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How Do Sales Reps Spend Their Time?

All, Research Reports

What  differentiates top performing sales reps from the rest of the pack? The best sales reps focus their efforts on their most important priorities. This means a) finding qualified prospects, b) determining potential needs, c) closing sales and d) taking responsibility for customer service. But transcending proficiency in these areas is the issue of time. What key priorities should sales reps focus on? How do they spend their time compared to others? Are they maximizing productive time and minimizing time wasters?

So what makes up each of these categories?

Our company, Pace Productivity, has been conducting time studies of knowledge workers since 1990.

We examined productivity measurement data from outside sales reps – those whose daily activities take them out of their offices to customers’ locations. The pie chart above  these activities grouped into broad categories. Typically, they add up to about 48 hours per week, including 3 hours of breaks.

The selling category consists of activities designed to prospect for new business. Sales reps need to find, cultivate and maintain relationships with new prospects and existing clients. By keeping their funnel full of prospects, they can maintain a steady stream of business. This category includes such activities as marketing, cold calls, calls to existing customers, sales visits, presentations and writing columns.

On average, these add up to 10.8 hours per week or just 22% of the work week. This is quite surprising to sales managers who often expect their reps to be actively selling for at least 50% of the time. The reality though, is that all kinds of other activities need to be done, and they infringe on selling time.

The good news is that there are superstar reps who excel in selling time. For instance, financial planners as a group spend 27% on this category. Within this group, some individuals achieve over 40% of their time selling. They do this by hiring assistants to handle their administrative and order processing activities.

Typically, sales reps engage in sales activities on 39 different occasions per week. These are direct contacts with customers and prospects, primarily phone calls and meetings with both current customers and prospects. 

The duration of sales calls to current customers are longer than those with prospects. Specifically, sales calls with customers typically take 11 minutes each, while those with prospects are only 7 minutes. The prospect calls may be shorter because some of them are just voice mail messages that are left.

When sales reps engage in face-to-face meetings, they spend an average of 29 minutes per meeting with current customers. Meetings with prospects are longer, at 51 minutes. Thus, telephone conversations tend to be short, but once meetings occur, there is a greater opportunity for in-depth discussions.

Understand how your time is spent, and then strive to allocate your efforts to the highest priority activities. Your time is worth it.


  1. Thanks for the great insight about sales reps time usage. Sales is the most important task for any business. If we can clearly identify where time is spent, we could increase the productivity at a higher rate.

    I hope the timecoder device helps. I have attended one of your training programs. I think you have a great vision and contribute a lot for our society. Best of luck.

  2. Understanding how we spend our time is a great way to improve productivity. I am bit surprised to see that average sales person spends 22% of time for selling. I thought salesperson may spending more than 75% of time for selling.

    I think planning, order processing and service time cannot be reduced. But 23% of administration time is too much. I think we can easily reduce that by hiring sales support person.

    It’s interesting finding. Thanks for sharing. Please keep posting.

  3. Great research.

    I think time management is important for every sale person as that drive revenue for your company and your pocket.

    When I do my sales time management, I start with the big picture. So it starts with outlining my goals for the entire year. I consider both business and personal goals. For example, monthly income from job, income from other sources, vacations, time I’d like to spend with my family.

    Then I go for monthly, weekly and daily goals. When I take monthly plans, I consider dates and weeks. I consider hours and minutes for daily planning. Sales plans includes, emailing potential clients, sales meetings, calling, sending quotations, social media marketing, visiting new customers, visiting existing customers etc.

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