54 INDUSTRIAL DISTRIBUTION / May/June 2014 www.inddist.com
Are your salespeople making enough sales calls? The an- swer is almost certainly no. Last fall, I conducted a study to determine the calling habits of B2B salespeople, with a sample that included 297
individuals from distribution and manufacturing. My instincts and
33 years of experience as a sales trainer have alerted me to the reality that salespeople spend a lot of time doing things other than
face-to-face (F2F) selling. The findings are disturbing.
First, the good news: 93 percent of distributor salespeople and
71 percent of manufacturer salespeople still use cold calling as
a way to find new business. So much for the pundits and writers
that hypothesize cold calling is dead.
Second, social media usage in sales: 53 percent of manufacturer
salespeople and 30 percent of distributor salespeople use social
media (mostly LinkedIn) in their sales efforts. For those who are
not using it — get busy. The world is passing you by.
Third, the average length of a F2F sales call for distributor
salespeople is about 32 minutes. The average length of a sales call
for manufacturer salespeople is 53 minutes.
Now for the disturbing stuff: distributor salespeople make 14. 5
calls per week and manufacturer salespeople make 7. 5 calls per
week. This is a surprisingly low number, in my opinion. Further,
the average amount of time spent by B2B salespeople every week
in F2F selling is a shockingly low 8 hours! In 1982, that number
was 19. 5 hours per week (based on a 40-hour week), and in 2006
it was 14.63 hours per week. What has happened?
Our research found that salespeople reduce face time by 38
percent in tough economic times — for whatever reasons. Maybe
salespeople and their managers would argue that we are still
feeling the effects of the Great Recession.
In addition, technology has provided salespeople with more
ways to communicate with customers. This leads some people to
believe that face time is less important. It is not. Technology is a
complementary tool, not a replacement strategy for face time
with customers. Like all tools, technology assists you; it is not a
substitute for building personal relationships with customers.
Companies have streamlined their operations and discovered
ways to do more with less. This implies that leaning a salesforce
and giving salespeople additional responsibilities has distracted
them from F2F time with customers. In what non-selling activities
Calling Patterns of
Strictly for Sales
BY TOM REILLY
are your salespeople engaged? Are these activities and tasks more
important than face time with customers?
Addressing the Arguments
Some salespeople complain that buyers hide behind email and
voice mail, shielding them from salespeople. Customers used to
hide behind administrative assistants and receptionists. Hiding is
nothing new. Technology actually gives you a way to communi-
cate directly with customers versus relying on someone else to de-
liver your message. I prefer to leave a voice mail message or email
message. No one communicates my enthusiasm the way I do.
Other salespeople will argue that cold calling is a waste of time
because the “paradigm has shifted.” That last piece is a direct quote
from a young salesperson who finally admitted that he dislikes and
does not know how to cold call. It was wishful thinking for him.
Some salespeople complain that they have no administrative
support for proposals and reports. I am shocked that salespeo-
ple complain they have too much paperwork. From my vantage
point, I see less paperwork today than even before.
Some argue buyers are less interested in talking to salespeople
today because they can get information online. Buyers do use the Internet for information, which means the salesperson can spend more
time selling his or her company since the product already qualifies.
That is a good thing. The Internet opens the door for brick and mortar
operations to differentiate from value-stripped online alternatives.
If your salespeople spend only 20 percent of their time in F2F
selling situations, you have a part-time salesforce. Are you looking for part-time results? Few salespeople can maintain a steady
stream of new business when 80 percent of their time is spent doing something other than selling. Survey your salespeople. Study
their time management habits. Identify all those things that
prevent them from doing what you pay them to do — spending
face time with customers.
Tom Reilly is the guy who literally wrote the book on Value-Added Selling. You can reach Tom through his website,