Activity vs. Goal
Sales chatter is what every manager wants to hear walking through the door first thing in the morning. Calls are a leading indicator of how your team’s sales funnel is shaping up, so it’s important to set monthly goals for activities.

Recently a vibrant LinkedIn discussion got us thinking – is total talk time a valuable sales metric to track?

PROs

You know that your team is doing something. Time on the phone is why you hired the inside reps, so measure them against an expected baseline. Let’s do some simple math.

8 hour work day x 25% time on the phone (at minimum) = 2 hours talk time

Every deal will have a different work flow, but here at InsightSquared we expect our inside reps to be on the phone at least 2 hours every day. This gives your team time to find prospects, research the call, and correctly fill out all the Salesforce.com data. Tracking the total talk time of your employees each day gives you a good idea of how hard they are working to build their pipelines.

CONs

What does total talk time by employee really tell you? The total time they spent on the phone… but that is about it. Was the call good or bad? The person on the other side of the line could have been a qualified opportunity or someone with absolutely no interest. The problem is that in aggregate, 10 calls that last 1 minute look the exact same as 1 call that last 10 minutes.

There is no way to know which scenario actually took place with just total talk time.

Salvage Total Talk Time

Employee Calling Rates
Total talk time is important, but clearly this does not give you the whole story. The metric you want to track in addition to total talk time is average talk time per call broken down by employees.

Combining these two metrics gives you an idea of the total activity, as well as the quality of calls that a rep makes. No more talking to grandma for 2 hours!

With these two metrics in your back pocket, you should be able to answer the following question. Is your team asking the right qualifying questions? Call data from VoIP provider ShoreTel Sky alongside sales data from Salesforce.com is a powerful combination for sales managers.

Inbound vs. Outbound Calling
Another way to filter your talk time data is between inbound and outbound calls. Generally speaking, inbound calls raised their hand and expressed interest in your product. What are you doing to take advantage of this? One suggestion is to use average talk time per inbound call to create a benchmark for how long interested customers stay on the phone. Now apply this measure to your outbound statistics and compare the quality of your inbound and outbound conversations.

Managers should also keep in mind the consequences of measuring talk time. Does this incentivize your team to prolong calls with bad leads or does it encourage them to quickly cut qualified leads?

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The True Efficiency Measure

At the end of the day, talk time is only as valuable as the leads it produces. If each person on your sales team puts in 3 hours per day and schedules 10 demos, isn’t that more valuable than the same person talking on the phone for 8 hours every day but only scheduling 5 demos?

Efficiency is tough to measure with talk time, no matter how you slice the data. The only true metric to understand how efficiently your team works is with the calls to close ratio. Take for instance the company in the graph below, with a call to close ratio of 33.4. On average it takes a sales rep 33.4 calls to close 1 deal.

Efficiency of Activity

Mull that over for a sec. You can tell a new hire to make 34 calls, and he or she will close one deal. You also know that your team will likely close about 30 deals if they make 1,000 calls. The calls to close ratio is incredibly powerful for understanding your sales process and forecasting quotas.

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