Hiring Tips

Most managers don’t know how to build a successful onboarding program to make a newly hired salesperson’s journey easier.


Business owners and CEO’s of companies generating $3 to $50 million in annual revenue were recently asked to identify the most frustrating position to hire for within their company.

Their answer? Salespeople.

Most managers have paid their dues and worked their tails off, clawing their way up the corporate ladder.

However, most managers were not brought on to their company with a solid, structured, onboarding program.

Most managers don’t know how to build a successful onboarding program to make a newly hired salesperson’s journey easier.

Here are ten tips to successfully onboard new salespeople:

  1. Give sound bites

    Don’t put your new salespeople in the position of having to figure things out. Give a written, audio and video version, so they can get to work.

  2. Teach your products and services

    Do your new salespeople need to use them, and can they learn how you build them.

  3. Create structured conversations

    Supply a list of questions to assist them in creating conversations, when they are getting to know people and different departments.

  4. Test their learning

    Keep in mind that the goal is that your salespeople have a working knowledge they can draw on with faced with different scenarios.

  5. Understand your salesperson’s strengths

    Under pressure, we revert to our most natural ways of being. If you know your salesperson’s strengths, you can utilize them to teach new skills.

  6. Reward behaviors and actions

    It is too late to reward the results? Reward the behaviors that lead to the results, and you will get more results faster and more consistently.

  7. First, teach the ‘must have’s’

    Keep it simple. Your salesperson is eager to prove themselves to you and their coworkers, and to themselves. They want to validate that it was a good move for you to hire them; and that it was a good move for them to take the job.

  8. Set realistic expectations

    Give them a tangible and realistic goal “By the end of your first month you should be able to accurately input a customer request, demonstrate mastery executing each step, and clearly articulate your value proposition.” ”You should also have a list of 500 potential prospects in your territory.”

  9. Identify a ‘company culture mentor’

    Take responsibility and assign someone to teach them the culture of your company.

  10. Ask for their feedback

    If you are not constantly improving based on what you are learning, you are missing the boat.

Though the focus of this article is onboarding salespeople, the reality is that in today’s competitive landscape, companies need a professional onboarding strategy for every role in the organization.

Creating a structured onboarding program that orients a new sales hire so they can ramp up quickly and achieve success in the first 90-days gives you a solid HR solution that you will use forever.

It is always easier to edit an onboarding strategy than to start one from scratch. Once you know how to orient a new hire, and it is well documented, then you have more freedom to constantly be on the hunt for top-performing salespeople.

When word gets out that you have a well-structured orientation and onboarding program, the top-performers will be on the hunt for you.

Managing Multiple Stakeholders

If you’re going to bypass mid-level gatekeepers, you have to be strategic, and you also have to use the right tone and pace, so you can be perceived as someone who truly cares about their needs.


It’s inevitable… Every salesperson has been there. In your attempt to prospect at a high level within an organization, you get kicked over to someone in middle management or a couple rungs down the decision making ladder.

It’s necessary to build rapport with these mid-level facilitators, because often times they are influencers who ultimately will sell you and your product or service at a higher level to their boss or leadership team. So, you can’t completely write them off as if they don’t matter, but you also can’t always trust that they will get the job done.

What do you do when you get into a never ending follow up rut with these types of buyers and they consistently tell you, “I still haven’t had a chance to meet with my boss.”?

Should you just keep following up and hoping at some point they finally will meet with the higher ups and get the job done, or should you bypass them and go straight to the decision makers yourself? Either way, you risk losing a sale!

If you follow up too many times, you start annoying them, and they can decide to cut you out entirely, and if you bypass them and go over their head to the ultimate decision maker, you can risk sabotaging the relationship with the ultimate prospect and the mid-level person both at the same time, because it can be perceived as a scumbag move.

If you’re going to bypass them, you have to be strategic, and you also have to use the right tone and pace, so you can be perceived as someone who truly cares about their needs.

Here’s how I have found success:

I typically give the mid-level person 4-5 nice nudges, and if they still haven’t sought approval on my proposal, I straight up ask them, “Sally, do you know when you’re going to meet with your boss… Sorry, I don’t know their name…” and then I pause for 3 seconds. They usually will respond something like “Well, his name is Steve, and I’m going to meet with him later this week.”

