I thought this was a great question on Focus.com this past week. Worth reading through some of the thoughtful responses. I honed in on six things (two good, two neutral, two bad):
The most successful sales reps invest time in building their personal networks, and getting introductions to new people in their territories or markets from people they or their colleagues already know. They also consistently take time to provide value to their network and prospective customers, even if it’s not related directly to a sale. The rep who shares an interesting article or random referral is more likely to win trust and business from their network and prospect pipeline.
Hard to underestimate the value in devoting time to this. For many organizations, training and learning is a daily activity. Some of it happens with your manager, some among peers, some by reading good content online and from third-party experts. But the best reps invest in their own ongoing improvement.
There’s no getting around database work for sales reps, but some reps spend way too much time doing this (and some organizations add way too much manual, repetitive process to reps so that they’re taking way too much time between sales calls). On the other hand, comprehensive and accurate data is critical to understanding what’s going on in the market, how reps are performing and how/where to help them improve, etc.
Face time with prospects is huge, and increasingly undervalued today. But there’s something tangible in shaking someone’s hand, sharing a beer, looking someone in the eye and accelerating the value and ROI of the relationship. It also shows that you care enough to take the time to come see them vs. doing a phone call or Web conference. On the other side of the coin, how many reps waste time in security lines, waiting for delayed flights, and worse? Travel is a worthy investment, but can also be a waste of time. Sometimes in the same week.
Inside reps in particular often have a (bad) habit of getting up, refreshing their coffee, chatting with friends across the sales floor way too often. Don’t get me wrong, nobody can hit the phones for hours on end. But too many breaks will kill your rhythm and significantly cut into productive time and opportunity creation.
Following up with bad leads
If reps are calling on leads that aren’t qualified, that’s a waste of time. If they haven’t qualified interest and intent up front but continue to pursue the opportunity, that’s a waste of time. If reps fail to ask the hard questions up front and are surprised when they get a “no” at the end of a long call or sales cycle, that’s also a waste of time.