Face Time

Its Tuesday, do you know here your salesman is?

If you are a business owner or manager responsible for growing the sales of a product or service and you are using an outside sales force to visit potential customers, you should be tracking customer face time.

The amount of time that your sales person spends visiting customers or prospects, face-to-face, is a required contributor to sales growth. A sales person can only affect the outcome of a competitive sales process by presenting his case in person, face to face, with the person making the decision. A customer’s mind can’t be changed over the phone or via email. You can only show a product or it’s applications in person. Webex does not allow the customer to touch your product! Face time has increasing importance as the value of the order increases. Managers and owners should be prepared to manage the salesperson’s time to maximize customer face time.

How does your outside sales staff spend its time?

The graph below shows the results of a survey that was conducted to measure what an industrial salesman did during an average week. We received data from 100 industrial salespersons, tracking their time over a 2-week period. We asked them to log their weekly activities in the seven categories shown. The amount of time they averaged in front of customers was an incredibly low 10 hours per week! The remainder of the time was consumed with duties that could be loosely attributed with sales, but not with selling.

Outside Sales Activities Graph

It is easy to see that there is room for improvement. Some duties that consume the salesman’s time can be done by others, (at a lower cost) allowing the salesman more time to get in front of the customer. Improving geographic territory management can reduce driving time, making travel more efficient. Inside sales should prepare most of the quotes and proposals. Perhaps a focus on fewer customers with higher potential will stimulate more time.

Frequently, outside sales are the most under-managed employees in a company. Many owners attempt to manage the sales force by measuring sales numbers and achievement to annual goals. Management by sales results can be ineffective with some employees. Studies have shown that a little more supervision will not reduce creativity but will increase sales.

Industrial sales persons who are superstars will average 15 to 20 hours of face time a week. They spend time prospecting every day. They prepare for every sales call. The customers welcome these sales persons, as time is not wasted. These sales people are not typical as our survey shows. Your challenge is to improve the entire sales force.

Light BulbIDEA: Implement a plan to measure more than just your salesman’s sales. Measure what is being done to get there. Measure customer face time as one of the parameters to measure activity. Be careful! Just by telling the sales staff that you are measuring face time will force the number to go up! Some of the reporting will of course be exaggerated. Explain that you are trying to understand how the whole organization spends its time so that you can maximize efforts that will increase sales. Determine your roadblocks to customer visits.

Key Factors

Key factors to increase face time include a combination of thorough sales call planning and prospecting. Obtaining appointments is a very tough part of the sales persons job. Telephone skills must be enhanced to make prospecting easier. Customers want to hear about the products and services that will save them money. Get your team to create a message that gets customer attention.

Some of these challenges are sales skills issues that can only be fixed with regular attention over an extended period. Sales management today requires the measurement of more than just sales to goal or plan. You must measure sales activity and manage it to grow. Face time is a key indicator.

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