Is Your Operating Model Limiting the Capacity of Your Salespeople?

by Nick Lane

How much time do your salespeople spend selling? Our benchmark engagements reveal that despite being busier than ever, salespeople spend 50% or less of their time actually selling – a statistic that frequently shocks growth leaders.

With all of the headwinds being brought about by the ‘new’ B2B buyer – and the transformation initiatives organisations are pursuing in order to adapt – there is a high risk of ‘organisational noise’ further contributing to a reduction in selling time. While transformation initiatives are pivotal to prepare the business for the future, the turbulence they create in the short to medium term may unintentionally restrict, rather than enable salespeople. As you progress on your transformation journey, will your salespeople still have the capacity to sell effectively, or will they be encumbered by non-sales activities?

Feeling the squeeze – how an inefficient operating model can impact sales

Consider the following story. Emma is a true salesperson. She loves nothing more than building relationships with prospects, selling them the ideal solution and hitting her targets to bring home the bacon. However in the past year, Emma has been enjoying her job less and less. Since a restructure, she has found herself increasingly spending more time on non-sales activities such as admin tasks and supporting the delivery team post-purchase.

Not only are these tasks not suited to Emma’s skillset, they also limit the time she can spend on quality interactions with clients and generating revenue. This lack of time is even more apparent with the rise of the online, savvy and highly demanding customer, as Emma now needs to spend more time preparing for the higher level of interaction and value they demand from salespeople.

Consequently, Emma’s performance has begun to drop. Her KPIs are down due to less time spent on sales activities, the customer experience she provides is poor due to a lack of preparation and her overall sales figures have fallen. Understandably, this has affected her performance-related income and overall job satisfaction. Emma asks her manager for support, only to learn that she is also burdened by admin and change projects and simply doesn’t have the time to coach her, let alone put together a plan to turn her performance around. The future is not looking bright for Emma and she is starting to consider leaving the firm in search of the role she once loved.

A surprisingly common situation

Situations like Emma’s are becoming increasingly common in sales teams. We regularly observe salespeople spending up to 50% of their time on non-sales activities and experiencing similar consequences to those faced by Emma.

To understand why, it’s important to take a closer look at an organisation’s operating model – the design by which a business can deliver its strategy. If poorly designed, the operating model can contribute heavily to role misalignment and goal diffusion. Transformation or restructuring initiatives, such as frequent resourcing changes on an account or the formation of a new cross-functional team, can also compound these problems. This inevitably leads to salespeople being assigned the wrong tasks and a workforce pulling in opposite directions.

If your organisation is currently undergoing a transformation, its impact may run deeper than you think. To understand the full impact, it’s critical to find out how much time your salespeople dedicate to selling and what other activities they’re asked to perform. The truth may be quite a surprise.

How can you redesign your operating model to empower sales?

If ‘organisational noise’ is impacting your operating model and the effectiveness of your sales team, you need to act quickly to prevent the problem from becoming embedded. Here are 5 effective ways you can boost sales capacity levels and ensure performance isn’t compromised:

  1. Role and goal clarity – Provide more clarity on the roles and responsibilities throughout the customer journey, both within and between teams
  2. Targets and incentives – Align goals, targets and incentives to ensure a united workforce driving in the same direction
  3. Fulfilment demarcation – Enforce strong demarcation between sales and service teams to avoid one team taking on work for another
  4. Future-ready capabilities – Ensure salespeople are developing the knowledge and skills to work effectively in the new buying environment. Will they be able to add value to a well-informed customer? And interpret the data around a prospect’s digital interactions?
  5. Technological enablement – Look for tools that can reduce admin burden and boost the efficiency of the sales process, e.g. quotation tools or productivity apps. But remember, technology can often hinder rather than help. Ensure your CRM is simple to use, enabling and adds value – otherwise your salespeople won’t use it.

Conclusion – Don’t let tomorrow’s transformation prevent today’s sales effectiveness

Be aware that in an environment of transformation, salespeople may get caught up in the headwinds of change and fall victim to role diffusion. Operational inefficiencies like the ones discussed can sneak into an organisation surprisingly quickly and present significant difficulties to sales teams. With the rise of digital requiring salespeople to be highly relevant to their clients and as prepared as possible, it’s vital your front line focuses on doing what it does best – selling.