We all wish there were another 6 hours (at least!) in the day so that we could make contact with the prospects we need and want to, and could complete our seemingly endless to-do lists.
As a sales professional, you know how true the old proverb is that says “time is money”. Every minute you are not spending engaged in high-reward selling activities means lost opportunities - and lost money.
Why Is Time Management so Important for Sales Professionals?
To be successful in sales, one must constantly be juggling many different tasks. This is where solid time management skills come into play. The top sales aces have mastered and incorporated this into their daily routines.
The problem probably isn’t a lack of time but how you use it. Effective time management is crucial to your sales success, but it is one of the biggest hurdles to overcome. Once you make it part of your routine, more opportunities to close deals are created and you will be able to complete your to-do lists, and still have some time to stop and breathe.
Time Management Tactics
Take a look at some of these time management tactics you can start implementing today and kick your productivity and sales success up a notch:
Tactic #1 - Track Your Progress Towards SMART Goals
One of the best ways to increase your productivity and time management is to have something specific to look forward to and aim for. Write down your goals. Exactly what you are striving for. Calculate exact amounts for what you want in both your sales numbers and the amount of money you want to make.
Those who set goals and actively monitor their progress are proven to perform 30% better than those who do not. Having specific goals gives you something to look forward to and increases both your motivation and achievement. Make sure when you are writing down your goals, to make them as specific as possible. The more specific you can get, the greater the likelihood of making it happen. It is true that “a goal without a number and a timeframe is a wish”.
Make sure to complete the equation by also tracking and monitoring your progress. This will clearly show you how much you have accomplished, how much left till your goal, and what corrections need to be made to your process so far.
Tactic #2 - Plan Your Phone Prospecting Around Your Customers
Wasting time calling or emailing your prospects at times that completely don’t make sense will get you nowhere. For example, calling a popular restaurant at noon during a lunch rush. So, plan your phone prospecting around your customers.
According to recent studies, in general, the best time to connect with prospects and clients is in the early morning or late afternoon on a Wednesday or Thursday. It doesn’t matter if you’re emailing, calling, or swinging by their office—it all holds.
As you are probably aware though, there is no perfect time to connect with your target prospects. Take a look at your buyer’s behavior and the way they allocate their time for their day. Calling at times that are not a logical fit in their day isn’t going to yield you favorable results, result in a lot of unanswered calls, and will just end up being a waste of your time.
Tactic #3 - Batch Your Appointments Together & Save Windshield Time
Ineffective scheduling is the number one killer of time management and productivity for outside sales reps.
When you have a meeting scheduled outside of the office, plan out who else you could meet in that general area. It may seem obvious, but how often have you found yourself wasting time driving out of your way from one place to another because of ineffective scheduling?
Take a few minutes to sit down and grid your territory so you can meet with high-value prospects and check in on current customers all in the same area. Kill two birds with one stone while upping your productivity. When you can effectively manage your windshield time, you can meet with more prospects and significantly increase your sales potential.
An easy, and time-efficient, way to grid your territory and plan out your daily driving is to utilize a route planning and territory management software, like Map My Customers. Route planning software like this can help you figure out the most efficient way to plan out your stops to your prospects and current customers, find new prospects in that same area, and significantly cut down on windshield time. You never have to manually plan your route again!
Tactic #4 - Focus on One Thing at a Time
It’s true, multi-tasking is a myth. As a salesperson, you are constantly juggling many different tasks at a time on any given day. This might feel really productive, but the truth is the opposite. The quality of work and attention to detail is very likely to suffer.
Physiologically, it takes time for our brains to switch from doing one task to another. A loss of focus during this time can really hurt your productivity. As a result, when you try and multi-task you lose 40% productivity because the brain is constantly trying to shift gears and refocus on one task. To achieve maximum results and keep proper focus, address one task at a time throughout your day.