BOOM… Now, I have an ultimate name of who is signing the checks and making buying decisions in that company… I make a mental note…

Then I ask another question that gives me honest insight into how likely it is that my proposal is really going to get brought up in a meeting with Steve…

“Okay, so when you meet with Steve, are you going to recommend that your company proceeds with the proposal?”

I like to ask them this straight up, so I know exactly where I stand with the mid-level person. If you can’t get a positive “Yes, absolutely!” commitment from them, you have no chance of closing a deal. Do you really think they’re going to be able to sell you and your product/service to their boss when they don’t really believe in what you’re selling?

If they tell me, “Yes, I am going to recommend we proceed,” I always give them a chance to get the job done. After all, if they believe in what you’re selling, they can be your biggest advocate internally, and you should trust them to do their job!

Next, I will typically call back the day after their scheduled meeting, which ultimately decides what I do next.

Situtation A: The meeting went well, and they agree to buy! Sally stayed true to her word and got approval from Steve. (No further steps needed)

Situation B: After this follow up or a couple more follow ups, they still didn’t meet or you can’t reach the person, and it seems as if they’re now dodging your calls. (Take the situation into your own hands). This is where I take over the scenario. I stop dealing with the mid-level person and then I start prospecting Steve directly.

It usually looks like this: “Hi Steve, This is Brian Donohoe. I’ve been working with Sally on your team, and I think she was supposed to meet with you a few times now about our proposal. Has she mentioned anything to you yet? She was telling me she was seeking your approval, but I still haven’t received final confirmation, and I’m worried something could be falling through the cracks on my side.”

This usually piques Steve’s interest enough for him to have a conversation, even if a short one, and then you get a brief slot to state your case and sell yourself!

Situation C: Sally informs me that they’re going to pass. (Inquire more and then start over with the ultimate decision maker again). – Sally tells you she tried to get approval, but her boss wouldn’t go for it. I don’t argue with Sally or try to re-sell her, because ultimately she isn’t the decision maker anyway.

I do ask questions though, like “Can you please share what happened? I thought you were recommending us!” I always ask in a curious, non-intrusive way, and typically, they will answer me.

This is where you get to the bottom of whether or not they are telling you the truth and/or you discover what their true objection is, and you can better craft your presentation to fit those objections when you finally reach Steve down the road.

Just this week, I got caught with a mid-level buyer who continued to push me off… “I still need to meet with Ryan,” she kept telling me. It got to a point where week after week for about two straight months, she kept telling me she needed to meet with Ryan. I got tired of following up and getting nowhere with her, so I finally called Ryan directly and one call closed him.

My mid-level prospect then had to call me back to execute the paperwork and do Ryan’s logistics for him. She was entirely embarrassed that she sat on my proposal and didn’t take it to Ryan for his approval, especially when Ryan ended up seeing enough value to go with the purchase anyway.

She missed out on an opportunity to bring a valuable service offering to her boss. Since he liked it and bought from me directly, it would’ve made her look good to propose it directly to him.

Yes, this is a risky move, and it can sometimes backfire on you, but if you don’t have ink on paper in the form of a signed and sealed contract, you don’t have a sale in place anyway, so what do you really have to lose?

Sometimes, it’s worth taking the risk and bypassing the mid-level gatekeepers to get a deal closed…

After all, we are in sales, and we get paid to make sales and perform at our best, not play the nice follow up game with people who are never going to internally sell for you to their bosses…

Be risky, swing for the fences, and go for it! Do it with tact and grace, though, because odds are you’ll still end up crossing paths with the mid-level people again, and you want to keep them on your side.

Writing Effective Emails

Want to get your emails returned? Who doesn’t… Many of us would settle for just getting our emails read! Let’s face it: prospects get hundreds of emails per week and there is a slim chance they are going to read – let alone respond to – an email from a sales rep.


Luckily, there are 5 quick secrets to help your emails stand out and give you the best chance of getting them read and returned. Here’s what they are:

Secret #1: Put the prospect’s first name in the subject line.

Everyone is drawn to their first name, so if you make your subject line something like:

“John, just left you a VM…”

Your email will stand out in their inbox and they will open it.

