One of the most common challenges sales professionals face is a lack of time. No matter how many items get checked off and marked completed, there are more to follow. Days are packed with meetings, demos, email and phone follow-ups, prospecting calls, social engagement and online prospecting, lead nurturing and content curation… the list goes on.
What’s worse is that leadership’s expectations don’t often align with the priority of sales professionals. That can lead to issues with productivity as the sales representative strives to juggle their prioritized tasks with the things leadership wants tackled. Part of this has to do with a strong disconnect in teams, such as with marketing owning sales productivity in more than half of companies.
To meet other expectations in the company, sales professionals are often limited in the time they can actually spend selling. 31% of sales’ time is spent searching for or creating content, with another 20% of their time spent on updating or administering customer data in a CRM.
In order to be productive and successful, salespeople need to take ownership of their time and learn how to improve the structure of their day.
Creating the Perfect Daily Schedule
While it would be nice to have a simple template to follow for a super-productive day in the world of sales, such a thing is impossible. That’s because every company is different in the same way that every sales rep is different – right down to their psychology and natural biology. All of that directly impacts the flow of the day.
Your Energy Cycle
Every person has an internal clock that directly impacts your energy level through the day. Your energy cycle or circadian rhythm is natural and hardwired, but that doesn’t mean we adhere to it perfectly. While you (and your managers) want you to be at your best at all hours, it’s simply not possible.
For most people, it can take a few hours to reach peak alertness but once you reach the summit of your energy cycle don’t expect to ride that high all day. In fact, those energy peaks don’t last long. For daytime workers, the peak hits in the middle of the day and quickly drops, hitting a low around 3 pm.
It does recover from there but won’t hit another energy peak until the evening hours – usually around 6 pm.
One of the ways to structure your day is to put your most critical work into the windows where you’re most alert. For sales, this often means tackling sales calls during those midday and evening hours when you’re alert, attentive, and can snap to the needs of a prospect.
This also means mitigating simpler tasks to the times when your energy is waning, like email follow-ups, meetings and prospecting.
Your personality might be working against your success when structuring your day. Extroverted people often do well in sales positions because of the ease with which they socialize and connect with others. They’re also energized by social interactions. The larger the group, the more social activity there is, the more they come out and are charged by that interaction.
For someone in an afternoon slump, that act of talking to and selling prospects could actually provide the energy surge needed to get through times when they’re at a low point in their natural energy cycle. If you’re an extrovert, this could give you a lot more flexibility in how you start and structure your day.
On the flipside, Introverts see the opposite from social interaction. The act of engaging with others, especially in person, can be mentally exhausting and saps their stamina. Introverts often try to avoid intense social engagement, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t suited for sales.
On the contrary, introverts are naturally deep thinkers as well as great listeners. They typically spend more time observing over engaging and don’t feel the need to dominate conversations. They reserve their energy for when it matters, which can be a massive benefit in sales. The only downside is when they get into sales mode and start working to close leads, they can get drained quickly.
Take your personality into consideration when structuring your day. An introvert pushing sales calls during a downcycle in energy could wipe themselves out, completely losing any evening gain. Likewise, pushing too hard early in the morning could greatly reduce the energy peak you would normally see midday, resulting in a wiped-out afternoon.
Exercise Is The Most Important Meal Of The Day
If you look at how the most successful people structure their day, whether in sales or some other profession, there’s typically some kind of exercise involved in their daily structure. Most will spend around an hour in the morning when they first wake up doing some kind of workout or cardio. Others will fit it in later, or stack a few different kinds of workouts throughout the day.
No matter how busy you think you are, there’s always a way to make room for a little cardio – even if it’s just taking a walk around your office building or a swim in the pool in the middle of the day. It’s not just about general health either, there are serious benefits for sales professionals.
“There are many very plausible and physiologically supported reasons why you would expect to see improvements in job performance because of exercise,” says Cedric Bryant, Chief Science Officer of the American Council on Exercise (ACE). “You are promoting better blood flow, which helps in terms of neurological function. Exercise has been consistently shown to enhance and elevate mood, so it will help you cope with the stressors of work.”
