The Difference Between Being Busy & Being Productive: Beware the “Always Busy” Sales Rep

You know the feeling all too well. You spent your whole day checking off tasks, running here and there, and doing things you “have to get done”, but at the end of the day you struggle to remember what you actually accomplished. Being busy and being productive are two very different things — and the concept applies both to your personal life, as well as your company’s sales reps. Do you ever look at certain salespeople on your team who are always busy, but don’t seem to be able to close anything?

The Tension Between Busy & Productive

Whenever someone tells me they’re “busy” I always wonder, “what are you busy doing? What are you actually accomplishing?”

Right now, your sales reps are making decisions about how to spend their time. And they’re either making those decisions with your strategic guidance, or they’re just deciding what feels right to them. Yes, your perfect top performer is likely making the right choices just by instinct. But those top performers, at best, make up maybe 20% of your sales team. So what about all the rest? As a sales leader, you should always be wondering if you’re team is busy on the right things.

Think about your own sales team. Like always, break it down by thinking about your top, middle, and bottom performers. Top performers just find a way. They figure it out and they get it done. Not because they have some super power, but because they have a natural instinct that focuses their time one what matters most for that given period of time. I’ve personally seen many mid-performing reps who are insanely talented, but get lost on the wrong things.

According to a recent HubSpot article, “31% of reps’ time is spent searching for or creating content, and 20% on reporting, administrative, and CRM-related tasks. Only one-third of their day is actually spent selling.” Wow. Only one third of a sales reps’ time is spent on selling, meaning roughly 66% of their time is spent on activities that don’t generate sales. And I’d bet you can think through your sales reps and determine which ones are constantly “busy”, but sell less.

Here’s what happens: A top performer naturally knows they need to do outbound prospecting, ask for referrals, move with speed, qualify and dis-qualify, get proposals out, and keep their pipeline filled with good opportunities at all times. They are relentless on this, and their productivity is natural to them. When a support issue comes in, they respond quickly and delegate to the appropriate person right away. When internal admin things come up, they get it done fast or put it off to do at a different time rather than pre-occupying themselves with issues or to-dos that don’t quality prospects or close new deals. They know when a negotiation needs to wrap up and they don’t let it drag on. They just naturally have a way of focusing on the sales KPI’s that matter, and it adds up to lots of sales.

It’s the middle and bottom folks where you usually have an issue. Sure, they try to carve out time to make calls, qualify, etc. But they can get easily distracted and pulled into the wrong things. The things that take up time (sometimes lots of it) and don’t produce sales or results. They often don’t delegate very well, they work on admin tasks that don’t matter, they sometimes way over analyze and over prep for a call or a proposal and everything else suffers in the meantime. They feel like they’re doing good things, and nobody can argue that “preparation matters” but it’s just too much. They don’t have the instinct to know when it’s time to wrap it up and stay focused on building pipeline, advancing deals, and getting business closed. And they often have a hard time saying “no”.

Eliminate Busyness and Accelerate Productivity

When you think about your own sales team, it’s your job as a leader to understand your top performers and what they do. To codify their effort, build a process that others can follow, and help keep everyone focused on what really matters: the sales KPIs that will lead to the revenue goals you need to hit.

When this is missing, revenue suffers. Those who get it right see incredible results. Clients of our own see 15-50% increases in productivity from this simple adjustment in helping salespeople and sales managers know where to spend their time. Or as I like to think of it, if you have a 100 person sales team you can make them perform like a 120 person sales team, just by getting people focused on what matters.

Don’t let this slip by, because when you do, sales will slip too.

Founder & CEO

Bob Marsh is Founder and CEO of LevelEleven, a sales engagement platform used by VP's of Sales to drive their transformation into a modern sales organization. High growth companies including HubSpot, Symantec, and Rocket Fuel use LevelEleven to keep salespeople focused on the behaviors that drive revenue, and help sales managers be modern, metrics driven coaches. Bob has more than 20-years of sales and sales management experience, and prior to founding LevelEleven in 2012, Bob spent more than a decade at ePrize which went from startup to more than 400 employees during his time there. Bob lives in metro-Detroit with his wife and three children.
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