It seems that I work with basically two types of clients: those who know they want their teams to spend more time with customers and those whose reps want to find more time to spend with customers. Of course, in the era of cost efficiency and growing demands on everyone’s time, where is there possibly any additional time to plan for and more successfully execute calls with customers?
While I can’t say that I have figured out how to squeeze water from a stone, I have a hunch there is one place you might want to look first to find more customer time…. Your leadership demands. “Huh? How is that going to generate more customer face-time with my salespeople?” you ask… Well, let me ask a few questions…
- Do you ask your reps to put together detailed internal reports for you (that you could possibly pull directly from your CRM system)?
- Do you ask your reps to develop detailed presentations to present internally?
- Do you have resources who spend time compiling perfectly color-coded reports and internal status updates?
- Do you run internal pipeline calls where everyone attends, but each person only speaks for several minutes of the call?
- Do you schedule internal team meetings when an email could suffice?
- Do you spend more time calling your team to get updates or getting out in the field to see the action live?
- Do you actively advocate to protect your reps’ selling time from other internal administrative requirements?
More often than not, the primary complaints that I hear from sales reps are about the amount of non-customer-facing work that they must do and the number of internal calls on which they must participate each week. The other complaint that I often hear is that their managers are out of touch with what is really happening in the field. While it may not be easy for you, here are a few suggestions that might get your team back in front of their customers…
- Pull the reports yourself. A couple of hours of training for you could save 10 man-hours/week for a 10-person team!
- Streamline your own reporting needs, and where possible, refocus the internal support you have to help your salespeople with customer facing support needs.
- Make sure that time spent on calls is well spent for everyone. Consider one-on-one pipeline calls or opportunity reviews that only include relevant team members. You have the big picture view, and you can always connect team members offline if there is a relevant knowledge sharing opportunity.
- Get out in the field to learn what is really going on – ask for updates on the way to customer calls, and get involved.
- Question every bit of internal work that salespeople do… presentations, internal briefing documents, reports, spreadsheets. Could a less elegant, less time-consuming solution work just as well?
- Be an advocate for your team. Push back on internally focused requests or leverage your support resources to complete internal tasks on behalf of your salespeople.
Remember that your team wants to work hard for you. They want to show you what they can do. Send the message that what you value most is what they deliver to their customers. Do this by placing less emphasis on what you require internally and get out in the field so that they can show you the great things they can do when they have more time to spend with their customers.