It’s widely known that one way to boost sales is to boost the amount of time your reps spend selling. Most reps will tell you, however, that they already are so busy there’s no way they could pack in more selling time without adding hours to their days. But have you taken a close look at that claim? Do you really know how your reps spend each moment of their days? It might surprise you, says Brian Tracy, a speaker, sales trainer and author of The Psychology of Selling (Nelson Business, 2004).
In his book, Tracy cites a study by Columbia University that found the average salesperson spends about one and a half hours a day selling. That’s right – less than 20% of an 8-hour day in spent in front of customers. What’s the rep doing the rest of the time? Tracy says the average rep spends mornings getting warmed up – drinking coffee, chatting with co-workers, reading the paper and checking voice mail and email. Eventually, the rep leaves to call on a prospect. The study found that, on average, the first sales call is not made before 11 a.m. After the call, it’s time to stop for lunch. Afterward, the rep might remotely check voice mail and then prepare for and drive to the next sales call, which isn’t scheduled until 1 p.m. or 2 p.m. Soon it’s late afternoon, so the rep returns to the office to commiserate with co-workers about how tough it is out there.
To the average rep that time not selling is well justified, says Tracy. The newspaper needs to be read so the rep is fully informed when calling on a prospect. Coffee must be drunk to stay alert, voice mail needs to be checked to see if anyone has called to order something and sales calls after 11:30 a.m. aren’t possible because no one wants to be disturbed during lunch. Calls after 3:30 p.m. or 4 p.m. are not productive because people are getting ready to go home.
In truth, most of your sales reps could spend a lot more time selling. Tracy says two things are holding them back – fear of failure and fear of rejection. The fear of a prospect saying no “acts like a subconscious brake that holds salespeople back and causes them to underperform,” says Tracy. “Of course, they always have a wonderful selection of excuses and rationalizations, but the real reason is fear of rejection.” Not convinced? Consider this: If you handed your reps a list of prospects so well qualified that at least 90% were guaranteed to buy your product on one certain day, how do you think your reps would spend that day? They sure wouldn’t be drinking coffee and checking email in the office.
Now that you know the reason why your mid-level performers aren’t maximizing their sales time, here’s how you can help them.
1. Teach them that rejection is not personal. “Once you know that saying no is not personal, you stop worrying about it when people react to you or your product negatively,” says Tracy. Top salespeople understand this principle and have built their self esteem up such that a no doesn’t bother them. In fact; a no to a top performer is a challenge, not a rejection.
2. Become a personal trainer in courage. It takes courage to get up each day and face the fears of failure and rejection, but the good news is that courage is a habit just like brushing your teeth at night or taking a morning vitamin. “Like a muscle, the more you practice courage the stronger you become,” says Tracy. “Eventually you reach the point at which you are virtually unafraid.”
3. Follow the five-calls rule. Statistics show that 80% of sales are never closed before the fifth meeting or closing attempt, but only about 10% of salespeople make more than those five calls or closing attempts. So if your reps are discouraged after the third no, send them back out there. With more persistence they’ll start closing more sales and building the self-esteem that comes with success.