The Three Ts of a Winning Sales Team

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“It’s not just about time with customers, it’s about purposeful time with customers, and the only way to get that purposeful time with customers is to invest in some of the non-customer-facing activities that will lead to it,” she said.

To stop multitasking and be more present in each task, Stanley recommended following the 4 Ds framework, by time management expert Julie Morgenstern: delete (cut out unnecessary contact that creates a burden on customer time); diminish (don’t overachieve on all elements of servicing a customer and reconsider where it would be best to concentrate); delay (procrastinate with a purpose, and create visual and oral cues to figure out what the most pressing tasks are at the moment); and delegate (free up valuable time by passing tasks to outside departments).


I’ve yet to incorporate a first-person anecdote into a journalistic feature, but I do so here to illustrate a point: As a writer for a trade magazine, I frequently attend trade shows, I dig around for information, and sometimes my data is collected by vendors who scan my badge when I snag free giveaways at their booths or walk in on a breakout session. To the inattentive salesperson, who sees me as simply a new contact from a B2B media company, I might appear to be a prospect worth pursuing. After all, I have shown some of the signals of a potentially interested buyer. But if they looked just a bit closer, they’d see that I’m unlikely to be interested in making a purchase. The first results they’d see from a Google search would likely reveal my current job title, indicating I have very little contact with customers. Nonetheless, time and again, I receive phone calls and emails from sales professionals who represent some of the industry’s most respected vendors trying to get me to buy their products.

It would seem that there’s little excuse for a CRM technology leader to fail to do such basic research. And it is ironic, considering that these companies are trying to sell technologies that solve just these kinds of problems.

Magnacca agrees: “One of the biggest mistakes is not doing pre-call research before you meet with someone,” either in person or virtually.

“One of the most fundamental best practices is strong pre-call planning,” says Jim Ninivaggi, senior vice president of strategic partnerships at Brainshark. “Yet it is shocking to see how few reps actually do it on a regular basis, and how few companies have a standard pre-call planning process. This preplanning starts with having a clear objective for the call, a desired action the customer needs to take that will make that call successful. It also needs to include the probing strategy the rep will use, insights to be shared, and prep questions the rep needs to be ready to answer.”

Ninivaggi says one of the biggest myths in selling is that you must accelerate the buying cycle. “Too often,” he says, “companies view the sales process as something they do to the customer instead of with the customer. Smart sales leaders know the key to improving sales productivity is to understand how customers buy and to give reps what they need to navigate that buying cycle effectively.”

Palomino urges sales reps to expand their worldview and understand their customers’ perspective. This will require reps to develop a broad business acumen, especially when talking to higher-level executives whose concerns are probably very different from what they are used to. “You should understand what [profit and loss] is, what a balance sheet is, how to read financials, but more importantly, what they’re going to mean to the executives you talk to,” Palomino says.

In other words, on a flight, given the choice between Sports Illustrated and the Harvard Business Review, the better use of time should be obvious to the committed salesperson.

Associate Editor Oren Smilansky can be reached at osmilansky@infotoday.com.

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