sales team members increase sales.  Unfortunately, so often instead of encouraging sales, management ends up hindering their team’s ability to sell by loading them up with non-income producing activities such as attending useless meetings, completing reports, and performing customer service and even collection duties that should be being dealt with by others.

One of the most common activities managers expect their sales team members to perform is that of lead generator.  Almost every company, no matter the size or industry, relies on its sales team members to find and connect with quality prospects on their own.  Many of these companies ask their sellers to simply supplement market’s efforts in terms of lead generation, while others—a great many others—leave lead generation entirely to their salespeople.

In those companies where lead generation is completely the responsibility of the individual salesperson, sellers are required to come up with potential prospect names, research them to determine if they are really suspects or not, contact them, qualify them, set up an appointment, and then, finally, make some kind of presentation.

How much time and effort is spent on generating, contacting, and qualifying the lead?  Depending upon the product or service a salesperson can invest not just hours on a single potential prospect but literally days of time invested in a single lead.

That single lead—that very often results in not only a no sale but turns out to be not even a qualified prospect—can cost hundreds, maybe even thousands of dollars.

And we haven’t even begun to talk about all the time these same salespeople invest in developing their own marketing and sales materials, writing and sending prospecting letters, and spending huge amounts of time researching names that never make it to the “prospect” list..

The question then becomes are there realistic and cost effective strategies to significantly alleviate these costly activities? 

Fortunately there are some solutions that can make a great deal of sense no matter the size of the company.

Depending upon company size, hiring a small inside sales group whose function is to set appointments for the sales team can be very cost effective.  Having a staff that is paid on an hourly or percentage of closed sales basis can free up sellers to see more prospects and close more sales while decreasing the overall cost of the sale.  Many companies have very successfully created an inside sales team to supplement and support the outside team, significantly reducing the cost of each individual sale while increasing production.

For many companies who either don’t want to commitment to an inside sales team or who would like to ‘try out’ the concept before making the investment, outsourcing the lead generation and prospect qualification function to a call center outsourcing company is a perfect solution.  Outsourcing gives one the opportunity to free up the sales team without the long-term commitment an inside team would demand.

Another possibility would be to rely on marketing to more effectively qualify and nurture the leads they generate.  Often sellers reject leads generated by marketing because they believe them to be either of inferior quality or to be so far from sales ready that following up is a waste of time.  This isn’t to ignore that many times salespeople simply don’t follow-up on leads or they make a call and when they don’t connect they simply move on to another prospect.  But in many instances the quality of the leads are so poor that eventually sales rejects them out of hand.  Creating a more effective lead qualification and nurturing program can not only change sale’s view of company leads but can greatly reduce the cost of sales.

Whether you look to creating an inside team, outsourcing the function, or developing a more effective lead generation and nurturing program, finding a realistic solution to having salespeople act as lead generators, marketers, and salespeople will help to both increase production and reduce the cost of the individual sale.



  1. Great and thought provoking article. I’ve also found that significant adjustments to the sales and sales management compensation plans can help. For instance, providing a much larger commission for self-generated leads can be a strong salesperson motivator. Likewise, having incentives based on lead close rates or the greatest improvement in new account acquisition revenues would be other examples of smart sales compensation programs. Nice job on this article!

    Comment by Craig Arnoff — July 27, 2011 @ 3:24 pm | Reply

  2. Very timely indeed as I was at a presentation yesterday that was looking at the sales process and the overwhelming feeling I came away with was that it is important to plan carefully but not waste time, thanks Rob.

    Comment by Linda Parkinson-Hardman — July 29, 2011 @ 4:12 am | Reply

  3. Hi I agree on it , however finding good and low cost call center is very tough.
    Do anyone have some ideas?


    Comment by Andrew — July 31, 2011 @ 2:48 am | Reply

  4. Great article post. Thanks for sharing this article Paul.

    Comment by Vinny Valentino — August 3, 2011 @ 6:11 am | Reply

  5. […] This post was Twitted by sterling__chase […]

    Pingback by Twitted by sterling__chase — August 8, 2011 @ 12:24 pm | Reply

  6. […] Paul McCord @ 7:04 pm Tags: marketing, sales, selling, telemarketing A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post suggesting a few ways to maximize salespeople’s time by helping them spend more quality time in […]

    Pingback by When Does It Make Sense to Outsource the Call? « Sales and Sales Management Blog — August 11, 2011 @ 7:04 pm | Reply

  7. Paul, your posts come across as someone who knows what goes on in the trenches.

    I was always amazed at the company I worked for for many years.
    All the owner ever seemed to do was ask for more and more reports and then bemoan the fact the reps were not out on the road enough.
    Seemed obvious to me why they weren’t out on the road.
    I can remember one time a highly paid rep we had suggested his time could be better spent, (he was packaging a sample to go out to a customer at the time), and that one of the office staff could wrap up a sample.
    The bosses response was , “if the work is beneath you I could always adjust your salary down…” which totally missed the point. The guy just wanted to get on with his real job, SELLING.
    Maybe some businesses will take notice of the good advice you are giving them.


    Comment by Greg Woodley — August 23, 2011 @ 8:09 am | Reply

  8. […] much time and effort is spent on generating, contacting, and qualifying the lead? Managing the crisis of time in sales. Paul Mc Cord shares some solutions that can make a great deal of sense no matter the size of the […]

    Pingback by How to maximize results of your time spent on Sales & Prospecting | IndustryGraph | Tools for consultants — August 29, 2011 @ 5:55 am | Reply

  9. […] Managing the Crisis of Time in Sales ( […]

    Pingback by A Common Misconception about expansion and sales expectations « Valet Marketing — October 8, 2011 @ 4:16 pm | Reply

  10. Well written article. Gives salesmanagement a new perspective on getting focus on sales.

    Comment by An | Sales — January 29, 2012 @ 3:38 pm | Reply

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