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.
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.
- Contract management
- Installation coordination
- Service delivery
- Issue/problem resolution
- Internal and customer communication
- Internal processes/systems
- Daily “emergencies”
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