In the new way of selling, you need to spend more time preparing for your customer meetings. Besides acquiring basic situational knowledge about their business, you also need to offer insightful information to bring a new perspective to their business challenges. That is not something you do on the fly. In this day and age, where the power of information seems to be more with the buyer than with the seller, you cannot afford to wing your meetings. Preparation is key, and it demands more time from you.
This has an impact on how we work as salespeople. For example, if you manage a portfolio of customers, with the sole responsibility of growing your business and keeping your customers loyal, then you are in for an account management dilemma; where do you spend most of your time? Looking after your customers’ issues, problems and complaints, or preparing for meetings and hunting for new business? On the one hand, as an account manager, you are trained to manage your accounts; on the other hand, you now realize that the more you farm, the less you hunt.
Research shows that salespeople spend just one-third of their day talking to customers and prospects. Instead, they spend a staggering 21% of their day writing emails, 12% going to internal meetings, and 12% scheduling calls. So the challenge is to create more time for selling while you have the peace of mind that your customers are looked after. The following practical advice may help you out:
- Avoid time-stealers that are totally in your own control.
- Email management.:This is pure proper time management. One of my managers in the past always said: “decide which meetings you need to be in and which ones not’- the same logic is for email management: the more time you spend on emails you do not have to be involved in the less time you spend on preparation.
- Early birds: Especially when you are working in a global organisation. Customer issues happen while you are sleeping. You can opt for starting every day an half hour earlier to be ahead of emails that need to be addressed, so you don’t get yourself in a time pressure situation early in the morning. The choice is yours.
- Scheduling appointments: Remember to get the customer’s commitment to a next meeting while you are at the customer out before you close the call. This saves you time because you reduce the amount of calls to make.
- Manage time-stealers through the use of your network.
- This is something not every salesperson masters. I also remember in my time as an account manager that you really feel responsible for fixing customer issues. They call you with a question or a complaint and you want to show your accountability and that you can be trusted to fix things. But, what you often do not realize is that you often have to dig deep to figure out the root cause of issues and this cost all time.
- The solution to this is to build, and trust your network of experts. For example, Billing people know how to fix billing issues.They do this every day! Customer service agents know how to fix customer service issues. They have access to data and systems you may not have access to. Or, if you have, it will take you a lot longer than those who operate these systems everyday. That’s why they are experts in their field. Build proper feedback loops to ensure you and your customer receive the latest information and their queries are solved.
- Lead the elimination of time stealers.
- Take saving time in your own hand, talk to your network colleagues how they can help you. What’s is your communication preference? WhatsApp, test messages, chat, email, or an update by phone call? Are there certain time-windows during the day where you agree to speak and get updated? Do you have a to-go-to buddy in different functions? These direct contacts are essential to save time.
- Show your leadership and explain why you need to work As One: to be most efficient, as a Team, responding to customer issues and…to help you saving time that you put into preparation..
Take action on these three pieces of advice and measure the additional time you can spend on preparing for customer meetings. Avoid any time stealer you can think of because the more you farm, the less you can hunt.
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