It’s very easy for salespeople to waste time on activities that are either redundant or that someone else should be doing. It’s also easy for CEOs and sales leaders to be unaware of how salespeople are wasting time – until the forecast is in and it’s too late. They were all so busy, but they weren’t doing the right activities. Don’t be in the dark!
As the CEO, do you know what percentage of time your sellers are spending on actual selling activities versus other activities?
What percentage of time are they spending putting out fires, doing someone else’s job, or chasing down information?
Sales leaders should be aware of these time-wasting activities and be preventing them but often they are not. Sometimes there are obstacles that only the CEO can clear.
Key Sales Activities
“Selling time” is any time spent on the following activities. (You’ll learn more about why I put them in that order in a minute.)
What is not selling time?
Doing collections, doing customer support because the customer support team doesn’t respond, tracking down information that should be readily available but isn’t due to lack of processes or systems, contacting legal to determine when the contract will be reviewed after two weeks of hearing nothing, finding out why a product hasn’t been shipped, entering orders because the order entry department didn’t get to the order and it’s been 3 days, internal meetings (unless they are strategy or planning sessions about a deal), building their own list of prospects by searching LinkedIn rather than being provided with a list, filling out spreadsheets because the sales leader can’t get the information out of the CRM and the list goes on.
Not to say these things aren’t important or that time spent in training to develop skills isn’t needed, it’s just not selling time. I’ve seen many statistics showing that salespeople only spend between 25% to 40% of their time selling.
Imagine what would happen if you could increase that to between 50-80%. It will never be 100% because they will need time to plan and strategize as well as stay organized and document.
In general, selling activity is any work that directly moves the sale forward or helps you decide that this is (or isn’t) a prospect and can be with a new or existing account.? With so many salespeople working from home these days, most of these activities will happen over the phone, video conferencing, via email, or on social media.
It’s not enough to just engage in these activities regularly. Your sales team also needs to prioritize their selling activities – and this matters more than you might think. Here’s the breakdown of prioritization that will yield maximum success for sellers.
How Salespeople Should Prioritize Their Selling Activities
Priority #1: Closing
Work on closing deals first. That’s not surprising. This should be easy to track with the opportunity report by stage and close date from your CRM. Sales leaders should be coaching them on strategy and tactics to close deals and helping them garner the resources needed from the internal team. Be sure your own team isn’t holding up progress and remember close dates come from customers, not quotas. Close dates are crucial, and salespeople need to ask the right questions to put accurate close dates in the CRM.
Priority #2: Prospecting
Once the salesperson takes care of activity on deals that are closing they typically will start problem-solving or let their activity be dictated by email or other urgencies. To keep the pipeline full, prospecting must be the next priority. I’ve seen it too many times where salespeople put off prospecting because they are, “too busy.”
Salespeople should have a list of companies that match your Ideal Customer Profile and should work to meet the people at each company most likely to have an interest. The best way to do this is to find someone to make an introduction. They can meet prospects using the phone, by email, on social media, or at virtual events.
Upselling or selling new products to existing customers counts as prospecting and should be part of the routine unless you have segmented your sellers to be hunters only and there is a team to sell to existing customers.
Make sure they have plenty of prospecting activity each week with the people most likely to buy from your company. When pipelines run dry it puts too much pressure on the salesperson and the few prospects they do have. Keep the pipeline full.
Once prospecting and closing are taken care of, salespeople should go back to their opportunities in the middle stages of the pipeline and do the activity to move them forward.?
Priority #3: Qualifying
Once there is interest from one or more people at a prospect company, discussions about needs and fit ensue. It’s important to check back to determine the fit with your Ideal Customer Profile at this time so your salespeople don’t chase the wrong deals.
Make sure salespeople are preparing for these discovery meetings. They need to ask good questions and listen carefully to quickly determine if the prospect is a good fit. It’s just as important to qualify them out as it is to qualify them to move forward. Not all business is good business. Salespeople often take twice as much time to lose a deal as to win one and that’s because they are relentless and won’t give up. Good coaching will help them see when they should let a deal go.
Remember, the only true indicator of whether an opportunity is moving forward is the action the customer is taking. Coach your salespeople to get a commitment from the prospect to take action at every stage.
Priority #4: Educating
If the prospect is a good fit, salespeople need to bring insight, educate them, and guide the decision. Prospects must understand how your product or service meets their company’s needs as well as their own.
As they move through the sales process, encourage your salespeople to learn as much as they can about the account, their initiatives, and those involved in making the decision so they can offer the right insight, properly demonstrate how your product solves the challenge or helps them meet their goals. It’s a good time to have their prospects talk to a few satisfied customers.
Help them prepare to handle any objections that come up and make sure the prospect has all the information they need to make the right decision. Don’t delay. Sales cycles are long enough without your own team prolonging them.
Stay out of the Dark
Step into the light and understand what your sales team is doing. Yes, your sales leaders should manage it but as the company leader, your support and coaching will make a difference.
Will some salespeople find it tough to stay on track with their priorities? Yes – we all do! Everyday circumstances pop up to distract us and pull our attention to someone else’s priorities. That’s particularly true today as CEOs figure out how to keep sales strong in a tough economy.
As the company leader, you need to figure out how to remove obstacles and avoid problems, so the sales team stays focused on selling. If you support everyone in the sales organization so they can spend their time on sales, you’ll reap real revenue rewards.
So, what will you do?
Are you a CEO or Sales Leader who needs advice on how to keep the sales organization selling, especially now with virtual sales in this challenging economy? Contact our team today!
Alice is nationally known for her expertise in elevating sales to increase valuation for companies with a B2B complex sale that have exceptional growth potential. She’s originally, from the widely known Miller Heiman Group. Spending her time strategizing with CEOs and their leadership teams to build the strategies that find new business and grow existing accounts is her passion. Her clients love her spirit and the way she energizes their sales organization.