We are constantly asked to do more in less time. We are asked to increase prospecting activity, increase the number of appointments we run and increase sales. Sometimes it may feel like you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place, when the hours in your workweek are always the same! These are some simple changes you can make to your daily routine to dramatically benefit your productivity.
Effective time management is an essential part of success in sales. Here’s how you can make it happen:
Schedule Your Prospecting
This may seem fundamental, but prospecting needs to become habit. Creating a habit begins with a conscious effort to perform a behavior. In our extremely busy days, weeks and months, that conscious effort usually needs to be scheduled. This means creating preplanned time to attack your prospective client base. In the same way you would schedule meetings, a time to go jogging or even your lunch hour, scheduling prospecting ensures you hit the necessary number of calls to be successful.
Because cold calls, in person calls and emails to new prospects are not the most enjoyable responsibilities we have as salespeople, they have a tendency to get pushed by the wayside. This planning will sustain your sales pipeline and prevent droughts. Schedule time to prospect and read Sales Engine’s tips on ways to prospect like a sales pro.
Schedule Administrative Time
Our least favorite part of being in sales is performing non-revenue generating activities such as: handling customer issues, processing sales paperwork, etc. Scheduling a specific time each day to handle these issues will save you time and relieve some stress.
Handling time consuming issues that pop up during the day is not always optimal. If a customer needs your help with a complicated request, don’t drop what you’re doing to address it. We all want to take great care of our customers. However, wasting too much time and energy trying to switch back and forth from task to task will leave you drained. Scheduling one hour per day, say from 4pm-5pm, to handle any issues that accumulate throughout the day can work wonders. Whether it’s turning in sales paperwork or responding to in depth customer concerns, simply wait until that hour to process it. That way you are able to truly focus on cold calling or running appointments with no opportunity for distraction.
Zone Your Calendar
If you are in outside sales, zoning your calendar is by far the most effective thing you can do to be more productive during the workday. Each zone is a different geographical location you can prospect in. As a sales rep, you should only work in one zone per day. Using the “4 day work week” method to divide your territory into 4 zones can be a great starting point. By having 4 zones and 5 days in a work week it allows you to hit every zone on different days each week. Here is an example calendar with 4 zones.
The primary reason for zoning your calendar is to minimize your time in-between each meeting and each cold call. By breaking your territory up into geographical zones, and only working in one zone per day, you should have hardly any wasted time driving long distances.
Now in order for this to work properly you must be assertive when scheduling appointments with customers. Too often we as sales reps jump at the opportunity to meet with a prospect. We tend to schedule the appointment at the most convenient time for them but don’t consider whether or not it is convenient for us. You MUST learn to only schedule appointments with prospects on days that you will be in their geographical zone. If you can reach 5 prospects in 30 minutes, and by using this strategy you free up an hour and a half per day, you are allowing yourself to make 15 extra cold calls per day. Your time is valuable and your sales success depends on using your time wisely.
Keep Email in Check
No this does not mean check your email every time your phone vibrates! Checking email only a few key times per day has numerous benefits. Find several select times to process email, whether it’s first thing in the morning, once again during lunch, or during scheduled administrative time. This allows you to remain focused on the task at hand. Many sales professionals also recommend avoiding email in the morning and, instead, dedicate their time each morning to working on larger projects or initiatives. Whenever this email interval is, be sure to protect it and do what works for you.
If it takes less than 2 minutes, just do it!
Credit to David Allen, author of Getting Things Done, for this concept. Getting quick and easy tasks out of the way immediately can benefit your productivity enormously. Throughout the day we have small brief to-do’s that can be handled as they come up. This helps to unlock full creativity and productivity, rather than weighing yourself down with tons of minutia. Don’t be confused, anything requiring more than 2 minutes of attention should wait until schedule administrative blocks.
Quick tasks can include returning a phone call to briefly clarify information for someone, providing a quick answer to a question by email, or coordinating with a colleague to delegate a larger action item. These small tasks can pile up and create mental “noise” preventing us from unlocking our productivity and creative potential.
Create an Inbox
For the tasks that take longer than 2 minutes, create an inbox to draw from during your scheduled administrative time. Review each task and understand what can be delegated, what can be deferred until a later time, and what needs to be done. Delegate those tasks, schedule the deferred ones, and do the essentials. Lingering stress is frequently caused by our inability to manage incoming tasks this way. This system will help prevent your responsibilities from weighing down your productivity from day to day.
All of these simple changes when used in combination can increase sales, improve work life balance, and minimize unnecessary stress. We highly recommend adopting the ideas that fit your role and responsibilities.
What time management tips do you have for relatively inexperienced salespeople? How has your ability to effectively manage your time changed throughout your career?