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October 02, 2018 | Coach’s Corner | Greg Martinelli

Efficiency vs. Effectiveness

Which is better? Can you have both?

When coaching salespeople, the number one thing they tell me they want more of is time.

This usually leads to a time management discussion. The focus of most time management discussions turns to efficiency.

Most efficiency discussions come up with ways to get more done in less time or with less effort. These are all great, except for one detail – people. Sales is a people business and with people, efficient isn’t always effective.

In his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey tells us "with people, fast is slow and slow is fast.”

His point is that being efficient isn’t always the best answer when dealing with people and building relationships. You may get a lot of tasks done by being efficient, yet fail to achieve the results you are looking for.

The struggle for all of us is that we are all given a set amount of time … 24 hours in a day and only 8-10 of them when we can reach our customers.

In agribusiness, we meet face to face and farm to farm over a large geography. We meet in feed mills and grain elevators over several states. To physically accomplish our jobs, we have to be efficient with our travel time. However, to get results and sales, we have to be effective.

The key to being a successful ag sales professional is to balance these two factors. As with many decisions in sales, the answer is not always black and white.

That’s the skill and knowledge you learn and develop over the years as a salesperson. Take some time to review the two sides of the below areas and challenge yourself, “Am I trying to be too efficient and not achieving results?” or "Am I trying to be too effective and not getting in front of enough customers?”

Balancing efficiency & effectiveness

  • Sending a broadcast email vs. picking up the phone and calling

We can get a lot done with a keyboard and the click of a mouse and I’m in no way saying to eliminate email or texting activity. However, when the stakes are high or you have a complicated message, think about picking up the phone and spending a little more time on this message.

If you don’t have time to call every single customer, then consider calling your top customers or those most affected by the topic.

  • Calling on all customers  vs. only calling on those that need to be 

While you are in Clay County, you might as well call on all those customers in Clay County. Why not? You might not be back for a month or more.

The reason not to is lost opportunity time.

Question yourself on who needs to be called on and who doesn’t. Every customer doesn’t need nor deserve a farm call. You have to balance the ROI of your time.

Will a sales call move the ball forward with this customer? Will it result in more sales, continued sales, a better relationship? If the answer to these questions is “no” or even “probably not," then seriously challenge the need to go see them.

Other questions to ask yourself: Do I call on every customer every time I'm in the area? Has it been a long time since I called on them? If I call on this customer, which customer will I not call on to make time for this call?

  • My Monday customer route vs. scheduling customers and prospects based on priority

Many people love a routine. It feels organized, helps us plan and makes decision making easier. However, I’ve seen this be a sales limiting practice for many.  

If you have a small geographic area and have signed up all the customers you want or can, then this strategy might be a good fit.

I ran across this with a sales team that had one-county territories. Their prospecting list was very limited, so they set every customer up on a day of the week for a sales call. Again, this made life very easy for them to plan. As I began coaching them, however, it was difficult to work in prospecting time or spend more time with higher value customers.

As you sit down on Sunday night and look at your calendar for the upcoming week, challenge yourself on the above three spectrums.

  1. Where do you tend to become overly efficient at the expense of being effective?
  2. Where do you try to be overly effective at the expense of being efficient and reaching more customers?
  3. What would happen if you challenged your opinion on where you need to go and who you need to call on?

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