A new medical device salesperson emailed us last week interested in one-on-one coaching. We talked and learned that he wasn’t interested in working on sales skills, sales strategy, or even sales presentations. Fortunately, the salesperson had a sales manager who was helping in those areas.
What the salesperson was interested in was: How can I do a better job managing my time? With conducting research on prospects and clients before sales calls and documenting what was going on in his accounts (the company did not have a CRM system and he was using his own Excel spreadsheet) the salesperson was running out of “time and tape.” This was a declared problem from a sales effectiveness, as well as, work-life balance perspective.
In our view this young medical device sales rep was voicing a concern that is becoming an increasingly important problem. Time management has moved to the front of the class as an issue that desires more attention. In too many companies sales reps spend too little time selling and the time they do spend is not well managed.
One framing of the answer to this dilemma is – better technology, better marketing and better training.
1. Better technology. Here there is an abundance of good news. The number of great apps and software systems has grown exponentially in the last several years. Apps like Charlie and SweetSpot are great aids for helping sales reps prepare and plan for sales calls and new CRM systems like Pipeliner CRM are light years ahead of the systems of yesteryear when it comes to reducing the time it takes to produce reports and organize account information.
2. Better marketing. In today’s market salespeople are expected to know more about a customer’s industry, company, business needs and markets than ever before. And, the need for the information is different at different phases of the sales cycle both in terms of what the sales reps need to understand the account and what they need to educate the customer. No salesperson can do this even with great technology unless they get help from marketing. This shift in the amount and quality of information required means the age of content marketing is here to stay.
3. Better training. As the customer’s expectations about the role of the salesperson shifts from being a product facilitator to a trusted advisor there is a demand for sales training programs to integrate new content. Two areas stand out.
First is second-level product knowledge which goes beyond features and functions and is all about the capacity to relate how your products can solve the customer’s business problems – for example: reduce risk, generate revenue and reduce cost. The second area relates to skill sets that are associated with consulting such as: business acumen, adaptive thinking, and data retrieval and interpretation skills.
In addition to the need for developing new skill sets there is also a need to develop a new mindset. In that regard we recently came across an interesting Forbes article about best practices for corporate leaders to “get things done faster.” We think the ideas also hold great merit for helping sales reps handle the time management problem.
- Be innovative. The way you are currently doing things may not be the most efficient. Take the time to see if the answer is more about doing something different rather than simply improving what you are doing.
- Be bold. Don’t waste your time worrying or mulling endlessly over choices. Think through your alternatives carefully, then make your decisions quickly and stand by them.
- Go the extra mile. Every salesperson often finds their new comp plan contains stretch goals – focus on making them … it’s likely that you can accomplish more than you thought you could.
- Leverage resources. Given the expectations of customers team selling is increasingly more prevalent in B2B sales. There’s no doubt that salespeople can be more effective and efficient at meeting changing expectations if they leverage the expertise of technical specialists and other support personnel.
- Understand the customer’s alternatives. Be aware of your competition and understand how their products and services compare from the customer’s perspective. With this knowledge, your sales strategy will be more “spot on” and you are more likely to get things right the first time.
- Be diligent. Salespeople who are take the initiative end up getting more done in a shorter period of time.
If just for a moment you want to get a sense about the sensations associated with being overwhelmed, imagine this: You are 24 year-old who just recently graduated from college and took your very first real job – a sales rep. You have completed your first round of sales training. You just walked out of your initial meeting with your sales manager where you learned about what you need to do in the coming months.
Now imagine what is going through your mind as that new sales rep. Managing time is critical for new sales reps if they are to be successful. But, they’re not alone – doing a better job of effectively managing time is critical to every salesperson’s success.