“Time is money.” We all know that phrase. But, as a salesperson, your time really is money. You don’t get paid for the hours you put in. You get paid based on your results: the more you sell, the more money you make.
It’s easy to feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day. But the problem may not actually be a lack of time but how you use it. Effective time management is critical to sales success, but it is also one of the biggest challenges.
With multiple demands on your time and attention, limited resources and when you’re judged by results alone, you are constantly being pulled in different directions and battling distractions. On the plus side, you have way more control over your work and earnings than people in other industries.
Since you can’t add hours to your day, make the most of the ones you have. Using your time wisely will help you focus and, ultimately, boost your success. It’s one of the most useful skills a salesperson can have!
1. Track Your Time
When it comes to managing your time, the first step is to figure out where it goes. Most people are unaware of the habits that kill their productivity. If you’re suffering from too much to do and not enough time to do it, the best way to get it under control is to acknowledge and understand your habits. You can do this by tracking your time.
Try tracking specific tasks using an app like Toggl. If you think time’s getting away from you online, try using RescueTime to nudge you back toward productivity. If sprinting and resting suit your workflow, Pomodoro timers can help.
After a week, you should see some patterns emerging. Analyze your log to figure out where you can be more productive and adjust your activities accordingly.
2. Start With The End In Mind
People who set goals and monitor their progress perform 30% better than those who don’t. Having goals increases motivation and achievement. However, not just any goal will do. The more specific the goal, the greater the likelihood of success. A goal without a number and a timeframe is a wish.
Setting goals is only half the equation. You need feedback too. Monitoring your progress will show you how much you have accomplished as well as what corrections need to be made.
3. Focus on the 20%
Most people are familiar with the 80/20 Rule: 20% of your time produces 80% of your results. Rather than focusing on tasks that have little impact on your success, concentrate on the ones with maximum ROI. Then, look for ways to either outsource or batch those low-ROI activities.
Another way to think about the 80/20 Rule is, 80% of your sales will come from 20% of your customers. That’s true for a business, but many reps will have names on their list that will never buy and others that will become high-value, long-term customers. The sooner you can qualify, the better for you, so if you’re doing your own qualifying, do it hard and fast, batch it, and remember: if there’s an unqualified lead on the phone, you’re not actually selling. You’re either qualifying, or you’re just talking.
Image Source: Pareto principle applied to community fundraising by Siberianwarcat Wikimedia Commons
4. Batch Appointments
When you have a meeting outside the office, think about who else you could meet in the area. It seems obvious, but how often have you found yourself wasting time driving out of your way due to ineffective scheduling? Grid your territory and meet with prospects and catch up with current customers all within the same area. When you effectively manage your travel between appointments, you can meet with more prospective buyers, increasing your sales potential.
5. Stop Multitasking
You may think you’re being more productive, but studies have shown multitasking actually slows you down. Your brain can’t do two things at once. When you think you’re multitasking, your brain is actually darting from one task to another in rapid succession. As a result, you lose 40% productivity because the brain is constantly shifting gears and trying to focus. Not only does multitasking kill your efficiency and performance, it’s actually harmful. Prioritize your sales activities and focus on one thing at a time to maximize your success.
6. Batch Tasks
Grouping similar tasks together leads to greater productivity and efficiency. Block off a specific amount of time to make cold calls each day. Return calls at the same time each day rather than continually checking your voicemail all day long. Designate an hour or two in the afternoon for prospecting for the following day. Once the time is up, move on to another task. Scheduling activities this way improves your workflow because when you concentrate on one activity at a time, you become faster, better and more accurate.
7. Get To The No Faster
Chasing the wrong prospects costs valuable time you could have spent nurturing a viable lead. Most likely, you have a system to disqualify leads, but it can be hard to let go of a potential sale, even one that appears to have little chance. That’s an error. Disqualifying leads as quickly as possible allows you to move on to ones that are more likely to become customers. So view a hard no as a good thing, it lets you know to stop chasing a dud lead.
8. Plan Your Day Around Your Customers
You’ve blocked out time on your calendar to call on prospects, but does that time suit your schedule or theirs? If you’re not calling potential customers when it’s convenient for them, you’re not effectively managing your day. While research can tell you the best days and times to reach prospects, it comes down to knowing your target buyers’ behaviors and routines. For instance, a noon phone call to a restaurant that is typically packed at lunch isn’t going to prove successful. Statistics are just a starting point; track your results and get to know your customers’ schedules so you can reach them at their best times.
Image Source: The Best Practices for Lead Response Management by InsideSales
9. The 2-Minute Rule
If it takes less than 2 minutes to do, just do it.
There’s a downside in theory: we’re all subject to something called completion bias, meaning we like the feeling of ticking stuff off a list. So if we make our whole day about lists, it’s easy to tick off a bunch of easy stuff, feel a sense of accomplishment and then look back on a whole day wasted on busy work. But - and it’s a big but - many small, simple tasks simply don’t deserve the energy that’s expended on them to enter them into the system. These tiny tasks get magnified exponentially once we start treating them like projects. David Allen, author of Getting Things Done, is a big proponent of this approach. If something comes up in the day and it just takes a couple of minutes, don’t schedule it: just do it.
10. Avoid Distractions
Distractions abound in the office, diverting your attention from your goals. While a minute or two of lost productivity doesn’t seem like a big deal, it adds up over the course of the day. One way to combat distractions is to plan your day in advance. Whether you do it last thing in the evening or first thing in the morning, set your priorities for the day and focus on them.
Of course, some distractions are sneakier than others. Although social media is an increasingly important component of the sales process, spending 15 minutes checking updates and newsfeeds can easily turn into an hour wasted by browsing funny videos. Use distraction-blocking apps to prevent you from surfing the web and social media.
11. Take a Break
The simple act of taking a break improves your focus and increases your productivity. Tearing yourself away from the computer for as little as 10 minutes will help your clear your mind and improve your concentration. When you return to your desk, you will be refreshed and ready to tackle your next task.
Ultimately, the key to time management for the busy salesperson is to work smarter, not harder. Get rid of distractions, prioritize and focus on your most important task: selling. When you manage your time rather than letting it manage you, you’ll be more productive and successful, less stressed and more effective.
About the Author
Tabitha Edwards is a writer, specializing in content marketing that builds trust, engages audiences and inspires action.Follow on Twitter More Content by Tabitha Edwards