Secret #2: Personalize the first sentence of your email.

Draw your prospect’s attention to something that is happening now and current in their situation. This will snap your prospect out of his/her rote reading of emails. Things like:

“Hope you’re staying warm on this winter day!” or, “I’m sure you’re buried in your new project, so I’ll keep this brief…”

By taking the time to personalize your first sentence, you’ll draw your reader in and that will give you the best chance to get your email read.

Secret #3: Break your paragraphs up into sentences.

Nothing will turn your prospect off more than long, information packed paragraphs. Their eyes will glaze over!

Break up your sentences into paragraphs if possible to make them easy to read and accessible. I say no more than 2 sentences per paragraph.

Just like this example is written – easy to read, isn’t it?!

Secret #4: Ask for a return response – whether they are interested or not.

Give your prospect a chance to “opt out” of further communication with you.

Thank them in advance for their consideration and ask them to let you know if they’re interested – or not. And let them know you’ll remove their name if they aren’t.

Special Hint: Also give them the option of referring you to the right department or another person who might be more appropriate. This also gives them an out – and you an in.

Secret #5: Promise to follow up by phone if they don’t respond.

Let them know that you understand they are busy, and that out of consideration if you don’t hear from them you’ll follow up with a call in a day or two.

This really increases your response rate, and don’t be unhappy if they ask to “op-out.” Those prospects who do have just disqualified themselves and saved you a ton of time.

And for those you don’t hear from – start calling! Suddenly, when they do pick up, they’ll be a warm call.

Try implementing these 5 secrets today and watch as your emails suddenly become relevant again.

How Personality Impacts Our Success

Our ability to connect with prospects comes down to understanding what we’re all made of. It comes down to three components. Our personality style, IQ and EQ.


You meet a prospect for the first time, and open the call by asking, “Did you have a nice weekend?”

Their response?  “What’s the purpose for this meeting?”

So much for the small talk.

What goes through your mind? Maybe, I’d like to get out of this appointment as soon as I can. And how do you guess the prospect is feeling?

Your body language is unfiltered. It will indicate whether you’re interested in having a fruitful discussion with the prospect or just going through the motions. And the prospect will know exactly how you feel based on your body language!

Our ability to connect with prospects comes down to understanding what we’re all made of. It comes down to three components. Our personality style, IQ and EQ. IQ is our intelligence quotient and EQ is our emotional quotient. The question is, what’s most important in connecting with someone we don’t know? How can you improve when meeting someone for the first time?

Our IQ is set by age 15. People typically don’t connect at the IQ level unless you’re a brain surgeon or scientist and sharing important data and statistics. According to Dr. Michael Cox who was with the Dallas Federal Reserve Bank back in 2006, people skills are the number one business skill needed today.

That being true, then how do we improve our emotional quotient or intelligence? I believe the answer lies in understanding someone’s personality style. By understanding personality styles, we can become more adaptable to different styles.

Personality is your wiring. It’s your default system for how you see life. Personality includes how we make decisions, what motivates us, what we value, our way of communicating and most of all how we connect with others.

Many of the personality models talk about having four distinct styles, mine included. My model is color-coded to make it easier to use and understand.

Blues are relationship people.

They value trust and honesty, collaboration, peace and harmony and care greatly about serving others. They are “get along” people.

Golds are structured people.

They are well organized, disciplined, planners and believe in follow through and meeting commitments. They are “get it done” people.

Greens are analytical people.

They want information, details, data and are logical. By nature, they are inquisitive, love to learn and can be skeptical. They are “get it right” people.

Oranges are outgoing and expressive folks.

They like to be the center of attention, energetic, move fast and competitive by nature. They are “get it going” people.

Four very distinct personality styles that have distinct needs when it comes to connecting.

The prospect in my first example most likely is a Gold. Skip the small talk and get right to your agenda. And yes, Golds like an agenda. If you’re an Orange or Blue, the best way to connect is with small talk.

With Blues, talk about family or friends since they are the relationship people. With an Orange, it can be about what was exciting about their weekend, possibly about sports or a party or an interesting event. Your Green personality might connect on an important statistic or announcement in their industry about data or technology that would be of interest to them.

