Sales managers across all industries tell us they are concerned with the amount of time their reps spend in front of customers. Some are also studying how reps use their time and identifying strategies that eliminate wasted time. And it is not surprising that sales organizations today are feeling pressured to maximize customer-facing time. After all, our research has shown that more informed buyers are engaging with suppliers later in the buying process (for CEB Sales members) than ever before.
Based on data from over 10,000 B2B reps collected by the CEB’s Sales Effectiveness Solutions over the past decade, sales reps today are spending significantly less time performing what are strictly customer-facing sales activities than they were just a few years ago. The data show that they spent exactly 15% less time between 2010 and 2012 than they did between 2004 and 2006.
In fact, as you may already suspect, the amount of time reps spend in non-sales or administrative activities increased by 33% between 2004-2006 and 2010-2012. Reps today also spend 16% more time in post-sales activities like activating accounts, supporting customer implementation plans, and tracking payment orders. It seems that while customer-facing time has decreased, pre-sales and post-sales activities have gone up.
Why Less Time With Customers is a Good Thing
But interestingly, this may be less of a concern than some may think. Our research also found that the best reps spend less, not more, time in front of customers. Our data shows that in fact, high-performing reps spend about 10% less time in front of their customers than core reps. Star players know that at a time when customers rely less on suppliers for information, what counts is not the time spent presenting to the customer, but rather the time spent researching customers and tailoring insights to commercially teach. The best reps also spend more time getting in early and shaping demand by conducting non-traditional due diligence, personally owning lead generation, and using social media as a critical channel to influence customers in the places where they learn.
Importantly, the data clearly shows that star performers also spend more time than core reps lining up internal resources and working with cross-functional stakeholders to advance deals forward. Today’s rep needs to coordinate across many stakeholders internally and externally in order to win a deal, and increasingly it will be those reps that are able to build a strong network around them that will outperform the rest.