There’s no doubt about it, sales is hard. Reps can often feel overwhelmed with multiple tasks, putting out fires with clients, and staring down what seems like a massive quota. Not to mention the pressure of their daily lives brings stress into the workplace; so why do we as leaders feel we need to add more to their plate? The goal is almost always enablement and improvement, however, it can oftentimes be frustrating for the reps. How can you balance this dichotomy?
Assess the Daily Workload with a Sales Ride-Along
Ride-alongs can feel like a massive time suck from a managerial standpoint but will be immensely rewarding in the long run. The goal here is to gain knowledge of what the sales reps do with their time. What is taking them longer than normal? What seems like an annoyance to them? Sitting quiet, and just being present with an open mind is the best way to approach this. Your reps will undoubtedly feel stressed that you’re watching them work, calling out ahead of time that this isn’t a performance assessment, or any sort of reprimanding measure is key. Create a list of key items you want to watch for and summarize your notes once you’re done. This will help steer your conversations in the future on what you’ve identified as time wasters for the reps.
Removing Over-Encumbering Reports
In sales, data can mean everything. Whether you’re using analytics software or not, you’re more than likely digging through sales reports on a daily basis. Why bog your reps down with another report then? By no means is this meant to advocate for not reporting/ recording your work—the point is to understand why those reports exist. If you don’t have a “why” for the report or process, then why have it at all. Finding reports that can be removed or combined can seriously help free up some of your rep’s overall time.
Bad Contact Data
It goes without saying that the sales rep is only as good as the data that is provided to them. That means that your reps are more than likely wasting time on reaching out to invalid contacts or managing email bounces. There are about a thousand business intelligence solutions out there that your team can invest in, however, there’s a free way you can get started fixing bad contact data issues. Instilling a research-minded sales culture can be key. Training people to utilize LinkedIn (or LinkedIn Sales Navigator, if you have it) can help verify if the contact is still at the company and help add in new potential contacts to prospect. Your team can also take a proactive approach by utilizing free software out there like Hunter.io to verify email addresses. However you go about it, enabling your sales reps to be research-driven, rather than disengaging from the task once they receive an email bounce can help keep the momentum with their daily work. This coupled with business intelligence software will save you and your team countless hours of frustrating conversations.
When looking at your sales process, how many steps are you asking your reps to complete? If you either cannot answer this question, or can’t remember all the steps, then it might be time to assess the sales process as a whole. Prospecting, running meetings, and closing sales can be very hard to wrap into a firm process. The best way to find out what can be edited is to get feedback from your reps and find any consistency. Processes should be built so they can be edited, and if something isn’t working in your process, don’t be afraid to take it out. Just a best practice, you should critique your sales process every so often to ensure it’s not sapping your rep’s time.
The Sales Meeting Dilemma
It’s not an uncommon thought in most business circles that internal meetings can suck the lifeblood (and productivity) out of any company (big or small). The negativity around meetings is for the most part misguided. Meetings are an absolutely necessary vehicle for getting things done, but there is little to no focus in most organizations on giving our people the knowledge and skills to execute them with success. The solution is a swift and purposeful death by fire of the One Hour Long Meeting.
Have a look at your calendar right now, I’d be willing to bet the majority of your internal meetings are set for an hour. Now think back on all of your meetings over the past few weeks. These hour-long meetings almost always end up either A) Not taking even close to the full hour B) Going WAY over the hour time frame. Both scenarios can be crippling to productivity.
Here’s How To Kill The Hour-Long Meeting Slot
If you are the one scheduling the meeting, ask yourself before sending—is this meeting about process/execution or strategy? The answer will ultimately define how much time you allot/request of your peers/colleagues.
A) Process/execution meetings: 30 minutes or less
B) Strategy Meetings: 2 hours or more
Every meeting maker should have a clear and defined agenda, and expectations for deliverables (and who owns them) outlined in the notes on the meeting. It is here where most hour-long meetings become 30 minutes. It can also be a good barometer for “can this meeting be an email?”. If these can’t be filled in you likely don’t need to have the meeting in the first place
The expectation should be across your organization that everyone is on-time and prepared. This isn’t always achievable and everyone has things “pop up,” but if as a company this expectation is clearly defined and communicated to your teams, there is an opportunity to win back hours of productivity.
Decline hour-long meeting invites. Your responsibility to your company is to operate at maximum efficiency, and sometimes that means having direct and difficult conversations. Use the same logic we spoke about in point #1 when you are evaluating the meetings you accept. Don’t ever hesitate to decline and reply back with “I think we can get this topic covered in 30 minutes” or “this is a heavy topic, we should plan two+ hours.” Meeting requests are just that, requests.
It won’t be easy, you are battling years and years and years of “we’ve always done it this way, but over time it is possible to reach the promised land. There is a world where you don’t start the day trying to finish the actual work that needs to get done, while you are navigating an ocean of hour-long meetings. A world where meetings are something you look forward to, not dread. All in all, there are a lot of grey areas with enabling time management. Taking a posture of humility and openness and making sure you’re regularly checking yourself is a great place to start. It’s easy for leaders to get so ingrained in one position or process and ignore the truth that the process might not be working. If you can figure that out, you’re on the right track.
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