To improve your emotional intelligence, you need to ask yourself the question, “Who am I with?”

That will take the emphasis off you and onto the prospect and their point of view. What matters to them is the only priority where you should focus, and that focus will help you connect from their perspective. Emotional intelligence can dramatically improve when we understand our prospect’s personality.

Patience Is A Virtue

Having patience is giving the client their space, while at the same time being proactive to help them solve their issues. It’s not being aggressive, but assertive.


It’s nearing the end of the fiscal year and you’re $50K away from making your annual sales budget, and yikes there’s only three weeks to go.

Do you feel that sense of urgency? You bet! It’s the position most of us have experienced many times.

What do you do? Call your best clients looking for a silver bullet? Talk to some prospects that are considering your solution but haven’t pulled the trigger yet?

Sales is one of those careers that requires hustle, stamina, persistence, resilience and I believe more than anything else, patience!

Why do so many salespeople find themselves coming down to the wire to make their quota? The productivity they exhibit the last three weeks of the year is amazing. Why can’t that be consistent throughout the year?

Because of this pattern, we generally see that in an average quarter of the year, two-thirds of the sales will come in the third month. You’ll also see the budget increase from the first quarter of the year to the fourth quarter.

If you’re in sales, you must balance having a sense of urgency for twelve months, and at the same time, you need to be patient.

Clients enjoy working with salespeople that are patient yet persistent and have a sense of urgency.

Having patience is giving the client their space, while at the same time being proactive to help them solve their issues. It’s not being aggressive, but assertive.

It’s prioritizing the needs of the client and reminding them of the benefits they will receive when they decide to move forward with you. It’s making a case for the benefits they will receive from your solution.

Now let’s look at patience when it comes to personality styles.

Blue and Green personalities by nature are more patient and passive.

They’re great at asking questions and letting the client move at their own pace.

Golds and Oranges personalities are more aggressive by nature, therefore are less patient than Blues and Greens.

The right balance is for all four styles to move to assertive, being proactive while being patient keeping the client’s needs and timeline always top of mind.

Being patient and assertive means working your prospects and clients on a consistent basis, communicating with them on a frequent basis for the right reasons – meaning, meeting their needs – showing value and reiterating the benefits of your solutions.

It’s not just about selling your products and services, but helping your clients solve their business issues and helping grow their business.

Patience means that you’re in it for the long term. Building strong client relationships takes patience. It’s a balance between achieving your annual goals by helping your clients achieve theirs.

Selling is an art and a science. Patience is more of an art and your sales process is more of a science. Work them both to achieve your success.

Don’t Make Lead Generation Harder Than It Has To Be

There are a lot of different things that can happen between an appointment and a flat-out rejection… and in fact, some of them might be things you didn’t even notice at the time.


Prospecting for new customers can be easy or difficult.

As I’ve written in my book and dozens of articles, working at it consistently, providing value prospects, and having a little fun can go a long way toward your success.

With that being said, however, I often find that salespeople unintentionally make lead generation harder than it has to be.

I’m not talking about techniques you use to find new clients; I’ve given you tons of suggestions for those. I’m talking about the mindset you take into the process.

Simply put, many salespeople put too much pressure on their calls, emails, and other prospecting activities.

How do you do this? By judging the success of your prospecting activity on the number of appointments they generate.

Obviously, this makes a great deal of sense on a certain level, since appointments typically lead to sales, and that’s how most sales reps are evaluated.

What is easily forgotten, however, is that there are a lot of different things that can happen between an appointment and a flat-out rejection… and in fact, some of them might be things you didn’t even notice at the time.

For instance, suppose you send an email to a top prospect, and although they don’t agree to meet with you, they do look at one of your articles or white papers. It might seem like you’ve come up short of your goal, but what if:

  • You leave an impression in the prospect’s mind?
  • They appreciate your ideas and agree to meet with you in 4 months, partially as a result of those steps you took today?

Taking the long view can help you realize that setbacks aren’t necessarily the same as a failure.

I think more salespeople and business owners should view prospecting and lead generation in the right context: Your job is to start forming relationships with potential buyers.

