Everyone procrastinates once in a while, some more than others. But sales is such a results-driven field that sales reps really can’t afford to procrastinate that much – their win rates and conversion rates will decrease quickly and they will no longer be an asset to the team.

Procrastination is caused by fear of failure and/or of success, according to Jane Burka, author of “Procrastination: Why You Do It; What to Do About It.”

  • Fear of failure: Some reps might put off achieving difficult goals because they think it is better to fail by putting off work than by lacking the ability to achieve it.

  • Fear of success: Some reps might be afraid success will bring with new, more demanding expectations. For example, reps might put off their prospecting calls because they think if they consistently reach or beat their cold calling goals, they might be expected to exceed higher goals in the future.

How to confront your reps about it

It can be tough to see a sales rep underachieve and fail to reach his or her potential, but remember that procrastination is not just frustrating for you – it is also frustrating for the very members of your team responsible for it. It can cause guilt, anxiety, and self-loathing.

Being a procrastinator is not the same as being lazy. You can’t just yell at them or tell them to stop it. If fixing procrastination were that easy, it wouldn’t be such a popular problem! Instead, adopt the attitude of helping your reps individually deal with their productivity issues.

When you notice low productivity, sit down with the rep in question and help them using your creative problem-solving skills. Allow your reps to be completely honest about their circumstances so you can build a foundation of trust with them. This does not come by punishing them, humiliating them, or ignoring the basis of their procrastination issues. Show them you care about getting them focused, and then show them how to get focused so they can keep their jobs.

Getting your reps focused

  • Help them prioritize their tasks. Sit down with them one-on-one to talk about which tasks they should prioritize and what they have trouble focusing on. Help them come up with a plan to increase productivity and break big, daunting tasks into manageable chunks.

  • Teach them to block out their day. Blocking several 45-minute or hour-long time periods in their day to do nothing but make sales calls can be very effective – and they can take guilt-free breaks in between. They should close their email during those productive time blocks.

  • Set daily activity goals. Schedule their call report to be sent to you every day at noon, listing all your rep’s dials up to that point. Set a goal with the rep for how many dials they want to have done by noon. When they are held accountable by that report, they are more likely to do it.

  • Advise them to schedule unpleasant tasks for high-energy times of day. Not a morning person? Get sluggish in the afternoon? We all have those times of day when our energy is highest and lowest. Identify what your rep’s energy level is like during different times of day, and suggest they make a habit of scheduling unpleasant activities during their high-energy hours.

  • Encourage socializing during lunch breaks. Chances are, most reps on your team are friends and they have the urge to socialize constantly. Encourage them to hang out with one another during their lunch breaks, but keep focused during the rest of the day.

  • Coach them to develop skills that increase their confidence of succeeding. It is a sales management best practice to give your reps the tools to succeed. When you invest in their professional development, they will be more excited about doing their job well.

What tips do you have for helping your sales reps fight off procrastination?

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