TALKING SALES 125: "The No 1 sales challenge"

John Smibert

efficiency in sales2              "How can we raise the selling efficiency of salespeople from 25% to 75%?" - Interview by John Smibert

John Bedwany has helped transform many leading B2B sales organisations enabling them to achieve quantum leaps in efficiency and productivity. He told me that efficiency was the number one issue for most.  So I asked why he thinks that.John Bedwany

John said that salespeople were the most expensive resource in your company  -  yet on average were only doing what they are employed to do - selling - 25% of their time. 

He claims salespeople spend 50% of their time trying to build their own pipeline, build relationships, and they spend 25% of their time doing administration.

He claims we should eliminate the 50% of the time they are building pipeline and relationships freeing up this time to focus on live, qualified, mature opportunities only.

View or read this interview to begin to get an insight into how some organisations are leapfrogging their competitors by boosting sales efficiency.


John Bedwany is the CEO of The Database Dept.  He is a thought leader and a disruptive thinker who helps his clients achieve extraordinary productivity in sales and marketing.


John S.: Hello, I'm delighted to have John Bedwany with me again - welcome back, John!

John B.: Thank you - hi, John!

John S.: Hey, we had a good opening discussion last time and you mentioned a number of things. One thing you talked about was productivity and efficiency, and you're telling me that the number one challenge in organisations in the sales world is getting efficiency in their sales force.

John B.: Correct.

John S.: Tell me what you mean by that?

John B.: Okay. We have done research across a number of companies globally about what do salesmen do all day and is it working.

John S.: [laughs] And bench-marking and... We've all been struggling with that, haven't we?

John B.: Yes. And look, the reality is, and it's pretty shocking actually, that the average salesperson, who's the person who makes their number, spends 25% of their time selling.

John S.: In front of the customer.

John B.: Absolutely. They spend 50% of their time trying to build their own pipeline, build relationships, and they spend 25% of their time doing administration.

efficiency in salesJohn S.: I'll tell you, I've seen research that is even worse than that.

John B.: Well, we're trying to be polite. So, here is the most expensive resource in your company only spending 25% of their time doing their job. What's wrong with that model? And are you happy to keep that model going?

John S.: We've all been struggling with that for as long as I've been in sales, which is a lot of years, so I'm really interested in some of your thoughts on what we do about that. It's something that I'm really disturbed about, the fact that we do have expensive salespeople that are only selling in a very small percentage of their time. And it's not just expenses; these are the people that can drive change in our business, they can really accelerate and get sustainable revenue going, and they're spending 25% of their time doing it?

John B.: Yes. Look, the selling model and the buying model has changed since digital really took shape. Buyers are more knowledgeable than sellers today, so who they really want to talk to are subject matter experts. So here we have a situation where the sellers, supposedly the subject matter experts, are involved in actually trying to find their own patients, their own customers. I call it the doctor analogy. When was the last time a doctor called you, John, and said, "Hi, it's Dr John Bedwany here. Next time you're sick, come and see me! Would you see me?" We're expecting our salespeople to build their own pipeline. What I'm advocating to the industry is that a salesman should never pick up his or her phone and build their own pipeline again. If you take that equation out and you can transfer it to a pipeline with trusted relationships, you doubled your selling time.

John S.: That's a big if though. If a salesperson is not generating their own opportunities, somebody's got to be doing it for them.

John B.: Absolutely.

John S.: And getting a real opportunity in front of them with traction. It's not like, "Hey, marketing's got a lead here, somebody's name and address. Call on this person." There's got to be something of traction, doesn't it?

John B.: Correct, correct. And it's clarity of what does a pipeline look like, who's going to be responsible to build it, and then actually metrics to make sure it happens. Once that takes place, you've got salesmen accepting qualified pipe to be able to go and close.

efficiency pipelineJohn S.: Alright, I think there's some really good messages there. In preparation for the next time we get together, what's the key message you want to make sure the audience takes away?

John B.: How do you build trusted relationships with people that aren't yet ready to buy from you?

John S.: And you're going to answer that question in the future?

John B.: I'll try.

John S.: [laughs] And it's a great question, because if you can do that, and the salesperson walks in to an opportunity that's already live and starting to move through the buyer journey, it's so much time the salesperson doesn't have to do and can become much more productive.

John B.: Absolutely.

John S.: So that's the message, okay - I look forward to talking about it!

John B.: I look forward to it - thanks, John!


More from John Bedwany:



Your Invitation: I invite you to join the Sales Leader Forum group on LinkedIn where you can experience informative discussions with your peers and sales thought leaders on subjects like the one we have discussed here. I also invite you to subscribe to the

   - Sales Leader Resource Centre here

   - Sales Leader YouTube channel here (300+ sales leadership videos)

Please Share: If you valued this article, please share via your Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and Facebook social media platforms. I encourage you to join the conversation or ask questions. So feel free to add a comment on this post - I promise to respond. If inclined please follow my LinkedIn post page here.

Want to touch base? If you have questions please feel free to contact me - email: john.smibert(at), Phone: +61 404857893 or Skype: john.smibert

Your B2B Sales Library

Need resources to help you sell or manage more effectively?

Ever wished you could find a wide range of B2B sales Resources in one library?

Check out the library here

It's packed with articles, videos, keynote speeches, Tools, templates, training materials, eBooks and eGuides.‚Äč

Subscribe to the Library Here


European Peer Group Chair Wanted

We have a number of new enquiries from sales leaders based in the UK, Europe and South Africa who are looking to join a peer group.

We need a Chair to facilitate this new on-line group. This is a valuable role that will be rewarded.

If interested read "Is a Forum Role for you?" and if the answer is "yes" please Contact Us


A Sales Leader Forum provides you with the opportunity to connect with your peers and create a support network of like-minded individuals to learn how they have dealt with the same challenges, issues and problems that you’re facing.



1000's of sales articles, videos and sales tools.  Sales leaders and their teams can access most of it free - simply subscribe.

This site brings you some of the latest expert thought leadership content on business to business (B2B) sales from specialists, sales leaders and sales professionals.