One of the biggest challenges companies face is getting their sales teams to be more productive. Despite many productivity tools bringing automation to the front line, studies show relatively small gains. Studies show that sales teams are involved in productive activities well below 50 per cent of the time.
One reason for this is organizations’ inability to get their teams to be proactive rather than reactive. As a result they can never capture and capitalize on the full potential offered by new tools, training or technology they bring on.
One way to help teams become more proactive is to get reps to block off chunks time, allocating specific amounts of time to specific activities, and then ensure that they focus on executing that task, not any other, no matter what.
A few years back a study showed that most customers consider it to be good customer service if they get an acknowledgement of their call within two business hours. Let’s be clear, not resolution, but a response, update or acknowledgement. This information in the right hands can deliver wonders. Imagine if you told (empowered) your team to turn off e-mail, and ignore inbound calls and voice mail for 90 minutes, and do nothing other than make outbound calls. Then spend the next 30 minutes responding to voice mail and e-mail, still within the 2 hour window.
One team that adopted this approach increased results by double digits. At first it was a struggle, reps insisting that they can’t possibly ignore client calls, “we’re going to lose customers and revenue”. We asked the reps what would they do if they were in a client meeting, would they have their mobile phone on, would they answer it? “No” they replied. Would they check e-mails? “No”. So what’s the difference we asked? Slowly most bought in, and they began to make more sales, and slowly the habit of chunking and blocking off the time, and started getting things done! It’ s a small step, but one that you can the build on and extend into other areas, blocking off time for research, blocking of time for admin, all activities that high pay off but not liked by the majority.
The best way to address this is to enable the team, and more importantly to empower them to focus on proactive tasks. For example, when it comes to outbound calls, whether it is an inside sales team, or outside reps making appointment calls, allow them to do just that, although at first it may appear that you have to force them to accept their new found “freedom” and opportunity, if you stick to it pays off by the team taking responsibility for the execution of the task in question.
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Want more of Shanto’s advice on dealing with time issues in sales? See his thoughts on the concept of time management.