Sales, perhaps more than most professions, requires the ability to juggle multiple competing demands. Not only do salespeople need to keep a myriad of existing and potential prospects happy, they need to do this while prospecting for new business, and meeting the standard demands of the workplace: administrative tasks, management, product knowledge, and interpersonal workplace relations.
To put it simply: salespeople are (or should be) busy.
But not all work is created equal, and salespeople spend hours doing things that don’t actually move the needle. It can be difficult figuring out where to expend our energies when there are so many different interests vying for our attention, but it’s the only way to become truly efficient and reach that next level most strive for.
Here are seven things salespeople regularly do that are (usually) a waste of time:
1. Get ready to get ready
Preparation and organization is great, but by itself, it doesn’t put food on the table. Too many salespeople spend their time making lists, setting up reminders, organizing, planning, and preparing instead of actually doing the work. Some call it analysis paralysis, but it holds us back from performing because it makes us feel like we’re doing something, even if that something does little to fill the pipeline and get prospects on board. So make sure you prepare, but not at the expense of actual selling.
2. Attend internal meetings
To be sure, some meetings are absolutely necessary, and as part of a team, you need to stay informed about what’s happening in your workplace (not to mention the social cohesion of being part of an organization). But not all meetings are of equal importance, and many of them run longer than necessary, eating into time that could otherwise be used productively. So if you’re able, hit the ‘decline’ button on that next meeting invite… unless it’s with an actual prospect.
3. Put out fires
In many cases, this one is unavoidable, but in an efficient organization, putting out fires should be taken off the salesperson’s plate and handled by customer support or another department whenever possible. Since salespeople are a customer’s original point of contact, they’re usually the ones who field calls and emails about pressing issues, and at times, an entire day can be spent trying to coordinate solutions to the customer’s problems. Taking this out of the salesperson’s hands would free them up to do what they’re meant to do: find and earn new business.
4. Chase the wrong prospects
Not all prospecting is created equal and we should learn to differentiate between activity which moves the needle, and activity for activity’s sake. There is perhaps no worse use of time than pursuing prospects who aren’t going to buy, whether it’s because they’re not qualified, or because they’re not interested. This problem can be solved by investing more time up front to qualify, ask the right questions, and ascertain whether you’re dealing with a serious buyer. If you don’t do this, then you run the risk of wasting time pursuing a lost cause rather than using that time to go after somebody who can put money in your pocket.
5. Talk instead of listen
It’s no secret that if you asked the top sales trainers in the world for the one piece of advice that could help salespeople close more deals, a majority of them would say: “work on your listening skills.” Listening is critical, because if you listen long enough, the prospect will usually tell you exactly what it will take to earn their business; sort of like a roadmap. Many salespeople, however, believe they should be driving the conversation, choosing a dominant role in the discussion, and foregoing an opportunity to become a trusted advisor. The next time you’re on a sales call, try asking a question and letting the prospect speak for as long as they want. You’ll find that it’s a lot more difficult than it seems, but you’ll also realize how well it works.
6. Update Salesforce
While a CRM is better than a pad and paper, it still sucks up time that could have been spent on productive activity. Inputting notes, waiting for every field and page to load, and crossing your fingers and hoping it doesn’t refresh in the middle of your updates all cause pain and frustration, and ensure that salespeople spend just as much time on manual activity as they do on prospecting, follow-up, and pitching deals. Thankfully, there are simple solutions (like Dooly, which can save you five hours of Salesforce grunt work per week), but there’s no doubt that the reason sales managers have to hound their teams to update their CRMs is because most salespeople would rather spend their time selling.
7. Grieve lost deals
Barbara Corcoran, the wildly successful real estate entrepreneur and Shark Tank personality once said: “The difference between successful people and others is how long they spend time feeling sorry for themselves.” This is especially true in sales, where dealing with rejection is not only part of the day-to-day grind, it’s a fundamental part of the profession. It hurts to lose a deal, especially if it’s one you’ve spent a lot of time pursuing. But it’s also counter-productive to spend more than a few minutes feeling bad about it, because it does nothing to get you closer to your goal. Instead, dust yourself off, pick yourself back up, and look for the next deal. The sooner you learn to do that, the less you’ll have to feel bad about.