Mark Dembo

Article Summary:

How to the most successful sales people spend their time, and how can you improve your own performance?

Improve your Sales Performance

One of the most effective ways to improve in sales, or in any are of your life for that matter, is to model the behaviors of what people who are already successful doing it are doing! Think about it.

What do you do when you want to learn a new skill? Do you try to figure it all out yourself, or do you turn to the experts? Let’s say you want to learn to play golf. The best way to go about it would be to take some lessons from a golf pro – to learn the best way to hold your club and hit the ball. Then, to hone your skills you could watch the pros – look at what they do, and then model their behavior. Of course, another option would be to pick up a set of clubs, go out on the green, and just try to figure out for yourself how to do it. Which approach is likely to be more successful? (Don’t say the second approach!)

The same thing hold true in sales. If you want to improve your skills, look at what other highly successful people do and how they spend their time. And then, do the same things that they do.

So then, exactly how do successful spend their time, you ask? A survey conducted of salespeople who consistently performed in the Top 10% of their respective companies shows the following:

Successful salespeople spend 45% of their time in prospecting activities. That’s right; 45%. Cold Calling, networking, researching new companies and people to speak to is the single biggest area of time spent in sales activity. The lesson here is that even once you’ve achieved a certain level of success in sales, you can’t stop prospecting. Consistent prospecting is one of the most important things you can do to get and TO STAY successful.

20% of the successful salesperson’s time is spent in front of prospects – understanding what the prospect does, and presenting solutions as to how their product or service can help the prospect.

Product Knowledge/Product Malleability
Another 20% of time is spent on activities and skills related to product knowledge and product malleability.

There is an important distinction between product knowledge and product malleability: product knowledge means understanding the technical side of what your product or service does or how it works. For example, if you were selling computer software, product knowledge means that you have a basic understanding of how to operate the software, and what it is capable of. It would mean that you understand the technical requirements in terms of hardware and peripherals necessary to run the software you are selling.

Product Malleability, on the other hand, takes product knowledge to much higher level. In the realm of product malleability, you spend time studying the real-world application and uses of your product or service. It means understanding how your product can be adapted and used in a variety of situations that may not always be immediately obvious to the prospect. Product Malleability requires a much more subtle and thorough understanding of both what you are selling and of what your prospect does. To think of it another way, product malleability is a customer-focused, higher level version of product knowledge.

Consistently successful people spend a good deal of their time acquiring this skill and knowledge.

Personal and Professional Development
Successful salespeople spend 15% of their time honing their skills through classes, workshops, books, tapes, meeting with mentors and any other things that will help them improve. They make a consistent, concerted effort to find ways to improve on an ongoing basis. They don’t say "I know all there is to know." They recognize that no matter how successful or experienced they are, there is always room to improve – and they put forth the effort to improve their own skills.

Many of the salespeople that I share this with are surprised by some of these results. They are surprised to see experienced, successful salespeople spending so much of their time in prospecting activities. The thinking goes "Hey, once I’ve reached a certain level of experience and success, the business should just flow to me; I can be successful just on repeat and referral business. I don’t need to prospect." In fact, people who take that attitude are the ones that plateau and stagnate after a few years.

And, the people that believe they know all there is to know about their products, and abut selling are the very same ones that will just barely make their own quotas.

How Do You Measure Up?
How are you spending your time? Take a look at your own activities and ask yourself how you balance these four key selling activities. If you find that you’re not spending your time in a similar fashion, you may want to take a hard look at where your time is being spent.

As a professional salesperson, your time is your biggest asset, and something that you can’t bank or recover once it’s gone. Aim to spend your time in these key areas, and you will make this your best year ever!

Mark Dembo; President, Lexien Management Consultants. Mark has over 20 years of sales, sale management, and business development experience, focused on improving the performance of individuals and organizations. Lexien Management Consultants provides sales training, consulting, and coaching services to organizations and individuals who are motivated to grow their businesses. Lexien works with companies in a wide range of industries including technology, financial services, media and publishing, public relations, telecommunications, and professional services, Mark also publishes the weekly Sales Success Newsletter. You can contact Mark at 914-682-2069, or at

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