Addition by subtraction

Jill Konrath

As a sales leader, increasing your team’s productivity is one of your biggest challenges. Growing revenue without adding salespeople can seem like an insurmountable task. However, there are a whole slew of actions you can take to give your reps more customer-facing time.

Research by Pace Productivity shows that only 22 percent of a salesperson’s time is spent on sales activities such as prepping, conversations and meetings. Assuming a 40-hour week, that equates to 8.8 hours. At the same time, VoloMetrix reports that top sellers spend 33 percent more time with customers per week, which equates to less than three additional hours a week.

When viewed that way, your challenge becomes manageable. You don’t need to hire more people. Instead, you need to help your team rescue time lost to distractions. You need to help them optimize their workday so they’re spending more time on work that matters.

Dictating “Thou shalt work harder on more important things” isn’t the answer. Your already-overwhelmed reps will think you’re crazy. To the best of their knowledge, they’re working as hard as they can; they don’t know any other way to do their job.

Assess the Situation
Before jumping in with any quick fixes or radical suggestions, first observe your sales team in action. How are they spending their time? Are they constantly switching from task to task? How long does it take them to respond to one of your emails? Are they spending enough time prepping for important conversations? It’s highly likely that some of your team members are significantly more productive than others. Notice what they’re doing differently.

Observe yourself, too. You’ll likely find you have a lot of opportunities for improvement. Let your sales team know what you’ve discovered in your own self-assessment. The reality is, you’re all in this together.

Use these strategies to help your team close more deals in less time:

Expand the knowledge base. Start by helping reps recognize the value of their time. Share information about the recent research, sales hacks, optimizing their day and getting more done. Attend webinars with a “sell more in less time” emphasis. Use team meetings to further the learning. Initiate conversations about what reps (and you) are observing and learning regarding their own behaviors.

Make it a challenge. Challenges invite us to try new approaches and to stretch out of our comfort zone. One of the best ways to begin is by challenging your sales reps to figure out how they’re really spending their own time. Encourage them to use a tool like RescueTime (and pay for it if you can). Don’t force reps to share results with you or they will feel like you are Big Brother. Instead, ask them to use what they have learned to start conversations on how they can get better.

Become a time protector. Create “power hours.” Have your reps set aside one hour in the morning and one in the afternoon where they focus 100 percent on one high-value activity. Many sales organizations devote one of these 60-minute segments entirely to outbound phone calling. Spending a full hour on any one task (writing proposals, strategizing on accounts) significantly increases the quality of a person’s thinking as well as the amount of work that gets done.

Establish rules. Having “how we work” rules gets more of your reps doing the right stuff, more often. Here are some good rules you can implement:

  • Take 15 minutes at the start of the day to identify your top three priorities.
  • Schedule your day/tasks before you begin.
  • Check your email at 8:30, 10, 11:30, 1, 2:30 and 4.
  • Take a 15-minute break every 90 minutes. Get away from your desk.

Escalate the upward spiral. A continuous focus on helping your reps improve their sales skills is absolutely essential. Help them learn what they need in order to be better at their jobs. To really help your reps get better, focus on customized metrics for each person. With newer salespeople, direct them to the specific metric they need to improve, such as initial call or demo conversion rates. For more experienced reps, have a genuine conversation regarding the area they see as the biggest challenge.

Leverage sales-acceleration tools. Keeping up to date on emerging technologies is essential for increasing sales productivity. In addition to having a decent CRM system, make sure to evaluate if these tools can help your team:

  • Sales intelligence tools to build prospecting lists, find out how to connect and discover invaluable insights about people/companies (LinkedIn, InsideView, DiscoverOrg and Charlie App)
  • Email engagement tools to inform when sent emails are read and forwarded, when attachments are opened and more.
  • Online meetings technology to enable remote reps to have in-person meetings, build relationships and speed up the sales process. Today’s buyers often prefer these meetings (GoToMeeting, and
  • Inside sales/lead generation technologies like power dialers, intelligent lead distribution, sales workflow and prioritization to quickly turn more leads into revenue (Velocify,
  • If internal team or company conversations clog up your in-box, use a team collaboration tool to simplify things (Slack)

How You Work Matters
Become a role model yourself. Your behavior sets a precedent for your entire team. If you’re feeling overwhelmed and constantly telling people how crazy busy you are, it’s highly likely your whole team is facing a whirlwind of distraction too.

Take a deep breath, dig in and start incorporating these suggestions. Instead of bouncing off the walls with the zillion things you need to do, you’ll be focused on what really matters. Ultimately, you’ll all sell more in less time!

Excerpted from “More Sales Less Time: Surprisingly Simple Strategies for Today’s Crazy-Busy Sellers” by Jill Konrath with permission of Portfolio, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright © Jill Konrath, 2016. Learn more here.