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Stop Wasting Time with These Sales Productivity Killers


“Half the time [people] think they are talking business, they are wasting time.” — E.W. Howe, writer and newspaper/magazine editor.


If there’s one thing the experts seem to agree upon, it’s that almost all salespeople waste about half their time at work on things other than the business they’re paid for. Aside from the inevitable personal business, the waste consists mostly of:

  • Recovering from interruptions and distractions.

  • Hitting false starts.

  • Pursuing poor-quality leads.

  • Filling out too much “paperwork.”

  • Practicing bad sales habits.

Interruptions and distractions have been the bane of every office worker since we first began congregating to conduct business. Many are external — drops-ins, corridor conversations, loud co-workers — but a surprising number are internal. Internet addiction, poor email habits, and multitasking efforts stand out. Most distractions reduce to a lack of focus — which, when broken, can derail you for tens of minutes at a time. The cure is tightening your self-discipline, whether that means wearing noise-canceling headphones, rousting the corridor conversers, avoiding the internet, or focusing exclusively on one thing at a time.

False starts happen because you’re wired to chase shiny objects whenever what you’re already working on gets boring. You’re not a fish, so forget the allure of the urgent-but-trivial. If it seems it might be important, write it down and follow up later, once you’ve gotten some profitable work done.

Pursuing poor-quality leads may not be your fault, if you’re not the person who collects and distributes them. A sales leader worth his salt knows that while quantity may have a quality all its own, it’s much more profitable to focus on a few top-quality leads than scores of lesser ones. Author David Jacoby claims 15% of all accounts produce 65% of all sales. If you’re receiving too few high-quality leads, ask your manager for a more equitable distribution. If you’re the manager, reprioritize how you handle leads, so the best ones receive more effort. Calls and meetings with the wrong clients won’t result in enough sales to offset the time they cost.

Too much paperwork and administrative tasks cut down on sales productivity. Find ways to automate or delegate such work so you don’t waste time on $15-per-hour tasks or end up chained to your desk by overwork. Check out time-saving text-replacement utilities like shortkeys.com to help you type faster, roboform.com to help you remember passwords, upwork.com to help you outsource low-value administrative duties, and the Google Voice app to type text quickly into your phone.

Practicing bad habits spans a multitude of sins. For example: Suppose you fail to confirm an appointment with a client across town, only to find that he was called out for an emergency, took a sick day, or couldn’t be bothered to update his calendar. You’ve just wasted hours. Other common bad sales habits include:

1.   Sitting around waiting — for approval for pricing, for others to log sales calls, for client responses, and so on. Rather than just wait, pick up the thread of something else and make progress with it.

2.   Lack of preparation results in incomplete sale calls, because you have to contact the client again once you’ve collected all the documents and information you needed in the first place. It also makes you and your company look bad, especially if you provide the wrong facts and figures because you were in too much of a hurry.

3.  Too much preparation. When you let perfectionism take control, you may never get started. Paralysis by analysis can kill accounts as dead as lack of preparation.

4.  Over-selling the same accounts. Do you or your team call the same people repeatedly because they’re easy to converse with, even if they don’t buy much? Step out of your comfort zone and go after new accounts.

5.  Poor product knowledge. It’s hard to sell something you don’t know thoroughly. No matter how good a product or service may be, if the seller can’t list all the benefits and counter the prospect’s objections, he or she won’t sell many units. Get yourself and your people the training you need.

Time is money.

Salespeople sell. Anything that interferes with that — excess paperwork, poor leads, bad habits, distractions, whatever — must go by the wayside. Legend has it that writer Dorothy Parker once said about a book, "This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force." We should feel the same about time wasters. If you honestly care about your profitability and productivity, do what you must to forcefully eject time-wasting habits from your team.

Salespeople sell. Anything that interferes with that — excess paperwork, poor leads, bad habits, distractions, whatever — must go by the wayside.”

Laura Stack | MBA, CSP, CPAE



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