Most sales producers have a paradigm set for how many selling calls they can make in a week, but it is often far from their potential. One way to shatter those misconceptions is for every sales producer to attempt one “stretch day” or “stretch week” each quarter—a day or week when they present to as many prospects as humanly possible. What will result is a host of innovations on how to improve productivity and increase sales.

Determine the appropriate length of time. The benefit of an entire week is that if sales reps go that long at a much higher level of productivity, they are likely to see how much closer their regular weeks could come to this stretch level of productivity. For example, with one client, I knew that the more productive reps could see as many as 15 appointments per week with no problem. The perception though with most reps was that eight to 10 appointments would be a “good week,” and the average for many was just five appointments a week. This doesn’t sound like very many, but in this company’s high-ticket industry where very high incomes were possible, reps could get away with low productivity and still be “surviving” with enough commissions.

I would first challenge the reps at each location to consider what they thought to be the absolute maximum number of appointments they could see in a stretch week. The reps answered 12 to 15. I then challenged them with the idea that if they had two or more weeks to prepare for the stretch week, and if they aimed to book five breakfasts, five lunches and five cocktail hours, that would be 15, and they would still have the hours of 9 a.m. to noon and 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. to schedule even more appointments. “Couldn’t you fit at least another 10 in those slots, if not 20?” I asked. After that, with the help of a creative competition, incentives and the offloading of some low-priority work, it was common for many reps to see 20 to 25 appointments during their stretch week.

These are not numbers we expected them to maintain, but in every case, the stretch experience had been done and they could never go back to the same paradigm. More importantly, they would maintain an increased level of productivity throughout their career.

Here are some points to remember as you facilitate your own stretch process:

  • Begin with a focus on the innovation process. Emphasize that it’s not the people that are broken but the process. Remind them of the urgency of your situation and the strategic growth objectives.
  • Share with the team the current best practices and the productivity levels of your most productive reps.
  • Challenge your team regarding what they think is the maximum possible number of calls.
  • Create competition, incentives and a sense of fun around the process.
  • Give plenty of time for participants to “stack” their stretch days or week. There is nothing wrong with taking three weeks to pack a week to the max. They will end up increasing productivity on both sides of a stretch week.
  • Implement the innovations and pull in others to support sales in this process.
  • Celebrate and analyze your successes so that you can scale them across the team.

Consider making stretch days/weeks a regular practice, but be very careful not to conduct them too frequently. They can easily burn people out if improperly used. Bottom line, any stretch in the process of work can help to transform individuals and innovate the processes of work, ultimately transforming your bottom line.