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How to Help Your Salespeople Prioritize and Handle Business Without “Busyness”

How to Help Your Salespeople Prioritize and Handle Business Without “Busyness”

Managers have good reason to keep their reps busy, but that “busyness” should not come at the expense of actual results.

A rep is asked to step into a meeting. “Sorry, too busy,” she might say. Another rep is asked, via email, to provide some insight to the marketing team. “I won’t be able to get to this until the end of the week,” he replies — a day or two after receiving the message. For other reps, there might be similar inquiries and requests via their social media accounts, but anyone glancing at them will see they haven’t been updated in forever.

From an outsider’s perspective, it’s not always easy to tell if a sales rep has gotten what matters to a business and mere “busyness” confused. By saying “no” strategically to things that aren’t really critical, for example, a rep may, in fact, wind up closing more deals. If the activities to which they’re devoting their attention aren’t directly contributing to a buying experience, however, they might have found themselves caught up in areas that aren’t really worth the effort.

This is one of the reasons a good sales team relies on a strong manager or set of managers who can help delve deeper into the productivity and effectiveness of individual reps. They can offer coaching and guidance where they’re needed, fine-tuning the rep’s performance based on their individual strengths and weaknesses. This can be particularly important in a small or medium-sized business (SMB) where there are only so many sales reps to pursue the various customer and prospect opportunities in the funnel.

One way to begin that coaching process is to provide some general guidelines or rules of thumb about how to strike the best balance between business and ‘busyness.’ In your next team meeting or one-on-one weekly touchpoint, discuss the following three areas and see where there might be some easy fixes to keep reps concentrated on the most vital priorities:

1. Track — and weight — time spent

Sales reps aren’t like lawyers in that they’re charging “billable hours,” but imagine for a moment if they were. How would they justify some of the time they allocate to sending around documents, talking on the phone to a lead that’s going nowhere or even taking half the day to drive to the office of a prospect that’s considering a minor purchase?

Reps don’t necessarily have to defend every minute of their day, but even an estimate of where their time breaks down will help identify how they might shift the balance a little. If you apply a weighting scheme of sorts, for example, is the majority of their time going to customers with a significant budget, or are they chasing too many smaller customers? Even if a rep could try time tracking for a two-week period, you might have enough data to have a more meaningful conversation about the degree of “busyness” that’s keeping them from reaching their full potential.

2. Scratch anything that shouldn’t be done from scratch

Developing a sales strategy — even if it’s as simple as a slide deck for a specific customer or prospect — may need to be fairly customized. A lot of the more administrative things sales reps do, however, can be automated with easy-to-use tools. The use of customer relationship management (CRM) to organize all key data points about customers and prospects is a given, perhaps, but there are many other areas as well. These include:

  • Email templates: If you’re sending out “cold” messages, there are probably several areas where you could swap in the specific details for a particular prospect. Same goes for standard followup or messages that could nurture the opportunities a rep has under way.
  • Apps: Arrange meetings based on everyone’s availability. Plot a faster route to a client based on advanced GPS. Deal with quick conversations via chat instead of trying to track someone down in person. The more reps make use of their smartphones versus doing “work” every time they come back to your desk, the better. Show them how to get the most out of mobile technology.
  • Social scheduling: Most social media services have their own built-in services to write and keep posts ready to go live at a particular date and time. There are also platforms that allow you to schedule the same or similar kinds of content across several social services at once. Don’t think being a social sales rep means monitoring and commenting 24/7.

3. Go where the data sends you

Being a sales rep means having to make a lot of judgement calls, from accepting the marketing department’s leads to determining the right pitch for a prospect to configuring a particular bundle. Some reps might find themselves doing these things so often, and in such a bespoke way, that it exhausts them instead of motivates them.

Behind the scenes, however, the work reps have done to date means there’s already a treasure trove of historical data on what actually led to a closed deal versus what ended up missing the mark. That means reps and their managers can narrow down the steps they need to take to get from A to B in terms of winning the sale.

Those who have been using CRM such as Sales Cloud for a while may already be familiar with a data-based approach to selling. More recently, however, advances in artificial intelligence (AI) such as Salesforce Einstein has offered a way to dig into data even more deeply and offer predictive insights into what kinds of tasks will yield value.

If a rep seems consumed by busyness, consider applying AI to their pipeline and start making a list of all the actions that will let them meet or exceed their quota. Everything else they’re doing should come second.

Final thoughts

Managers have good reason to keep their reps busy, but that “busyness” should not come at the expense of actual results.

By being a little more intentional about how they approach their jobs, along with weaving in the right technology and tools to optimize their process, you might find reps become more productive than ever — but instead of seeming bogged-down, they’re ready to push themselves even further.’

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