While it’s certainly nice to have them agree to meet with you right now, it’s not an absolute necessity for you to consider the call or email a success.

Holding on to that mindset can change not only the way you feel about your prospecting but also the results you get from it.

Why? Because 10 hours spent cold calling, for example, could easily yield only 12 contacts, and two actual appointments.

Those numbers can seem pretty bleak when you view them on their own.

But when you stop to think that each of those dozen prospects is now that much closer to doing business with you, and that many more could be more receptive to hearing from you in the future, you realize that your hard work is going to pay off.

Those prospects will become customers sooner or later. That attitude, in turn, can help you bring the right amount of energy to task.

Not All Sales People Are Extroverts

Ambiverts are good at balancing between things like talking and listening, where an introvert won’t talk and an extrovert will talk too much.


Examining people and their personalities and then aligning those personalities to specific jobs has been going on for quite a while.

It seems that whenever someone is in a sales role, one automatically assumes that this person must be an extrovert.

In fact, channel leaders have told us that they look for “type A” people.

They look for those “outgoing” men and women. They look for those people who seem entirely comfortable in new situations, oozing with self-confidence.

We all know people like that, right? On the surface, it appears that this is the type of person you want in a channel sales role. Someone not afraid to “go for it.”

But, as the story goes with an iceberg, the surface always doesn’t tell the entire story of what lies beneath.

The complexity of human relationships, competing priorities, and goals in an ever-changing marketplace has created unprecedented challenges for channel owners, managers, and partners.

In this environment, channel owners and partner managers are left asking five pressing questions:

  • How do I get my partners to engage?
  • How do I get my partners to do what they are supposed to do?
  • How do I motivate my partners to focus on selling my product or service?
  • How do I empower my partners to be more self-sufficient?
  • How do I plan for, respond to, and take advantage of disruptive changes in the marketplace without destroying my partner relationships?

Getting in front of the competition will rely on how channel managers can overcome the above, and specifically exists in how they evolve as a person and adapt.

You would think an extrovert would be ideal to accomplish the tasks. Think again.

The proof in becoming more adaptive is in the numbers.

A study conducted by a University of Pennsylvania professor shows that an introvert salesperson (someone who is content to sit back, work on their own, etc.) earns an average hourly revenue of $120/hr.

It’s exhausting for introverts to talk to people all the time….wherein the channel one plays multiple roles.

In the case of the extrovert, they earn a little more. $125/hr.

It’s interesting as you would “think” that hiring or developing a person to be “outward” would be exactly what you need in sales. Not always the case.

Now, let’s take a look at the person in the middle. The Ambivert.

This is the person who is ADAPTABLE – adaptable to interfacing with introverts and extroverts. They produce $208/hr. Substantially more! It makes sense.

Ambiverts are good at balancing between things like talking and listening, where an introvert won’t talk and an extrovert will talk too much.

The reason is that they adapt.

If you want your organization to become really great, really productive, and really profitable, then position your people to become ambiverts.

Those that can adapt to any situation will be the ones to thrive!

Don’t Miss an Opportunity

Do you find yourself saying what you would have, should have or could have done after you fix a problem? This is a sign that you ignored a danger signal.


Life is filled with danger signals and warning signs. If you pay attention, you can avoid the potholes and the problems that they cause.

An oil leak in your car can be fixed with a $3 gasket. If ignored, your engine could seize and you’ll pay $2,000 for a replacement. Selling has its own danger signals and warning signs.

Not reading is dangerous. You need to learn about changes in business. Change is a warning signal.

Any change is an opportunity for you or your competition. When staff or company needs change, salespeople need to respond quickly to ensure that their products continue to meet customer needs.

Reading the newspaper is a source of knowledge about change. When you read the newspaper, you learn about changes in business that impact your customers’ businesses and then your own.

How else can you easily learn about mergers, strategic focus issues, competition, growth, and failure to meet business objectives?

Remember sales and business books, too. Even incorporating 15 minutes a day of additional reading will have a positive impact on your business knowledge and ultimately your business.

Having difficulty making call objectives for a sales call is a sign you’re in trouble. Your job is to bring value to your customers. Another greeting by a smiling face is not a source of value.

