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The 7 Habits of Unproductive Sales Teams

Are you seeing stagnant sales figures when your sales team looks busier than ever? It could be because your salespeople have fallen into bad sales habits and unproductive activities.

Whether it’s obsessing over knocking out low priority tasks or slipping into a monotonous voice while making phone call after phone call, it’s easy for salespeople to get off track.

"The irony is that the sales profession is all about talking with people, but there’s a willingness to prioritize anything that involves not talking to the prospect. Salespeople need to focus on the tasks that are related to helping customers make a decision. That’s their job. Anything other that, they should get rid of.” - Andy Paul, Founder at Zero-Time Selling Inc.

Alice Heiman, founder of Alice Heiman, LLC, said that while unproductive behaviors can be a real problem in the sales office, the behaviors aren’t always the fault of salespeople. “In a lot of cases, what they’re doing is what their sales managers told them,” she said.

Wherever they originate, sales managers need to be vigilant in keeping an eye out for these seven bad sales habits that can hinder sales productivity.

1. Dialing for dollars

Calling customers and prospects when you don’t have a valid business reason is a waste of time.

“Everybody’s heard the term ‘dialing for dollars’ before, but towards the end of any kind of quota time, sales managers will yell at their teams to get on the phone,” - Alice Heiman, founder of Alice Heiman, LLC

It’s a bad sales habit Heiman has seen her clients implement without success. At one company, for example, the owner (who was also the sales team manager) decided that every sales rep should call every customer four times a week to get sales.

“That’s unproductive,” Heiman said. “In fact, it might really irritate people so that they will not take your call when you actually have something to say to them.”

Consider your motives before picking up the phone. Think about whether your conversation will truly push the deal forward.

2. Sticking to a script

Nothing turns a potential client off faster than a salesperson who simply sticks to a script.

“I can’t stress enough that selling requires deliberate, mindful action. You’ve got to go off script, you’ve got to be engaged with the customer’s concerns and understand how you can serve them. Sales is hard mental work. You have to bring your A-game absolutely every time you reach out and touch a prospect.” - Andy Paul

Too often, salespeople have a set list of questions to ask, and they spend so much time thinking about crossing off each question that the customer feels their concerns are being ignored.

By focusing on listening to the customer’s needs rather than focusing on accomplishing your own agenda, you’ll put yourself in a better position to provide them with a proper solution and to win them over.

3. Treating all your prospects the same

Believe it or not, sales is a creative profession, one that requires salespeople constantly to be thinking about the best approach for a particular prospect rather than trotting out cookie-cutter tactics.

Salespeople need to be aware that the way prospects gather information, communicate and prefer to be sold to can vary wildly.

“Many salespeople want to find a process, something they can repeat that works. It just doesn’t work that way. It doesn’t mean that you need to do everything 180 degrees from each other, but you have to be aware that they are different,” - Andy Paul

Approach prospects with an open mind, so you can be ready to tackle anything they bring to the table.

4. Not selling to the right person

Salespeople can waste time by not connecting with the right decision makers within a prospect’s company — whether that’s selling to someone too far down the decision-making chain who will still need to get buy-in, or bypassing the true decision maker in an attempt to sell to the C-suite. (The latter is a big problem.)

“A lot of times, sales training uniformly tells sales reps that they need to ‘sell to the C- suite. It really does a disservice to the salesperson to make them think that they really need to oversell this product when the actual decision makers are much lower.” - Andy Paul

Before going in, salespeople need to conduct research, whether on the company’s website or via social media, to ensure they reach the best possible person for the job at hand.

Making accurate contacts will avoid the initial message from getting diluted or lost down the line, as it’s passed on from person to person.

5. Letting email rule the day

Many salespeople have been trained to jump at every incoming email, but that can create an unproductive rhythm of reacting throughout the day, rather than prioritizing the work that should take precedence.

Instead of letting email rule the day, Heiman trains her clients to turn off notifications and check email at certain intervals. She recommended that salespeople spend time first thing in the morning, prioritizing which tasks are important and doing those first.

“After that, you can take an hour and you check your email,” Heiman said.

6. Doing work that should be delegated

Spending time and energy on tasks that are outside the salesperson’s job description is another bad habit.

When Heiman noticed a client’s sales team entering their own orders — a task that customer service was supposed to be doing — she learned that the salespeople had gotten into the habit because customer service was taking too long.

Once sales and customer service had agreed on a deadline for order entry, the sales team was freed up to spend more time on the phone.

“We also taught customer service to let the salesperson know that the order had been typed in, so the salespersons could stop worrying about that,. Because worrying takes up time, too.” - Alice Heiman

Delegating tasks that are specific to a team member’s strengths will eliminate unnecessary burden and create a smoother, more efficient workflow.

7. Poor time management

Time spent not selling is a huge problem, Heiman added.

When she worked with one client to analyze their time, she found they spent less than 20% of it actually having conversations with customers.

“Salespeople are busy every minute, but they’re not always doing the right work. They really need to prioritize all the work that they’re doing, schedule the priority work on the calendar, then fit everything else in around it.” - Alice Heiman

If you are looking to get rid of bad sales habits, develop good sales habits, and boost your sales producivity, a sales management tool like Pipedrive offers a streamline visual pipeline that motivates actions, and helps you and your team complete the activities needed to close more deals faster.

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