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How long, each day, do sales people spend doing their job?

Graham Hawkins recently wrote an article in which he pointed out that if salespeople are spending a mere 22% of their time selling, is it any wonder so many of them are missing target?

He thinks the 22% figure is the biggest problem in sales right now.

While I tend to agree with most of Graham's thoughts, and I certainly did with the rest of his article, that figure got stuck in my head.

It's just far too high.

To justify my thoughts I decided I had better detail, what I believe, a typical Business Development Manager (BDM) does with their day. Having just done the job for three years, this was going to be the easy bit.

My figure confirmed my thoughts but it looked a little scary, so I had a chat to David Brock to get his thoughts. Sure enough, from his research he said he wasn't surprised at all, and single digits were far from rare. Dave went on to talk about how we could be in danger of killing our sales people with kindness. Loading them up with sales tools to make their life easier, when in fact, what we've done is take them away from what they're supposed to do - SELL.

Taking both into account, what do I think the real figure is? Single digits would be my guess.

So if you thought 22% was a scarily low figure, if you follow the logic below, you should be alarmed to know that sales people spend more than 90% of their time... NOT doing what they're paid to do!

I’ll define two terms so we can stop ambiguity creeping in before we even begin.

By selling I mean the amount of time spent interacting with prospects directly.

By sales person; I’m focusing on the traditional Business Development kind, whose role it is to prospect, present, propose and close, before they hand over to an account manager (if you have the kind of sales person who still looks after any accounts, HALF the figures I’m about to work out for you).

So let’s look at what takes (or should take) MOST of their time.

We now live in a world where buyers don't want to engage sellers until they absolutely have to. As a consequence, it now takes an enormous 4 hours of full time prospecting to get each appointment.

Don't believe me?

I've just spent three years at a demand generation company who did nothing but get B2B appointments - everyone's target was two appointments a day - and they had to graft from 9-5 (and sometimes far longer) to get them I promise you.

Of the 4 hours, you will have no more than 10 minutes actual talk time with a prospect to secure the appointment (that’s 10 minutes of SELLING time as defined above).

So now we have a meeting in the diary with a qualified prospect – what happens?

  • Time to prep for appointment (company website, prospects Linked In page, tailor your presentation etc) - just 30 mins (you're a quick worker).

  • You're on the road - time to and from appointment - I'll be nice and say 90 mins.

  • Time at appointment - 60 mins.

  • Tailor follow up email and Proposal - 30 mins

  • Internal update of meeting (CRM, Pipeline etc) - 30 mins

Total time per appointment = 4 hours

Of the 4 hours, you will have no more than 60 minutes actual talk time with a prospect (that’s 60 minutes of SELLING time as defined above).

So we’ve just spent 8 hours, or one day if you prefer, and have a total SELLING time of 70 minutes.

We’re down to 12% of the day – NOT 22%. And that’s with their nose to the grindstone all day, every day, with zero internal meetings or lunch-breaks.

In other words - there's just no way most sales people spend any more than 10% of their time selling.

So what the hell can we do to rectify the sorry situation we've gotten ourselves into?

The answer isn't as hard as you might think.

  • But it needs sales and marketing to come together.

  • It also requires a number of traditional sales people to adapt to a far more focused role in the demand generation space - where they'll need to learn a great deal more than they know at present about marketing.

  • And finally it needs sales leaders who will adopt and champion a reformed Go To Market strategy.

If you run a team of sales people and want to increase the amount of time they spend actually SELLING, give me a holler on +61 418381829, message me through Linked In or email on

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