How can my sales people be more productive?

Dear Ken Keller:

You’ve written from time to time as to how an owner can have a more productive sales team and achieve better results with them. Would you please sum up your thoughts as I have misplaced those columns? Thank you. – Tony H.

Dear Tony,

Let me share some facts with you and then provide some prescriptive measures to address your question.

The average salesperson does not make the first sales call before 11 am.

The typical salesperson spends 71 percent of his or her time either doing administrative work (34 percent) or in other nonrevenue producing activities (37 percent).

Fifteen percent of a salesperson’s day is spent with current clients. Only 14 percent of the time is a salesperson actually prospecting.

The last fact is that face-to-face selling can most often only be done during business work hours. This varies by industry, but the sales window usually starts around 7 a.m. and ends around 6 p.m.

My first thought would be to set an objective to have all sales team members schedule their first client or prospect appointment for 8 a.m. This would get people out of the office and in front of people that can buy.

Second, take a look at the administrative work that your salespeople are doing. Can this work be done after hours; or maybe at home, which would increase the amount of available time to actually sell to clients and prospects? Can any of these tasks simply be eliminated? Or simplified to reduce the time it takes to do them?

Third, take a look at your top performers. Those individuals tend to be extremely efficient in their use of time. They don’t waste precious time on nonrevenue producing activity. Low performers, on the other hand, find plenty of things to do which keeps them from getting out in front of buyers.

Fourth, set daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly goals for each person. This keeps people forward-focused and provides clarity. People who are goal driven tend to be successful in sales; they relate well to winning and being considered a winner. Goals make for a competitive team and help identify those that need coaching or the opportunity to move on to another company.

Fifth, set a company goal to have your industry’s best prospecting program. The one thing your sales team can use as the easiest excuse for not selling is a lack of leads. Make the commitment to have a constant stream of high quality leads coming into your business every week.

Sixth, your role has to be one of teacher, coach and enforcer. You have to set up some type of sales university that will constantly improve the sales skills of every member of the team, from rookie to the old pro; you will need to coach them to improve, and you will need to enforce a policy of “improve and achieve or else.”

Seventh, you must be able to make decisions and follow through when someone is not achieving the goals that have been set.

Which brings me to the last point, which is that your sales team must have the support and backing of the support areas of the organization to be successful. If they do not have the support, they will ultimately fail.

None of this will be easy and none of it will happen overnight, but since I assume you are in business for the long haul, my advice is to simply use this column as a guideline and start checking items off as you put the pieces in place.