Heck, even we have those inside processes that burden us from spending more time in front of our customers.  BUT, there is absolutely one thing everyone has the same amount of: TIME. We must keep this in mind.  A sales person has approximately 2000 hours in a year to sell (40 hours a week times 50 weeks.  Most people take a 2 week vacation).  In those 2000 hours, a sales person must: 

 

Sales Consulting

 

Notice there are only 3 Customer Facing bullet points. 

 

If I remember, the customer pays our bills.  The customer puts food on the table for our families.  The customer provides revenue.  Revenue equals money.

 

Then why does customer facing time only make up less than 28% of a sales person’s week?

 

Being a success in sales management means figuring out how to get that percentage up.  In fact, sales managers who exceed 110% of quota consistently have their reps spend over 58% of their time in front of customers.  It is really simple.  More time in front of a customer = more sales.

 

You have heard this before.  This is not new. Look at the data compiled, over 5K sales managers measuring above and below quota performance:

 

Sales Consulting

 

Then why don’t you do it?

 

“Operations, Finance, Service (Fill in the Blank here) won’t let me.”

 

They say things like:

 

“Sales guys are so undisciplined we have to place a tremondous amount of rules around the orders.  If we don’t, the customer wont get what they are paying for and we will get stuck mopping up the mess.” Stated one COO of a Fortune 50 company of our customer.

 

Does this sound like your operations guy?

 

Break the Non Customer Facing Habits of your Sales Reps.  Get them Outside (or on the phone ) in front of your Customers.  Think this is out of your control?

 

Three ways (in your control) that you can manage the Inside to get your reps Outside:

 

1.  Identify the Low Value Tasks.  Look for administration that eats up time.  Expense Accounts, Order Processing, Routine Service Requests all can eat up precious customer time.  The best way to figure out what is killing the productivity is to do some research.  Typically, sales management solves a symptom instead of a root cause.  Make sure you triangulate the data and Do THIS:

 

A.  ASK your reps what time sinks are occurring that is preventing them from seeing customers.  (THEY WILL TELL YOU).  But don’t ask just one person.  Ask the whole team.  But do it separately.
B.  VIEW the team as a whole. See if the individual responses mirror the collective. You need to eliminate bias.
C.  OBSERVE on your one on ones and field rides what is happening. Don’t just watch what is happening in front of the customer.  Watch what happens in between sales calls (this requires a full day spent with the rep).

 

From these three data points, pick two low value, high time sink tasks.  Tackle these immediately.  (Most common ones are proposal development, contract management and pricing approvals)

 

One of our Customers identified low value recurrent service tasks that burdened their reps.  By eliminating this task and diverting initially to admin support they were able to increase sales 16% in one quarterThis allowed them to justify hiring a service person to handle this full time.  The Sales Manager made their quarterly number.  She was very happy.

 

2.  Put a Call Minimum on your Reps.  This can be activity based, customer time focused or simply documentation of the actual sales calls.  It is important.  By forcing your sales people to be in front of customers, they will prioritize this activity. Time Management will help overcome this problem by managing their calendars.  Remember, customer facing activity is the most important direct action a sales rep can increase revenue.  Benchmarking indicates when customer facing activities are a requirement of the sales force the revenue increase over 17%. 

 

3.  Sales Managers Need to Be in Front of Customers.  Knee Knocking; Breaking Bread; Verbal Voice-whatever you call it…..Do it.  By getting in front of customers (or on the phone) a minimum of 3 days per week, your sales will increase.  Your income is in direct proportion to the number of times you and your reps are not inside but outside (or talking with customers) in front of them.  Make sure you know YOUR low value tasks and eliminate them. (expenses during the day, accounts receivable issues, routine customer service issues). 

 

Can’t figure out how to eliminate these tasks?  Create tools that help your sales reps to spend their time out selling.  Tools that help them do more of the low value tasks in a short amount of time. Tools such as a one page expense account, an email box for service requests or a support person they can call when in the field.  Sales Management and Sales Process success comes down to eliminating non value add tasks with customer facing activities. 

 

Don’t accept excuses.  Act like a World Class sales manager and remove obstacles in your way.

 

Do you have other ways you have used to eliminate non customer facing activities with your reps?

 

 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dan Perry

Intensely focused on helping sales and marketing leaders in B2B companies make their numbers at SBI.

Dan approaches the idea of making your number from a unique perspective. Like many SBI leaders, he has walked a mile in your shoes. He comes from the industry side and has had to make his number to be successful. Perhaps this is why it’s wise to rely on SBI’s evidence-based methodologies. Though SBI is certainly an execution-based firm, Dan only implements strategies and solutions for his clients after they have been verified with before-and-after data. This leads to adoption of sales programs in the field, rather than shelf-ware.

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