By Matthew Schwartz
In the recently released movie “The Informant!” Mark Whitacre (Matt Damon), does voice-over stream of consciousness assessing his time-saving habits (“I’ll even floss in the shower while the conditioner is in my hair”).
Whitacre, who in the 1990s blew the whistle on Archer Daniels Midland’s price-fixing tactics, may have struggled with bipolar disorder and defrauded $9 million from his own company, but, hey, every second counts when you’re trying to save time.
Flossing in the shower is probably something sales execs can appreciate. Aside from establishing new leads and closing deals, time management is the biggest challenge facing salespeople these days. Sales veteran Nancy Nardin thinks the situation is starting to get particularly acute.
It’s so bad that Nardin has started ‘The 215 Movement,’ an effort to identify the countless things that eat up the 215 days a year of actual selling available to sales executives, according to Nardin’s estimate.
Take away weekends, holidays, sick days, non-selling meetings and travel, sales execs end up with on average only 18 days a month to dig up prospects, advance the process, and seal the deal, or 215 days annually. “I want to throw a bucket of cold water on sales managers to wake them up that anything that takes away from pure selling activity is going to have a negative impact on sales,” said Nardin, founder and editor of SmartSellingTools.com, who was in sales for 20 years before launching her Web site; she also blogs about sales.
Sales managers have to “understand that these things are a nuisance even though they are critical to getting the job done,” Nardin added. “They have to put a list of these nuisances together and then systematically determine how to do them more efficiently.”
Some of the major culprits of time suck, er “215 killers,” include searching the Web for a contact name; finding the right collateral; coordinating meetings and planning a sales trip.
“It’s not a matter of multitasking – updating the sales force while you check the status of an order – but finding a way to do these things more efficiently using readily available tools,” Nardin said. She estimates that up to 75% of a salesperson’s time is wasted on administrative tasks. “Imagine the productivity increase if sales managers could get that down by even 15%?”
A major stumbling block is sales executives conditioned into thinking that search engines are a surefire way to find these tools. “It’s difficult and time-consuming, at best, to find sales productivity tools with a Google search,” Nardin said. “What search terms would you use?”
She added that sales managers first need to look at all the time killers collectively and then figure out how to reduce the amount of time needed for each specific task. ”Save those precious few selling days for real selling. Only then will you see real productivity gains.”