Last week a humbling episode reminded me of something really important about success in B2E sales. This is a direct sales business. Voice to voice, face to face, rep to administrator direct sales. You must dirty your hands with the real business of selling. I found success this week by not only getting my hands dirty but my shoes—actually my entire outfit!

I was on the road last week, trying to get a beachhead with a large and difficult to crack school district. I have been prospecting the district at all levels but have thus far turned up only one little scheduled appointment with a K-8 building principal. Knowing this is how most of my best district sales have begun, I hit the road and got ready to dazzle her. The meeting couldn’t have started better. After a nice volley establishing their needs, pain points and discovering they are a perfect fit for us, I launched my demo. Curve ball — the internet was down and I was getting no cell service bars. It was a perfect weather day so rather than go to the fallback slide deck, we agreed to venture outdoors for a stronger signal.

She in casual attire, me in a suit and heels, we walked a wood-chipped path all the way to the playground benches. I lost the heel off one of my pumps somewhere past the monkey bars, but acted as if nothing happened. Except for a little difficulty with lighting, the demo went great and she was hooked. She envisioned a particular teacher would take on a first year pilot, so she led me back inside where she could trade places with the teacher. This (also sneakered) gal and I ventured outside, where she proceeded to stretch out on the wet grass under a shade tree. They live in a state which has very little good weather, so I’m just assuming they are using me for any chance to breathe fresh air. That or they were testing my resiliency like the prospective step mom in the “Freaky Friday” camping scene. Either way I am well up to the challenge, so down I semi-gracefully sit/kneel wondering if my jacket goes with any other pants I own as the best dry cleaner on the planet is not going to be able to save them. The teacher loved my product and the order was processing by the very next day.

Several morals to the story: 1) It’s essential to get on the map in large districts no matter what it takes. These “domino” accounts build a success story within that district’s walls, giving you leverage that competitors that are only knocking on the district office’s door cannot compete with. 2) No one should be “above” a small sale or doing field work. I’ve had a lot of success at all levels of B2E management, but I still have the patience and humility to sit in the mud for a $900 sale. This is how I help startups become your competition, so be careful about looking past small opportunities. 3) Winning sales is, quite literally in this case, about dirtying your hands. If you’re relying on Marketing or your website or a trade show booth to create opportunities for you, you’re under-serving your territory. You need to make calls, personal emails, stop in, get an introduction–splash through the mud if you must–to get face to face or voice to voice with prospects. The personal connection and your efforts to service a prospect no matter how odd the circumstance endears you to educators in ways that result in purchase orders.

It mystifies me how reps can spend the lion’s share of their day doing anything but direct sales activities, and then not understand why they are missing goal. They chat with their manager and with one another. They make product suggestions and look for trade shows to attend. They workup free trial concepts and discount plans. And somewhere around 4 pm they finally send out a few follow up emails to opportunities an ace rep would know are dead ends. This is not the roadmap to success.

A best practice to keep anyone on track is to try tracking your time on a timesheet. When I was a fresh college grad I joined a PR agency where all account executives kept a billing time sheet on our desk all week. Your goal is to bill 8 hours a day to clients, so you track your time in 15 minute increments. I know you likely all track your sales activities in a CRM, but it doesn’t give you the same view as a weekly look back at your week in time blocks. You don’t have to detail it out, just color in or X the 15 minute increments that were prospecting, holding new business meetings, or other direct sales work. Travel to and from a sales call gets marked with a “T.” Travel time is part of any field rep’s job but being efficient with it can really increase your productivity, hence commissions. Be honest with yourself about what percent of your time goes to beating the bushes and what percent is administrative or just floats away on research or chit chat. Increase that dirty work and you’ll increase those sales!

A few hours from a time log: template:

sample time log

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