How To Use The Time Suck Calculator

Get your FREE copy of 
the Time Suck Calculator 

The article provides full instructions on how to use it. But first you'll want to get the calculator.

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The problem with time

As a sales consultant, I’ve had the opportunity to do diagnostics evaluation of many companies’ sales process, includes strategies, organization, metrics, analytics, and methodology.

One key insight becomes apparent over and over again. You may even recognize this in your own organization. 

Sales people wind up engaged in activities other than selling.

When I say “selling”, I’m specifically referring to communicating directly with either a prospect or an existing customer to them through the pipeline. The medium doesn’t matter, it could in person, phone, email, web conference, Slack message, etc. What does matter is the intent. Are they advancing towards a sale? Or doing customer service? Or searching around to find the right information to send?

This is something you probably either already knew, or were suspecting, but didn’t have any data on it—and it’s not the kind of thing that gets tracked in Salesforce!

Why we created this calculator

To be a true professional sales leader, it's not enough to just share your “impression” of what's happening, but also to provide the facts and numbers to support these views. In addition, it’s even more effective when you can offer specific recommended solutions to address the issues.

To address this, we created the Time Suck Calculator. We really liked the name, because it suggests what’s happening all too often.

By using this calculator, at least now you can base decisions on facts and information. In addition to benefit it provides to your sales team, it also provides a way to communicate and make the case using data to others in the organization, such as the CEO.

The Time Suck Calculator is fairly straightforward. The objective is to identify how much time is invested by each salesperson in the act of selling and being engaged with prospects and existing customers. 

In addition to adding up values for each salesperson, it also aggregates values for the entire team on the summary tab, by category.

Here is what you may learn from using the calculator:

  • How much time is really necessary to professionally increase the number of sales and maintain existing customers?

  • How much time does that take relative to actual contact via email, phone calls, video meetings, and actual face-to-face time?

  • What is necessary to get us to that goal that we're trying to get to?

  • We know what the goal is, we know what our resources are as it relates to sales, but how much of those resources are actually being employed or deployed to get to that goal?

This is what you and your team are about to find out.

Time categories included in the calculator

Here are the categories you’ll be tracking. The information below also appears on the Descriptions tab within the calculator as well.

Category

Activity

Description

Sell

Engage

Direct communication with a lead via email, phone, or in-person.

Sell

Prospect

Finding or qualifying new leads to contact

Travel

Drive

"Windshield time"

Travel

Fly

To/from each airport, time at each airport, flight time

Report

Proposals

Research, document prep, editing, review

Report

Expense

Gathering info, entering data, preparing reports

Report

Internal

Weekly/monthly/quarterly reports, other reports

Service

Orders

Internally researching order status, plus the series of communications with the customer

Service

Pricing

Researching, preparing, and communicating price information for both existing customers as well as "shoppers"

Service

Billing

Invoicing, payments, refunds, corrections, changes

Meet

Team

Scheduled and ad-hoc

Meet

Manager

Scheduled and ad-hoc

Meet

Other

Any other internal meeting

Other

Miscellaneous

Any other non-sales time spent during working hours

Get your FREE copy of
the Time Suck Calculator

The article provides full instructions on how to use it. But first you'll want to get the calculator.

A few time suck examples

For example, sales positions can often involve travel time. That's time that’s not able to be invested in selling. For example, if you are flying to a meeting in another state, you need to drive to the airport. Then, there’s the time spent just waiting around, which includes from the moment you get to the airport to the moment that you get to either your hotel or your destination. 

As another example, many salespeople are required to create, update, and edit a range of reports. I'm not suggesting that reports aren’t important and necessary. However, they are taking some degree of valuable time away from our main objective. 

There can be customer service issues that salespeople wind up getting engaged with on a regular basis.

Finally, there's all the meetings. They can be productive, and provide an efficient way to share information, discuss, and gain consensus on next steps. However, over time, what we often see is that legacy processes, meetings, and reports that made sense in the past no longer make good sense moving forward. 

The only way to understand what these activities are, and which we should really take a look at either changing—or perhaps shifting to another resource—is to clearly understand what these things are and how much time they're taking to complete. 

How the calculator works

You’ll see that the Time Suck Calculator has space to track every day for two weeks. This is enough time to get meaningful data, without turning into yet one more ongoing time-sucking report.

Please keep in mind that this is just an exercise to gain some insight. Don’t worry about splitting hairs...we don't need a really involved study here! You just want to get a good snapshot of what things look like both across the board, and each of the categories. As you fill it in, the sheet will automatically show a percentage of time spent in each one of those areas. 

