How Recurring Productivity Audits Can Improve Your Team’s Output

By: Phil Stern  |  July 13, 2020

When was the last time you took inventory of your calendar? How about your team members’ calendars? Do you know exactly how you and your team are spending your time? 

We tend to add a lot more to our weeks than we subtract. Take on a new mentee? Sure. Join this committee? I’d hate to miss it. Hold a cross-functional 1:1? You’ve got to invest in those relationships! 

On their own, each of these merit our attention. But the issue arises when our calendars fill up. This kills our productivity because we’re constantly distracted and never able to let our minds rest.  

It’s like the story of the frog in the pot of boiling water. If you drop the frog into boiling water, it jumps right out. But if you put it into a pot of cold water and turn on the heat, it will stay there while the water begins to dangerously boil around it. (Side note: has anyone ever actually fact-checked this? Asking for a friend.) 

My point is—it’s easy to say “no” when our schedules are already full. But as soon as we see a gap in our schedules, it’s all too tempting to fill it. Being busy feels good because we feel important. Plus, it’s hard to drop commitments.  

The real danger is when we let this mentality trickle down to our team. As seasoned pros in leadership positions, we have the training, resources and wherewithal to understand when our productivity is shot. But our reps need to be protected. Selling is hard enough. We don’t need external factors eating into our team’s time because the truth is—we can’t afford for their productivity to be undermined. 

Do your reps have time to be productive? 

Ask yourself: how many of the following are your reps spending time on every week? 

  • Company meetings 
  • Department meetings 
  • Team meetings 
  • Forecast huddles 
  • 1:1s 
  • Pulling data to prep for meetings 
  • Trainings 
  • Product updates 
  • Internal chat tools or non-sales email 
  • Inefficient processes in your CRM or other sales tools 

Add to that any recurring calendar item I’ve missed. Estimate how much time each item requires, then add it all up. Subtract that number from the 45-50 hour week you ask of your reps.  

What you have remaining is the time they have to sell.  

It’s frightening. But let’s not waste time worrying about the mess we’ve created; let’s just fix it.  

Help your reps improve their productivity  

  1. Decide how much selling time each of your reps needs each week. Given their quotas, opportunity volume, sales activity and admin time, how much time does a rep need to sell in order to exceed their target and help you grow your business? 
  2. Inventory the calendars of your reps, managers and directors. Do they have the selling time they need? What meetings are on their calendar? What is essential (hint: it’s less than you think)? What can be eliminated (hint: it’s more than you think)? What appointments make no sense at all?  
  3. Use your findings to develop prioritization. Don’t equivocate. If a meeting isn’t essential, ask them to cancel it. Change sync meetings from weekly to monthly. Shorten team meetings. 
  4. Communicate this prioritization to the floor. Your message should be: “Spend 75% of your time on selling activities, 20% on your own development and leave 5% unstructured (take a mental break, get a snack, go for a walk).” Do not leave your prioritization up for interpretation or meetings will find their way back in.  
  5. Run quarterly productivity audits. You’ve set a new baseline, you’ve made requirements clear, and you can check in during 1:1s. But you still need to go back and audit calendars and commitments each quarter. 

Maintain productivity: demonstrate and reinforce good behavior 

Don’t let this productivity audit be a one-time initiative. Even before you go down the road of inventorying calendars and resetting priorities, pre-schedule quarterly productivity audits to force checkpoints on your journey. Use those checkpoints as opportunities to reset productivity for both yourself and your reps.  

And remember to practice what you preach. If your reps see you overcommitting, they will want to emulate your behavior. If they see you deliberately under-scheduling yourself to optimize productivity, not only will they mimic the behavior—they might also gain some respect for you. 

Phil is a Operating Principal at Mainsail Partners. He leads the firm’s Center of Excellence for Sales and is responsible for helping Mainsail’s portfolio companies optimize their growth strategies and deploy sales practices.
More by Phil Stern
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