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Ken Keller: Improving effectiveness

Posted: February 23, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Updated: February 23, 2014 2:00 a.m.

If you wonder why your sales people aren’t more productive, aren’t making enough presentations and are slow to close deals, it might not be the industry you are in, your location or the economy not cooperating.

I had the pleasure of seeing Gil Cargill of the Cargill Consulting Group present. He shared some interesting facts on selling and some perspectives on buying not often considered by business owners.

The typical sales rep spends 34 percent of their time on administrative tasks. These non-revenue producing activities are spent during prime selling hours. Writing reports, shuffling business cards, drafting proposals, drinking coffee, entering information into the database and sitting in sales meetings eliminates significantly reduces prospecting and revenue generation.

Combined, waiting and traveling take 32 percent of sales time. Perhaps this explains why research says that the first sales call of the day takes place at 11 a.m. Higher-producing sales people have their first appointments no later than 8 a.m., eliminating primetime travel and waiting.

Sales are almost always made in front of a buying prospect. Brian Tracy says sales of consequence can only take place, “face to face, belly to belly with the prospect.” Yet, the typical sales person spends only 15 percent of the time in front of current clients. Prospecting, something most sales people dread, takes up 14 percent of sales time.

Most sales people are wasting their days away in non-revenue producing activities.

Even with the best sales people on the planet, the buying process continues to evolve. Buyers use the Internet for research and sometimes purchase from vendors without ever meeting them.

Calls from sales reps often go straight to voicemail, and are often just deleted. Gate-keepers are history; those positions disappeared years ago, never to be replaced. Buyers now have less time than ever to do the main function of the job they are on the payroll to do.

In many industries, the products being purchased are seen as commodities. This happens often without intention because of an uneducated sales force was never trained or taught to articulate the competitive advantage of the products they are selling.

Because of this, the seller simply goes to the lowest common denominator with the buyer, and the negotiations begin and end based solely on price. Value-adds are not considered except as give-aways which lower the profit margin of the selling company.

Today’s buyers are simply overwhelmed. Each is “touched” by at least 3,000 images, logos, jingles or signs daily.

The buyer gets more calls per day than ever before; they actually accept and speak to 17 sellers or current vendors. Over the course of a week, the buyer will spend time in person with between four and five sales reps.

Selling today is a long term proposition yet sales people are usually compensated for their short term results.

When the buyer is ready to listen, the sales person has long abandoned communicating with the prospect. “Not now” was what the buyer said, but the seller heard “Not ever!” and moved on to other prospects.

The key to sales effectiveness is not just more productivity from sales people, but from taking a longer term view of the understanding that successful sales are the result of building a relationship so that top of mind awareness is created.

It’s not a question of the buyer remembering a tagline or a memory being jogged by a catchy tune. It’s the buyer knowing that the seller is a resource interested in long term relationship with the goal of both parties gaining.

That simply takes focus and time.

Ken Keller facilitates The Wise Owners Advisory Boards, bringing business owners together for education, sharing and on-going success. Contact him at



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