- Brian Kinzie, MBA, SHRM-SCP
Want to Help your Sales grow? Hire an Admin.
HR professionals are often asked what they can do to help improve the productivity of a company’s sales force. There are lots of suggestions that all have merit, from conducting sales training to designing elegant compensation systems that drive desired behaviors. Some subscribe by the philosophy of throwing more sales people out into the field. But the single biggest thing that I know of that can help multiply the effectiveness of a sales team is to hire competent administrative staff to support them.
First, some history (if you don’t care about this, skip ahead to the next paragraph). Administrative staff (think secretaries) used to be ubiquitous in the workforce. The advent of the personal computer began the steady decline of the position. Suddenly, people had the tools at their fingertips to do things for themselves that had previously been in the realm of the administrative assistant. Finance departments, eager to show short term gains by cutting costs (i.e. chop off heads), took dead aim on these “unnecessary” positions, and slashed budgets for administrative support. In some ways, this was understandable – many tasks that were previously time consuming and monotonous became relatively simple and much, much quicker to complete. And so administrative support for sales teams began to fade away, and those tasks fell directly to the sales force.
But there are some problems inherent with the arrangement of having your sales team also perform administrative tasks. Ask almost any salesperson how they should be spending their time, and they will talk about the importance of customer contact, being out in the field (or however they best interface with potential customers), networking, etc. They will never mention doing administrative tasks. In many organizations, the sales team end up having some of the highest compensation of any group. At the same time, they frequently wind up with some of the heaviest administrative loads – setting up new customers, completing frequently convoluted expense reporting, updating CRM systems, arranging travel – the list just keeps going on. So why are organizations taking their sales forces away from spending time hunting down the next customer, and filling up hours of their time on administrative tasks? And to make it even worse, they are paying sales professionals top dollar to do these tasks. Finally, (sorry sales people), they typically aren’t exactly superstars when it comes to doing the administrative part of their job. Expense reports languish behind for months. CRM systems never get populated with the data that is required to make them a beneficial tool. Worst of all, new customers wind up getting neglected as the sales person runs off in search of their next target rather than spending the time necessary to transition them to operations. I’m a big fan of having people do what they are best at, and minimizing the amount of time they spend on things they either hate or are simply bad at.
So hire an admin. A good admin can support the sales team, and relieve them of tasks that take their time away from the critical mission of seeking out new customers. And from a cost perspective, the admin is far less expensive than trying to hire the additional sales people you would need to make up for lost efficiency. A Forbes article this year highlighted a study showing that sales people are spending close to 15% of their time on administrative duties. Let’s suppose that a good admin could cut that down from 15% to 5%, allowing them to redirect that time towards the important stuff. Does a 10% sales increase across your organization by hiring an admin make sense? For most organizations, the answer is a resounding “yes.” And your sales force will be a happier group of people too. Don’t skimp – hire the admin.