You have probably heard of the Pareto Principle, even if you are not aware that it had a name. In a nutshell, the Pareto Principle is the 80/20 rule. For salespeople, this means that roughly 80% of your sales come from 20% of your customers. It also suggests that 80% of your problems come from 20% of your clients. While the ratio may vary from person to person, this principle has been proven fairly consistently since it’s inception in 1906.
For years, many sales gurus have suggested using the Pareto Principle to boost your sales and increase your income.
If the average dental sales rep calls on about 60 accounts, 12 of those accounts should account for 80% of your sales. There are also probably another 12 accounts that contribute almost nothing to your bottom line but consume a lot of time. You know the type of practice I’m talking about - the dentists that are always asking for a quote but never make a purchase, the single dentist who works alone, or the office that is really friendly and has great conversations with you but only buys one item.
You may think of some of those accounts as potential prospects, but mathematically speaking they are dead weight, consuming time and resources that could be better spent servicing your top clients, looking for new clients, or with your family and friends.
I understand that most sales reps don’t want to drop clients. For one thing, we have always been taught that we should not burn bridges, because you never know when your phone will ring and you will be asked to set up an entire clinic. Also, most sales people are positive and upbeat, always thinking that the next time they call on an account is going to be the time that you close a big sale or get a great lead. Finally, sales people are people-people, and you may enjoy the time you spend visiting with those underperforming accounts. After all, much of the dental business is about relationships, right? Some sales reps may not have a lot of new prospects to call on; their accounts are handed out to them by a sales manager and they cling to them because they may not get a replacement. I understand these arguments. However, you are not just a salesperson, you are a business person, and you must do everything that you can to increase your productivity.
First, free up your time. Immediately drop the bottom 20% (or 10%, or 5%) of your clients. Tell them that you have been reassigned, or that you have to come by less often, or simply state that you are making your business more efficient and have to move on. There is no reason to be rude or to alienate the dentist; just thank them and move on.
Next, make more effective use of that time.
1. Swap accounts with another sales rep. This works very well for reps in urban areas. Swap your bottom 20% with another sales person from your office. See if a new face can gain new ground. Set some ground rules such as short-term commission sharing just in case they really do ask you to set up a new office.
2. Call on your most productive clients more frequently. Who made the rule that you can only call on your offices once a week? I know of several top sales reps that visit their best accounts at the beginning and the end of the week.
3. Learn more. Devote more time to learning about new dental products.
4. Market more. Develop a newsletter for your clients. Sign up to Twitter or Facebook and reach out to your clients. Set up a golf tournament with a one million dollar hole in one prize (the insurance for this type of event is surprisingly inexpensive).
5. Find new clients. Look in the phone book, drive through new developments, call on the local dental school and help the students.
6. Get in shape – studies have proven that salespeople who appear more fit and attractive actually get more sales
7. Spend more time relaxing or with friends and family. If you are very stressed, allowing yourself time to recharge may actually be the best thing that you can do – the increased focus and energy you display the next time you make your rounds just might be the factor that determines where your next big sale is going to come from.
8. Find a hobby. I have known dental sales reps who were so into the business of sales that clients thought that they were devoid of personality. Dental sales is truly a relationship business, and having a hobby to talk about can really improve your success. I started running about five years ago and I had clients who barely spoke to me suddenly open up to share their experiences and stories. It was truly remarkable.
Obviously, there are many other things that you could do with that free time. Have you ever dropped an account or a series of accounts? What did you do with that free time? Did losing dead weight in your territory make you a better rep?