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How much time do you waste on sales quote approvals each week?

Best-in-class sales reps send an average of 26+ quotes a week to potential customers, according to Aberdeen. With that impressive number, you’d expect them to be killing it when it comes to closing deals quickly. But companies that still rely on a manual process to get from proposal creation to approval can find closing deals to be very slow going.

Of course, getting a sales quote approved for send-off to a prospect doesn’t necessarily mean a closed deal, but the quicker it gets there, the more likely the prospect is to buy. And the less vulnerable you are to being outsold by a competitor. And just think about the message you’re sending with each day that passes without your quote in your prospect’s hands: “Hi, our company is unprofessional. And we don’t care.”

In order to close deals quickly, reps first need an efficient system to quickly get sales quotes created and approved.

Nix the Waiting Game Before It Starts

Consider the following hypothetical — but completely plausible — scenario at a company that hasn’t yet adopted CPQ (configure/price/quote) tools:

Scott, a fearless sales rep, has spent 10 hours carefully gathering numbers and support data to include in his manual proposal for a crucial potential client. Quote at the ready, he goes in search of Dave, his VP of Sales, to get approval.

On his way to Dave’s office, Scott runs into Glenda, a friendly co-worker who asks him if he saw the game last night. Did he ever! They launch into an enthusiastic re-tell of their favorite team’s victory.

Ten minutes later, Scott’s in the elevator heading upstairs. But when he gets there, he discovers Dave has just walked out the door. Deflated, he leaves the quote on Dave’s desk, walks back to his cubicle, and waits.

Five hours later, with no word from Dave, Scott leaves for the day.

The next day, Scott finds out that Dave won’t be back in the office until following day. So, he dives into cold-calling, missing a call from his contact at Potential Customer Inc., who wants to know when he’ll see the quote.

Eighteen hours later, Scott calls Dave, who is back in the office, but in a meeting and can’t be interrupted until lunch. Scott is then forced to call the client and say there will be further delay.

And on and on the chase goes.

Such tiresome tasks are unfortunate parts of getting approval for sales quotes when companies have a manual process. Instead of being out in the field wooing clients, reps like Scott are engrossed in admin, wasting extremely valuable time. An April research brief by Aberdeen spells it out:

“…Common sense and sales management experience dictate that the longer a sales opportunity takes to result in a no-win, the more time is wasted pursuing a resolution, and not in trying to close more fruitful opportunities.”

Listen to the Numbers — They Don’t Lie

I concocted Scott’s story above based on educated guesses, but Pace Productivity Inc. conducted an actual study of outside sales reps who agreed to use a TimeCorder (a portable electronic device) to precisely track how much time they spend on the quoting process. According to Pace, the average rep’s time is divided as follows:

  • 23% on admin tasks
  • 12% on order processing
  • 10% on customer service
  • 10% on planning
  • 13% on travel
  • 6% on lunch breaks
  • 4% on miscellaneous non-billable tasks

Do the math, and you find that the average rep spends only 22% of his time actually selling. Yikes!

“When asked ‘What things outside of your control get in the way of your productivity?’, sales reps cite administration and paperwork activities more than any other response.”
— Pace Productivity, “How Sales Reps Spend Their Time”

Now, let’s translate all of that wasted time into wasted dollars. If you pay a sales rep  $114,000 a year (the average salary for an outside sales rep in the Bay Area), that amounts to $2,192 a week. If you then consider that he only spends 22% of his time selling, you’re forking over a whopping $1,710 a week for non-revenue-generating tasks!

To some extent, admin and other incidental tasks are crucial to a sale, but doesn’t it make sense to maximize reps’ selling time by minimizing their admin time? This is where CPQ tools come in.

Use CPQ Tools To Automate the Mundane

CPQ tools that integrate with Salesforce streamline your sales reps’ admin time by automating mundane tasks, from creating accurate sales quotes to getting them approved. Rules that are built into the Salesforce platform influence how sales reps can create sales quotes: in other words, in pre-approved templates! This keeps them from making mistakes, and then auto-sends quotes to managers for internal approval. Then, off the quote goes to who really matters: your prospect.

Best-in-Class firms are quickly figuring out that the numbers don’t lie:

“The majority of Best-in-Class firms (57%) currently deploy CPQ technologies, and every single additional top-performing firm (the remaining 43%) indicate a plan to do so within the next 12 months.”
— Aberdeen

And speaking of great numbers, in 2012 the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projected 15.6 percent employment growth for sales representatives between 2010 and 2020. That means there’s going to be a lot more Scotts out there looking for ways to send sales quotes faster.

Salesforce CPQ is one way to empower sales reps to spend more time in the field and less time on admin tasks and trying to get proposals approved. Visit the Salesforce.com App Exchange to see screenshots and read a full description.

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