If you are a sales professional undoubtedly you have heard the phase that “sales is a numbers game”. Leads, opportunities, pipeline, close ratios and other metrics represent the benchmarks of many sales organizations. These metrics are all certainly important and good indicators of the general health of a sales territory; however, they lack in the ability to fully articulate the overall health of the sales professional’s approach to their craft.
While traditional metrics have an important place in the sales processes, perhaps the best ways to achieve goal is utilizing time more effectively. Effective time usage simply means that more time can be devoted to activities that are truly sales focused; under the premise that more time devoted to selling activities results in increased sales. After all, if a sales professional were to spend his/her entire time handling customer service issues, attending internal meetings, and writing reports what would you expect their sales performance to be? By extension, does it not seem logical that applying more of a sales professional’s valuable time to selling activities suggest that sales performance would also increase?
The reality though is that most professionals (outside of those that bill clients by time) have little understanding of how they apply their time to the various aspects of their job. Yet, without some knowledge and information regarding how much time is being applied to specific activities it become nearly impossible to have an opportunity to affect a change in behavior.
For sales professionals, most studies suggest that approximately one-third of time is devoted to selling activities. How is the remaining time being spent? More significant is the opportunity cost for an organization and its sales team in terms of top line revenue and increased commissions! Even small increases in selling time (as little as 3 percentage points) have dramatically positive impact on sales results.
So when thinking about one’s sales fitness, should not metrics surrounding time usage be included alongside of the traditional measurements of sales success? However, to appropriately understand ones sales fitness in terms of time usage, we need to peel the onion back a few more layers. Beyond simply understanding how much time sales professionals devote to various selling and non-selling activities, understanding the “what, when, and how” of selling activities provides even deeper insight around one’s sales fitness.
To illustrate the point, let us use prospecting as an example. Very few sales professionals probably would say that this aspect of the sales profession is their favorite activity; however, as sales professionals we all know of its importance to successful selling outcomes. Do sales professionals as a matter of practice generally know the amount of time that they prospect as well as when they are most effective in this task? Furthermore, how focused is the sales professional when they prospect? What are the most appropriate tools in prospecting?
Let’s assume that someone clocks in approximately three hours prospecting during a day; or so they believe. Again, since prospecting again may not be the most desirable way to use one’s time how often were they distracted? There is no harm nor foul being distracted. However distractions are time robbers and can have a dramatic adverse effect on one’s sales fitness. Understanding when prospecting efforts are most productive either in terms of focus or effectiveness are equally important sales fitness benchmarks. Oftentimes, patterns can emerge as to when a sales professional is most effective and customers are most receptive to prospecting activity; however, it requires some discipline and data gathering to determine these patterns. Additionally, sales professionals generally go about prospecting using what they believe to be the most effective tools meaning applications and websites. Yet, thinking about tools from the perspective of sales fitness would suggest that either the sales professional has determined this through conducting research on those tools that are most productive for their industry/market or perhaps they have sought out advice from colleagues that are thought of as leaders in the prospecting process.
Developing time usage sales fitness practices on an individual level is a good starting point. Commit yourself to keeping a log for just one week of your activities to the best of your ability at either 15 or 30 minute intervals. You will likely be astonished by the amount of time you spend doing activities that have little to no bearing on your sales success. Do not overlook the potential benefits of understanding time usage patterns for the entire sales team. Significant and powerful learnings can occur when sales teams identify best practices through one another. Understanding the what, when, and how of your top team members in the most important selling activities is a tremendous value and learning experience for the entire sales team.
Over the past several years self-monitoring fitness bands have become extremely popular for individuals that are driven to both understand and improve their personal fitness. Why not extend the same concept to our selling efforts which will lead to improved sales results, more income, and potentially a more balanced approach to work efforts.
Karl Gustafson is the Chief Sales Officer and partner at Spotlight Software, developer of SalesFitRx. SalesFitRx is like Fitbit® for sales professionals through a unique application that develops a personalized profile of selling and non-selling activities and time usage. Karl has spent his career leading sales organizations from startups through Fortune 500 companies.