It’s no mystery why turnover is so high in sales. High workloads, long hours and competing priorities create the perfect storm of stress that’s unsustainable for many reps. In a recent study of sales professionals, two-thirds of respondents reported that they were close to experiencing burnout. Fifty-seven percent said their workload is more than their capacity, and 67% reported working more than their contracted hours.
If you lead a sales team, chances are good that at least one of your team members is feeling burned out and overwhelmed. As a leader, the best thing you can do is help your team prioritize their tasks.
Focusing only on activities that actually move the needle will yield better results while providing some relief to overworked reps. Even if you can’t eliminate all their low-priority tasks, simply knowing what to focus on can help ease their stress.
Here are four ways to help your team prioritize high-impact activities:
1. Analyze how your reps are currently spending their time.
In a study of 720 sales reps, researchers found that salespeople spend 64% of their time on non-revenue-generating activities. Administrative tasks accounted for 14% of the drain on their time, while chatting with colleagues and using social media accounted for 20%.
To understand where those hours are being lost, ask your team to track their time for a week. It’s important to clarify that this isn’t to admonish them for wasting time — it’s to understand how to improve the team’s efficiency.
Once you have the results in front of you, you can begin working to improve productivity. If your team is getting bogged down in administrative tasks, look to offload these activities to support staff. If your team is drowning in spreadsheets because they don’t know how to use the CRM, consider more training.
2. Simplify the demo process.
One of the most time-consuming tasks that can’t be offloaded or eliminated is preparing and demonstrating product demos. Either your salespeople have to coordinate with the development team on a live demonstration, or they must try to put together a compelling story from screenshots of the product.
“Live product demonstrations require your sales team to do an exhausting dance with the back-end team in which everyone is holding their breath,” says Yoav Vilner, CEO of Walnut — a codeless demo platform. “Designing client-specific mockups or adding features for a demo is a huge drain on everyone’s time, and there’s always the possibility that something could go wrong.”
Preparing for these complicated live demos often pulls your sales team’s focus away from other important tasks. In the time it takes them to set up one demo with your R&D team, they could have followed up with a few dozen leads. Use a demo tool instead of the real thing, or encourage your team to create a generic product demonstration that can be used for a variety of potential clients.
3. Use real data to apply the 80/20 rule.
The 80/20 rule, also known as the Pareto principle, tells us that 80% of results come from 20% of activities. The trouble with applying the Pareto principle is that most people assume they know what those 20% activities are — even if the reality is different.
If you ask your sales team to list the tasks that bring in the most sales, they’re likely to cite a handful of clients who closed recently. Then they’ll make assumptions on what works based on how they made those sales. This is called recency bias, and it can distort our perception of reality.
Once you dig into the data for your entire team, you may be surprised by the results. Three-quarters of your sales may come from client referrals. Or maybe the clients who generate two-thirds of company revenue came from networking events. You may also find that these 20% activities vary from rep to rep.
The important thing to remember is that the data doesn’t lie. Once you know which activities yield results, you can cut out pointless busywork and prioritize the tasks that actually make a difference.
4. Use predictive lead scoring.
Once a company has a steady stream of inbound leads, it becomes less important to call every single prospect. Instead, your team needs a way to prioritize the right leads.
Lead-scoring software can provide some clarity, but more traditional points-based scoring still involves a lot of guesswork. The litmus test for whether a lead is qualified or not is only as accurate as the points system that you develop. Another issue with traditional lead scoring is that it can become less accurate over time as your customer base evolves.
“Today, most leads that are passed from marketing to sales are of decent quality but are not sales-ready,” writes Falon Fatemi, founder of the AI-as-a-service platform Node.
Investing in more advanced lead-scoring software can help your sales team avoid wasting time on this pointless prospecting. Predictive lead scoring tends to be more accurate because it uses an algorithm to identify the best leads based on qualities they share with existing clients. (The software will also make predictions based on leads who did not convert and change its criteria as your client base changes.)
The sales team is the lifeblood of any business. Unfortunately, too many companies lose their top-performing reps due to work overload and stress. As a leader, it’s your job to help your team prioritize high-value tasks and reduce costly drains on their time. When you can provide this sort of clarity, your team will be able to close more leads without working longer hours.