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Sales Teams Underutilized, Poorly Trained

Sluggish company sales could be the result of poorly utilized and underperforming sales representatives, according to a sales force productivity study.

Proudfoot Consulting's 2005 Proudfoot Productivity Report shows that sales forces spend only 21% of their time actively selling to clients or prospecting for customers. The study was based on nearly 11,000 hours of observation and analysis of 2,614 studies from 100 client projects undertaken in medium- to large-sized firms in 12 countries.

The study also shows that 27% of a salesperson's day is spent on administrative tasks, a 4% drop from 2004. This time spent away from selling leads to less productivity, says Luiz Carvalho, CEO of Proudfoot Consulting.

"When you combine time spent on administration with time spent unproductively and the inevitable 14% spent on problem solving, you're at 58% of total time, and you haven't even sold anything yet," he says.

Salespeople also are lacking skills they need to be effective. During its study, Proudfoot says it repeatedly encountered ineffective behaviors during the sales cycle, ranging from poor sales call quality and inadequate monitoring to weak or cumbersome sales-reporting systems.

Part of the problem maybe a lack of training or improperly coached sales representatives. Proudfoot observed that some customers received an "unwarranted amount of attention while others with potential who were harder to deal with were ignored." In many instances, Proudfoot reports that it observed managers who were not providing feedback or help to their sales staff.

Carvalho suggests executives take action by reviewing the administrative tasks demanded of their sales forces and the processes used to manage them. He also recommends using that extra time to invest in training and to reinforce training with on-the-job coaching and feedback.

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