According to studies from ACE, one daily stretching routine that lasted just 10 minutes showed a significant improvement in fatigue, depression and overall attitude among assembly-line workers.
Another nine-month study of 80 C-suite professionals shows that those who exercised experienced a 22% increase in overall fitness as well as a 70% increase in the ability to process and handle complex decisions vs. sedentary peers within the study.
Drew Stevens Ph.D., also a business consultant, worked with more than 300 sales professionals to chart the effects of improved diet and exercise. After 6 weeks of the program, participants showed an 81% increase in performance which included less dozing at meetings and a higher ratio of closed leads across the entire group.
Set Your Priorities To Best Structure Your Day
The best way to structure your day is to set priorities based on your goals, and the micro goals you need to nail before the end of the day. At the start of your day (after you get your exercise in!) make a list of everything you need to do. This includes everything from checking email to prospecting, making calls, meetings, etc.
You know your body best, so make note of the windows where you have the most energy during the day. Use these windows, even in the evening, to schedule your outbound follow-ups to close deals. In the shoulder times blocking in your peak productivity, schedule your prospecting. This way you’re still fairly focused, making it easier and faster to qualify the leads you’re receiving or sourcing.
Fill in the gaps with other necessary tasks, including meetings. Make a concerted effort not to schedule meetings during your peak energy times. If that’s a norm, then work with leadership to get those meetings moved.
Bonus Tips To Ramp Up Productivity
The best way to structure your day is largely up to you and how you perform, but there are also plenty of ways to make your day more productive so you can make better use of those peak energy times that are available to you.
1. Shut Down Distractions
Unless you absolutely need to be in your email, shut it down. Don’t let emails distract you from using your peak energy times for nailing the most important tasks and sales calls. The same goes for things like social media, distracting websites (like the news) and notifications on your mobile device. Get a solid snapshot of your worst distractions with an app like Rescue Time.
2. Stick To Your List
If you create a list of things to accomplish and prioritize your day by that list, then stick to the schedule. You created it based specifically on how you’re most productive. If you continue to compromise and deviate from it then you’re only hurting your own productivity.
3. Take Breaks
You will never accomplish everything that needs to be done in a single day. If you continue to drive each day like you can finish everything then you’ll only drain your energy. If you’ve got evening calls on your list, expect to be exhausted before it’s even time to make calls.
Give yourself breaks during the day. They don’t need to be long. A short, 10-minute break from whatever task you’re on has proven to be effective in refreshing the brain, improving focus and productivity.
4. Skip Meetings
Companies are notorious for holding meetings that could be accomplished via email. Whenever possible, see about skipping meetings and getting notes later, or having someone attend in your place. Make the case that you’re focused on sales productivity. An alternative is to lobby for fewer meetings.
5. Recap Your Day
At the end of every day, go over your list of tasks. Analyze your performance and see how you can improve. Take the same approach companies take when improvement is needed – go by the data. Your performance against your priorities and tasks can show you where you can easily improve structure and productivity.
For more tips on how to boost sales productivity, check out this post.
Hustling gets the job done. But hustling smart lets you hustle harder and faster. Spend your days running yourself into the ground and you’ll face diminishing returns. Sales is a demanding career, and the the most important tool you’ll ever have is yourself. Learn to use your energy wisely, sync your most demanding tasks with your most energetic times and do the legwork when you don’t need to be on your 'A' game, and you’ll get more done in less time.
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About the Author
Daniel Threlfall is an Internet entrepreneur, content strategist, and a seven-year veteran of remote work. As a writer and marketing strategist, Daniel has helped brands including Merck, Fiji Water, Little Tikes, and MGA. Daniel and his wife Keren have four children, and occasionally enjoy adventures in remote corners of the globe (kids included).Follow on Twitter More Content by Daniel Threlfall