  1. Change the names of the tabs (“Salesperson 1”, etc.) to the actual salesperson’s names.
  2. Prior to sending the sheet, invest 5-10 minutes in your next sales meeting or one-on-one to review it with them. Not just the mechanics of the process, but more importantly—why you are asking them to do it.
  3. After that meeting, send them a copy of the sheet, and tell them to start the beginning of the following week.
  4. Each day each person enters data into their own tab. They could keep it available on their computer, or even just print it out and fill out the paper.
  5. At the end of Week 1, ask your team to send whatever they have so far. You want to make sure they're doing it, because you can only expect what you inspect. Also, you may uncover some questions they had about the process. 
  6. Copy the data from each person’s sheet into the main sheet you are using. (Or, you can simply go right to the summary and plug in some information, whichever is easier for you.)
  7. Have the teak continue for Week 2.
  8. Collect and compile the Week 2 data.

How to position this exercise effectively

They need to understand that is truly for their benefit. At first, when any kind of employee is asked to itemize the time they're spending on different tasks, it could be seen as intrusive. This is a natural response, and they have every right to at least ask the question. If you’re committed to a successful outcome from this process, then it’s up to you to to positioning it properly. 

Assure them it's not about micromanaging and seeing what they’re doing all day (the reality is that we already know, and the sales numbers tell the whole story anyway). What it is about is to try to give them more time to sell. The messaging should focus on the objective of trying to uncover the amount and type of time that we, as a group, are spending on non-sales activities.

These facts provide tangible evidence to present to upper management on why it’s worth investing in changing or adding resources internally so that we can free up more time to generate increased sales.

The goal is simple...create more time to sell.

Sharing results with the team

I’m often asked about the calculator, “should I let each of the sales people see everyone else’s time entries?”. 

I would say not initially, because the ultimate goal is not necessarily look at each individual, it's actually look at the whole organization as a whole. Once you're ready to share results, I recommend only sharing the Summary tab.

That being said, if you see glaring differences with a particular salesperson, that create an opportunity to have a constructive conversation. The point is to get your head around what sales people are doing, in general, and how much time is actually being used to sell.

How to share results with the company

If you determine that resources from other departments can take on some of the non-sales work, at least you’ll have data to back it up. Even if there isn’t an entire department, there might be an individual in the company, such as an administrative assistant, who could handle customer support issues instead of the sales person (or team).

It can be a challenge sometimes to persuade other individuals or departments to take on more work. No one's “not busy”, and that's not going to change. You’ll often need senior management support for the task handoff. By helping everyone understand the ROI. you’ll improve your chances for success.

You are making the best contribution to the bottom line when your company’s investment in sales is getting the best ROI. In addition to making the case for off-loading non-sales activities, it also provides data for professional pushback when new non-sales tasks are asked of the sales team.

Insights from data

Often it's less about the specific numbers, and more about the great discussions that arise from the data.

Here are some topics and questions you might use in your team and company discussions:

Reporting

  • Are there tools that can automate reports that we’re currently creating manually? Or at least create with less manual input?
  • Is the information we’re investing time in aggregating truly valuable? Why is this information important? How does it move the needle towards more sales? 

Customer Service

  • Is there information we can make available on our website to address common questions?
  • Can we make reference information more complete and better organized so the team spends less time looking for information?
  • Do we have a process to vector non-sales interactions to customer service?

Meetings

  • Does everyone need to be at every one of those meetings?
  • Is the meeting even needed? What’s the goal? What’s the expected outcome?
  • Do they need to be in person? Can we leverage modern tools to allow for discussion and collaboration without impacting schedules and travel as much?

Summary

I think you’ll find it to be very interesting (and even fun!) to see how the results play out. 

After you collect the data, invest the time to explore each of the categories to really understand how time is being spent, and what tools, options, and resources might free up additional selling time.

Sales is not rocket science. To use a baseball analogy, it really comes down to the number of “at bats”. Ideally, what we want is more “at bats”, which will equate to more sales. Ideally, though, we want to have more quality “at bats”. This tool will help you identify where we're not invested enough time, and where we're investing too much time. Armed with this data, we can make information decisions on how to manage what salespeople are doing on a regular basis.

Get your FREE copy of
the Time Suck Calculator

The article provides full instructions on how to use it. But first you'll want to get the calculator.

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