A new study shows that while sales reps are the best at their jobs, they are not necessarily the best marketing people.
Researchers at the Graduate School of Business at Carnegie Mellon University studied more than 1,000 sales reps from a dozen companies, and compared their marketing strategies to those of the top 5% of sales people in the country.
They found that sales reps spend less time talking to customers and more time on the phone, answering customer questions, and responding to email.
“We found that in many cases, the sales rep spends more time in front of customers and less time with their own emails,” said James C. O’Donnell, a professor of marketing at the Carnegie Mellon Graduate School and the study’s lead author.
“Sales reps are far less effective at communicating their products and services than their colleagues in the other roles.
In some cases, sales reps do a better job at selling products, but that comes at a price.”
The study was published online in the Journal of Marketing.
Sales reps can be as little as a salesperson, or as much as a consultant.
A consultant is a sales rep who spends more than half their time on selling their services, such as a training seminar, or an e-learning course.
“In some cases consultants spend a great deal of their time at the company, and some of their marketing time is spent on selling to customers,” O’Brien said.
Sales people, in contrast, “should be spending a great many hours at the job, working with clients, talking to clients, and answering emails.”
The average salesperson spends around one-third of their job time on marketing.
That is about the same as a general salesperson.
In addition, salespeople often spend much more time dealing with customers than they do helping them.
In the study, sales representatives reported spending less time on email than their peers in the top 10% of their industry.
Sales representatives were also less likely to take time to answer customer questions.
Salespeople spend less on social media than other sales professionals.
The average consultant spent less than half of his time on social networking sites.
Other consultants, by contrast, spend about three-quarters of their social media time.
For example, sales people spend around 40% of time on Facebook.
For other consultants, that number is closer to 20%.
A consultant’s social media use was associated with spending more time with clients.
For consultants, the average time spent on social networks was roughly the same across the industry.
The study found that consultants spent less time answering emails than their salespeople.
Sales and marketing professionals spend more time than their counterparts in other roles, and that can impact sales performance.
For instance, consultants who were more likely to use email had lower conversion rates.
“If you have a lot of emails, you’ll spend less and save money,” Ollons said.
“And if you have fewer emails, it’s more likely that your salespeople will be on the phones and you’ll have to be more selective about what you send out.
The data suggests that you want your sales people to be very selective in how you send emails, and you want them to be able to deliver emails to people in a way that they know is going to make them happy.”
But there’s no clear answer as to whether consultants and sales reps perform better on email and social media. “
Consultants and salespeople do better at responding to emails.
But there’s no clear answer as to whether consultants and sales reps perform better on email and social media.
The more time you spend in the office, the less time you’ll actually spend on the telephone.”
Pfefer said the research could be used by marketers to figure out how to hire better sales people.
“What this study suggests is that the most effective sales people are the ones who spend the most time in the front office and the front door, and those are the people who are the most successful at working with customers,” he said.
The findings were also surprising, according to O’Briens.
“When we looked at consultants, we found that they spent the least amount of time in their offices, but they were also the least effective at getting customers to purchase their products,” he told The Next Word.
“That was a bit surprising.”
The research suggests that if you’re a sales and marketing professional and your job is primarily to sell, you might want to hire people who spend a lot more time working on the front line and on the sales side.