There is a huge disconnect in sales that costs companies and their sales reps millions of dollars a year. On one hand, we know that all high-performance leaders invest in their teams with training and coaching. On the other hand, sales leaders notoriously say, “We don’t have time for training.”
Imagine if the general manager of your favorite sports team called a press conference to announce the plan for the next season. “I’m proud to announce that we have attracted the best players to our team. They know what they are doing. They are top performers. So, we’ve decided that having coaches is a distraction to them. To keep them focused on what they are supposed to be doing, we’ve eliminated our coaching staff.”
If I heard that from my favorite team, I’d be livid. I know that the best athletes need training and coaching to become better. In fact, the best athletes are always attracted to the team that has the best coaching programs. (When you find an athlete that “does not need practice but wants to focus on the game” you need to see red flags.)
High-performance sales professionals are no better. They require training and coaching. The best ones want it.
So why do so many companies kick the can when it comes to sales development?
Over the years, the number one reason I’ve heard is, “We don’t have time.” A related reason that usually follows is, “We need to keep our salespeople in the field in front of clients.”
Fair. I get it. If time is the problem, rather than deny your reps why not find some ways to fix the problem. Here are three suggestions.
How effective are your sales people at managing their time? We say we don’t have time for training and development, so where is the time going? High-performance professionals are fanatical about time management, ensuring that their efforts are focused on things that matter. Yet many sales teams rarely talk about this topic. Instead, they focus on activity. Proper time management drives good activity results. Activity without time management is rarely effective.
Make time management a regular topic of conversation. During one-on-one’s look at your rep’s calendars to explore how well they are managing their time. Do you only see appointments or do you also see blocks of time for prospecting, nurturing client relationships, quarterly business reviews, and personal development?
Time management only goes so far. In the book, The Power of Full Engagement, Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz advocate for energy management. To bring our best selves to the table, we need energy. A sales team without energy will struggle to be effective all day. Without energy, you get less productive time.
What if energy management were a part of your conversations with your sales team? Things like exercise, recovery breaks, and smart eating are not optional for high-performance professionals. Gone are the boiler room days of sales fueled by caffeine and cigarettes. Sales is stressful. This unmanaged stress not only hurts the health of your sales team, but it also kills performance.
Model and coach smart energy management. Help your sales reps develop balance in their lives. Encourage healthy habits. This results in sustained energy. Part of this energy opens up time for coaching and training. You could even look at coaching and training as some downtime to allow your reps to recover.
How much of your sales team’s day is wasted doing administrative tasks? One study published in Forbes showed that sales professionals only spend 35% of their time actually selling. 35%! Let that sink in. The rest is squandered. Some of this is due to poor time management skills (see above). Much of this time is due to the requirements of paperwork, reports, order processing, and adding notes to the CRM.
In this environment, no wonder we say, “We don’t have time.” So, why not fix the problem? Here’s an idea: We call sales people “Account Executives” but expect them to do busywork tasks that could easily be delegated. Executives have assistants. Why shouldn’t salespeople?
What if instead of trying to onboard more salespeople, you invested in administrative resources to make your reps more productive? I’m not talking about more technology. I’m talking about people. In 2021 I took the leap to engage a virtual assistant. This investment has freed up incredible amounts of time, energy, and headspace that allow me to be more productive.
How much more productive could your sales people be if you provided administrative support? Plus, in a world where it’s tough to recruit top reps, imagine how to provide administrative support.
Rather than say, “We don’t have time to train,” what if you created time to train? Up-skill and support your team in time and energy management. Consider how you could provide administrative support to your account executives. In all of this, your team will get the space for training and coaching, allowing them to dominate like any high-performance sports team.
Most of this article has been addressed to sales leaders. However, all of the concepts apply to individual sales professionals. Are you fanatical about time and energy management? What could you do in 2022 to improve in this area? Do you have an assistant? How much more could you sell if you could delegate administrative tasks? If you are at an income plateau, it might make sense to invest in a virtual assistant. All of this frees up time to sell along with time to invest in your own personal sales training and coaching.