The sales process is an intricate, never-ending game of mental jiu-jitsu. It’s job that requires you to flex between processes at a moment’s notice. One minute, you’re on the phone with a prospect to answering question. Five minutes after you hang up, you may get a new lead that you didn’t expect. The more time you spend talking to prospects, the less time you have to follow-up to emails, update your customer relationship management (CRM) system, and send proposals. If you’re not careful, you may end up in perpetual context-switching-mode.
So what does that mean?
Context-switching is another term for multi-tasking. As humans, it’s easy to trick ourselves into thinking that this juggling act is a good thing. But research shows that the constant switching of mental modes can be a brain drain.
According to behavioral psychologist Susan Weinschenk, context-switching causes people to lose up to 40% of their productivity. If you’re “on a teleconference call, writing up your quality report, checking your email, and texting your friend about where you are meeting for lunch,” you could be struggling with the following, without even realizing it:
In order to think faster, act faster, and close more details in sales, you need to minimize the amount of context-switching that you do. Put more time, upfront, into planning so that you can execute more efficiently. Below, we’ve put together easy-to-implement, straightforward, and highly impactful workflow recommendations that will help.
Use these tips to set up processes for your sales team. Or, share this blog post with individual sales reps, so they can implement their own processes.
As a sales rep, it’s easy to fall into a mode where you’re reacting to every opportunity in front of you. Don’t fall into this trap: not all deals are created equally and worth the same level of investment. It doesn’t make sense to exhaust yourself from pursuing a $10K deal, when you can spend a little more time carrying through the $100K one. Both deals are important, however, so how do you optimize your time?
To avoid context-switching and the resulting brain-drain, you need to develop intelligent processes. Here are a few tips to guide you:
As the person responsible for managing a deal pipeline, it’s up to you to shepherd your prospecting from discovery through transaction. What’s tough is that sales cycles tend to have many twists and turns. You may need to take multiple meetings and answer many questions over email, for instance. With every touchpoint, however, there’s still an opportunity to move conversations forward.
When you define your sales stages upfront, you always know “what’s next.” With this bigger-picture in mind, you can have more productive conversations that align with business goals.
It can take some time to align the team around a sales process, he explains. For instance, Jose’s team was following only about 40-50% of the process as defined. The biggest problems were the movements between the stages. Common problems included:
Team alignment around the stages and movement between them is key.
“We had periodic refresher trainings on this process to keep the team’s memory fresh,” he says.
This process is also known as lead scoring, in which each prospect that enters your funnel receives a metric based on how relevant and valuable they are to your business.
“Lead scoring is a shared sales and marketing methodology for ranking leads in order to determine their sales-readiness,” writes Katie Byrnes in a tutorial for Marketo.
What’s important to remember about lead scoring is that metrics are subjective. The numbers you choose to prioritize your prospects will depend on the unique considerations of your business. If you’re interested in developing a lead scoring process for your sales team (or yourself), Marketo has put together a guide and cheat sheet, here.
There’s a popular concept in engineering: if you do something more than once (or on a regular basis), you can probably automate it. The benefits of automation are that you can reduce the mental bandwidth that’s required to execute something over and over.
Engineers are lucky in that they can write code, every time they want to make a process more efficient. As a sales leader, it may not make sense to write your own code—you weren’t trained as an expert programmer, after all.
Instead of reinventing the wheel, venture out to find tools that solve your problem. Or, spend time browsing lists of tools that you can bring into your routine. To get started, Saleshacker put together a list of 160, here.
You need to conserve your mental horsepower for the complex work of building human relationships—and to save your valuable email and phone time for your highest-impact opportunities. Getting to a point where you can effectively prioritize, however, takes some creativity and adjustments to your workflows.
Sales is all about communication. That’s why context switching creates so much friction. When you’re switching between email, phone, video, and all of your CRM systems, you may feel like you’re getting a lot done. The reality, however, is that details are likely falling through the cracks.
It may seem counterintuitive, but the key to acting faster is to spend less time acting and more time planning in advance. When you set up systems for your work, you’ll cut town tedious tasks and automate the repetitive ones.
When you anticipate what you want to say and take the time to learn in advance—committing key details to memory—you’ll increase your situational awareness and agility as a sales leader.
Here are 2 tips to help your sales team act faster:
Sounds counterintuitive, doesn’t it?
Acting fast means thinking fast. When you’ve had time to plan what you want to say, your communication will be more effective and efficient. This means venturing into LinkedIn and Google to learn about your prospects.
What have they been up to? What’s going on from a company perspective? What can you say that will pique interest? There are a few resources that can help you bridge these gaps, so that you can communicate in ways that are on-point.
As one example, Crystal Knows is an app that helps you create personality profiles. In addition to researching what you need to say, you can figure out how to say it. This tool will help you write email copy, especially, that is on-point. It will help you learn how to get your point across, more effectively, in conversation.
There are many more tools available to help you work through the challenge of research. We could round them up here, but other companies have done a better job getting their lists and resources organized (roundups aren’t for the faint of heart: they take hours to organize). Here are a few to get you started:
Use these resources to take the hard work out of research—when you do this hard work up front, you’ll act faster in the moment. Over time, as you gain more knowledge, you’ll be able to act even faster.
Don’t have time to write emails? Then don’t write them. As a sales leader, you take on an alter ego as a pattern recognition machine. Most likely, you’re having the same questions over and over again.
Every time you write email copy, save it as part of a template. You can even set up workflows through your customer relationship management (CRM) software to populate these emails. When you need to respond to a prospect, you can do so in a pitch. Because you’ve mapped out your sales stages in tip #1, you’ll be able to connect dots between your messaging and big-picture goals.
If you’re looking for a resource to help you level-up your cold email copywriting skills, check out this cold email mastery course from SalesFolk. Learn how creative writing techniques can make your sales process easier.
Skeptical that the tips above will work? Not sure whether it’s worth it to put in the upfront time building processes? Hold yourself accountable by focusing on the impact to your key metric: the ability to close more deals. Following steps 1-5, you’ll influence a number of processes that impact the time it takes to close a deal, the number of prospects in your pipeline, and the size of each transaction. You’ll sell more with less selling.
That’s every sales leader’s dream.