Objectives that add value to your customers’ operations involve avoiding costs, reducing costs, or simplifying an operation for your customer.

Planning before the sales call should include the steps to accomplish your objective. Having difficulty establishing your call objective is a clue that you might not be giving your customers a reason to do business with you.

Not knowing key decision makers is a bad sign. All accounts have critical decision-makers. The economic decision-maker reaches decisions based on cost. The technical decision-maker decides based on specifications. The user makes decisions based on satisfaction with using your product.

If you’re only calling on one decision-maker; if you’re unfamiliar with all decision-makers; or if you’re unaware of each of their concerns, the red light goes on. Pay attention when your contacts move on and are replaced by others. You need to reestablish relationships with the new contact by identifying their key concerns and motivators.

Forgetting to do the work to make a new contact loyal will leave you vulnerable to the past loyalties they’ve established with other suppliers.

No systematic process for prioritizing accounts is serious. Your selling time should be given to your accounts based on their probability of buying, their importance to your sales goals, and their need to see you.

You need to ask and answer, “When is this account likely to buy? Is this a strategic account because of location, a particular product or volume? Is this a significant problem that warrants my time now?” In all cases, the answer will determine what you should be doing and how much time you spend with each account.

In all cases determine that your customer’s needs are met with your lowest cost solution. If a phone call will work, why make a sales call? All customer contacts should be made after you identify your sales priorities and determine appropriate levels of service according to those priorities.

Do you find yourself saying what you would have, should have or could have done after you fix a problem? This is a sign that you ignored a danger signal.

It’s so much easier to avoid a problem than to fix it.

When you hear yourself saying, “If only I had called on that new project engineer earlier, I wouldn’t have lost the account,” it’s time to start looking at your other business. You’re probably missing some warning signs there, too.

Building an Effective Partner Strategy

Partners that add value to your company. Partners that work with your company on providing services TO your company. What’s the real value of these partners? You need to think beyond just the services or products they provide to you.


Companies engage with partners for one underlying reason: leverage. Vendors need partners in order to:

  • Scale marketing efforts. That is, get more leads with a lower cost of acquisition of said leads.
  • Scale sales efforts. That is, create an additional “sales force” without the inherent overhead in hiring salespeople directly.
  • Scale services efforts. That is, create a 3rd party ecosystem of providers who can implement your products.

And, these partners come in the following shapes and forms:

  • VARS, Distributors, SI’s, Dealers, Agents, and the like. Those reselling or providing services.
  • Those providing advice, implementation services, or similar offerings to clients of your products.
    And, they come in all different sizes and shapes, depending upon your product or solution and the niche you reside in.

I’m not telling you something you don’t already know, but I have been primarily talking about external influencing partners.

What about partners that are internal to your organization though?

Partners that add value to your company.

Partners that work with your company on providing services TO your company. What’s the real value of these partners?

You need to think beyond just the services or products they provide to you. And, frankly, it dawned on us the other day when a client, unbeknownst to them, said it directly to us.

The REAL value of an “internal” partner exists in the following:

  • They live in a unique microcosm that exists between you and the reality of the marketplace. They can tell you “how it is” and “how it should be done” in a plain and honest way. This value is unbelievably important because vendors often live in their own little world and can’t see beyond their borders. Partners you work with can!
  • These same internal partners are independent. They see and they bring experiences across a much wider swath of engagements, clients, and situations than a vendor could ever realize. Our client told us that they appreciate that we are independent because we bring to them best practices, best approaches, and best advice – all of which were tested via other clients. This speeds their routes to market. Don’t get me wrong, not all the advice is perfect for every client but it shortens the routes to success in every case. A great example is that a client was wondering what the best approach to creating a training program was and, because we are in this world we were able to articulate, in a fast manner, the right approach plus some other unique nuances that ultimately created a training program that resonated and connected to all parties – fast.
  • Lastly, honesty. The real value resides in the partner’s ability to be brutally honest at times – about approaches, about people, about what they think needs to be done. You just can’t get this 100% of the time from your people. You CAN get this 100% of the time from a good partner.

In today’s fast-paced marketplace, you can’t do it all yourself. You can try, but it will be more costly and probably won’t provide the ultimate value you are looking for.

