“Every day in the U.S., there's an average of 11 million meetings taking place. The average office employee spends over five hours each week sitting in meetings and over four hours preparing for them. That's more than an entire working day devoted to meetings.”
Ten Months to Go in 2020
We're now into February and the 2020 business horse has left the starting gate. Whether sales have started briskly or sluggishly, it's always a good time to assess progress and address any barriers limiting sales growth.
- How is the sales team doing?
- Have they added to their pipeline, closed deals from last year, or are they falling behind?
- Are they energized or settling in for a long campaign?
There are 12 months of prospecting, selling, and closing this year, you're 1/6 of the way through it. How is each rep doing individually; do they have a good plan in place and are they productive?
Evaluating Rep Productivity
When working with sales teams, I always want to know how well each rep uses the time allotted each day. Time, and how they use it is what separates sales leaders from laggards. Observing and discussing their priorities, their approach, and the process they use to develop business is where this begins. However, this blog is not focused on personal productivity. There is a vast supply of well-written pieces on improving each worker's day and week. You can share some of these articles with your less organized sales team members.
This article is about what you as a sales or senior leader can do to avoid negatively impacting your sales team's effectiveness. Let's remove the barriers to more closed deals. Time lost can't be recovered. Pursuits interrupted, slow progress and delay closure.
The greatest barriers to a rep's productivity are meetings and unnecessary administrative duties. In an August 2017 issue of the Harvard Business Review, Stop the Meeting Madness, the authors write "Every minute spent in a wasteful meeting eats into time for solo work that’s equally essential for creativity and efficiency. For another, schedules riddled with meetings interrupt 'deep work'—a term that the Georgetown computer science professor Cal Newport uses to describe the ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task."
For a sales rep, “deep work” can be any number of activities or thoughts focused on closing a deal. These include sales strategy, development of a call plan for the company, proposal design, and most important, time spent with the prospective buyers, whether on the phone or in-person. Internal meetings in the middle of the day break the flow of these important elements or cut into talk time.
Making meeting disruption even worse, can be the failure of most meetings to be productive. Many meetings aren’t planned well, they don’t stay focused, they are crowed or include the wrong people, and ultimately, they don’t achieve their objectives. With too many of these experiences, team members begin to work on other things in meetings (on their phones or laptops) and the meetings, if possible, become even less productive. How many reps, sitting in a mandatory meeting, are thinking “I should be talking to my customer right now?”
Good managers can do things to make meetings both efficient and effective, such as:
- Assess which meetings are absolutely necessary;
- Determine which participants might be able to contribute virtually, avoiding travel;
- Set clear objectives for the meeting;
- Have a specific agenda with times allocated and stick to them;
- Ensure the right number of people are present to accomplish the objectives; not too few and not too many;
- Leverage pictures, videos or presentations to communicate key topics and share ahead of time if useful; and
- After the meeting publish notes to non-participants.
Burdensome administrative duties can also distract sales reps from their primary focus. These can include sales forecasting, company-wide meetings, and even expense report submission. These are topics for another blog, but are critically important to minimize the time they draw away from selling time. With today’s newer technologies, there are many examples of simplification and automation to save time.
As one example in today’s business world to simplify, there are many new technologies and software that will capture receipts and submit them almost automatically to save your reps and your managers time in submitting and approving. Check out the approach they use at PixMettle.