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Adding Productive Hours to the Sales Day

Adding Productive Hours to the Sales Day

Highland Created $60M in Sales Capacity by Reducing Administrative Burden on Sales Executives

August 14, 2015


We all want more hours in the day, and perhaps nowhere is this desire more justifiable than in sales. Every minute spent on administrative minutia is a minute not spent selling, which squanders revenue opportunity. Within industries with stiff competition and tight margins, there is little room for this wasted potential.

Case in point: office supplies. Declining sales volume, a wave of mergers and the introduction of new competitors have all eroded the margins of office supply retailers, resulting in steep stock-price declines and widespread store closures. To remain competitive, leading firms in the sector are reinventing themselves. One such leader turned to The Highland Group for assistance in increasing business furniture sales by reducing the administrative burden on its sales account executives.

Client leadership believed that a reduction of this burden—primarily order status inquiries and quote creation—by approximately 20% would enable account executives to focus on direct selling activities and achieve their double-digit growth objectives. The Highland Group conducted a four-week Highland Discovery & Design® to assess the client’s strategic account leaders, business furniture sales operations and corresponding support organizations. We discovered that account executives were not leveraging internal order management or supply chain resources due to a history of poor service caused by rapid category growth. Exacerbating factors included a siloed organizational structure, process inefficiencies and technology challenges.

Armed with this understanding, we designed and executed a 20-week project to establish the tools, structures and discipline required to dramatically reduce non-selling time. After creating a joint Steering Team to govern the project, we pursued our dual objectives:

  • Define the roles for sales and support resources in projects of varying sizes (i.e., office/facility furniture design and installation) and the corresponding participation of other internal divisions
  • Design processes to conduct transactional furniture sales (i.e., customer-initiated orders via the company website or pre-established programs) via a streamlined method, leveraging existing processes and resources outside of the business furniture category where possible

The results we achieved in partnership with this global office supply leader are as follows: 

  • Identified and migrated 15 administrative functions away from sales, freeing up more than 2 hours per day per sales account executive and creating capacity for $60M in increased sales
  • Identified substantial revenue growth opportunities through the establishment of sales pilot markets, which delivered more than $300K in revenue during an eight-week prototype testing period
  • Reduced product returns and cancellations, and improved support for customer issues and order-status inquiries, via faster and more accurate order management and supply chain processes

More information: Sales and Marketing Effectiveness

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