So, establish your own internal network of partners for your company in certain areas. Just like you create leverage externally, you need to create leverage internally – to ultimately accomplish the same corporate goals!

Increase you Teams Productivity

In a recent sales productivity study we conducted for one of our clients, we learned that while their sales reps spend more time on selling activities compared to the external benchmark, they spend a small amount of time actually meeting with customers.


Salespeople face all sorts of distractions. Factors ranging from internal corporate demands to ramifications from a reeling economy and shifting competitive landscape all take a toll on their customer-facing time.  So how do you keep them focused on their primary task at hand?

Too often “time sinks” require a disproportionate amount of salespeople and sales managers’ time compared to the value delivered to their customers for those activities.

In a recent sales productivity study we conducted for one of our clients, we learned that while their sales reps spend more time on selling activities compared to the external benchmark, they spend a small amount of time actually meeting with customers.

Significant national account time was also being spent in post-sales activities that were time sinks. For example, their star salespeople were spending twice the amount of time constructing estimates as they were meeting with customers. Issue resolution required almost a day a week.

In the same previously mentioned sales productivity study, we learned that star and on-quota sales leaders spend more time managing their teams, including one-on-one coaching.  The best understand the systems and processes that their teams are using—both those that make them successful and those that impede their productivity.

  • Maximize selling time.

    How much time are your salespeople spending doing paperwork or following up to see that orders are processed and delivered? Can you remove those tasks from their to-do list if you improve your processes?

    Functional reassignments or outside resources can provide many of these support functions as long as your salespeople remain in the loop. In general, be attuned to removing obstacles to their selling success.

  • Keep them focused on the prize.

    One of the most powerful ways to keep momentum in the sales organization and drive consistent results is to establish a pattern of accountability through regular reviews. Visit account strategies and action plans once a quarter with your salespeople.

    Clearly framing your expectations and identifying milestones and planned near-term actions for the next 90 days keeps their focus on activities that lead to accomplishments versus things that are urgent. A 15-minute review of each plan keeps them moving forward with consistent targeted actions, resulting in a tight cycle of value with key customers.

  • Coach around sales calls.

    A well-written call plan and strategy for each call is a best practice. Coach your salespeople to cut through the clutter and be heard by articulating value that is personal, relevant, and time-sensitive.

    Spending five minutes to develop a thoughtful call plan brings more value to their customers, improves their odds of getting back in front of the decision-makers, and ensures that they are efficient and effective each time they meet.

  • Make sales calls with your folks.

    There is no better way for you to learn about your salespeople’s sales challenges and performance than by seeing them in front of their customers. And by watching what happens in between sales calls, you’ll gain a fairly accurate picture of where they need time and territory management improvement.

    Spending time in the field allows you to observe, analyze, and coach your salespeople, a highly productive use of time for all of you. Some studies suggest that on-site coaching can increase performance by as much as 20 percent.

  • Provide just-in-time market-ready plays with sales playbooks.

    Customer-facing time is valuable. But too often, salespeople don’t formulate how they want to talk to a customer or what message they want to convey until they’re standing in front of the customer.

    Sales playbooks capture and document what your best salespeople do to qualify, advance, and win deals. Brief and easy-to-reference, they deliver sales stage-appropriate content to your salespeople within the context of their current deal.

  • Provide a consistent rhythm for sales process.

    Brief weekly footprints (activity report) and as-needed, agenda-driven conference calls or meetings keep your sales teams accountable and give you an opportunity to shine the spotlight on their successes. Crisp, tight pipeline and forecast reviews define expectations and reveal a lot about your salespeople’s abilities and how they spend their time and effort.

Improving sales productivity is a common goal among sales organizations seeking ways to improve the top line of their business. As a sales leader, you must identify key factors to improve selling time—specifically customer-facing time—and generate better results from the selling time spent.

Top 10 Time Sinks for Salespeople

These sap time, energy and creativity, and limit high-value interactions with customers.

  1. Estimating/proposals
  2. Contract management
  3. Installation coordination
  4. Pricing/billing
  5. Scheduling
  6. Service delivery
  7. Issue/problem resolution
  8. Internal and customer communication
  9. Internal processes/systems
  10. Daily “emergencies”