One way to do this effectively is to group similar activities together so that your brain doesn’t have to try and switch around all over the place. Take phone prospecting for instance. One approach is to make a call, get the prospect’s voicemail, leave your voice message, write a follow-up email and send it, document the activity in your CRM, set a new activity for your next follow-up with that prospect again, and then move on to the next prospect. That is a lot of jumping around your brain would have to do and would chew up a ton of time. Instead, break it down more efficiently:
- Figure out how many prospects you can reasonably call within your allotted amount of time if all you did was dial and leave voice messages. Research that many prospects before your planned dial time.
- When it is time to call, pull up the list of researched prospects
- Call each prospect and leave personalized voicemails based on your research
- Only spend time logging just the call activity in your CRM and quickly move on to the next prospect on the list. Repeat for your list for that day.
- Later in the day during scheduled “admin” time, revisit that list of prospects you called and send out the follow-up emails in a block of time.
- After the emails, set the time in the CRM that you want to reach out to these prospects again.
Grouping activities like this will keep your brain focused on one objective at a time, yield a higher volume of calls each time, and will improve your odds of actually talking to someone on the phone. And this means more opportunity for more money for you and your sales team.
Tactic #5 - Get Rid of Nonessential Tasks From Your Plate
Have you ever heard of the Pareto Principle? Most people are familiar with it as simply, the 80/20 Rule. 20% of your time yields 80% of your results. It is essential to focus your 20% mainly on things that will have the highest impact. Instead of focusing a lot of time on mundane and repetitive tasks or ones that have little impact on your success, concentrate on the ones that will give you maximum ROI. Then, take those time-consuming repetitive tasks and either outsource them, utilize task automation, or group them into more concise smaller time blocks.
If you want to truly maximize your time, get the overload of non-essential tasks off your plate. It may only be a minute here and a minute there saved, but that adds up very quickly. Then, you can direct more energy towards activities that are challenging and rewarding - like giving demos, in-depth sales pitches, or strategic partner proposals.
With the growth of automation tools available today, this is one of the easiest and quickest tactics to implement today. Of course, the best tools for you and your business will depend on your industry, your regular daily tasks, and specific role. But spending a few extra minutes today to find automation tools that make sense for you, can save you precious time over the long haul. Automate as much of your non-selling daily activities as possible for maximum benefit.
Tactic #6 - Avoid Distractions
Dozens of distracting things surround us each and every day. Diverting our attention away from our goals. Like mentioned above, a minute here or there may seem small, but it quickly adds up over the course of a full day.
One easy way to combat distractions is to plan your day in advance. It doesn’t matter if this happens at the very beginning of your morning or at the end of the day for the following day. Make time to plan things out, set your priorities, and focus on them.
Also, set your cell phone out of sight unless it is absolutely necessary at that moment. It is way too tempting when you hear a buzz or see a red notification bubble to check your text messages or social media constantly throughout the day. Although social media is becoming more and more an important part of the sales process in some industries, spending a few minutes checking notifications or messages can easily turn into an hour wasted watching funny cat videos.
To stop this from happening so easily, especially from your desktop, you can utilize distraction-blocking apps or settings. If you don’t use a specific “favorite” website for your job, block it using the Google Chrome extension Blocksite. Or if you use Safari, follow these instructions for restricting sites. There are also several mobile device apps available for both iPhone and Android devices. Utilizing things like these can help prevent you from mindlessly surfing the web and social media during peak money-making hours.
Another option is to utilize free activity-tracking tools like Rescue Time, which will send you reports on how you spent your time within a determined time period. It’s a great wake-up call!
Tactic #7 - Don’t Procrastinate What You Can Finish in Two Minutes
It’s called the two-minute rule: if you can finish a task in two minutes, just do it immediately. Don’t schedule it for later and build up a tedious to-do list!
David Allen, the author of the renown Getting Things Done, is credited with popularizing this rule of thumb. If you’re with a client and they want you to send them a case study you have saved on your laptop, don’t put it off—just pull it up and hit send.
Tactic #8 - Give Yourself a Break
You focus on utilizing your time as efficiently as possible and cranking out your to-do lists during the day but your brain can only handle so much before productivity starts to decline. The Pomodoro Technique recommends taking a short five-minute break between each 25 minute time chunk of working on a task. Plan these into your day.
These short breaks help your brain rest, recoup, and stay fresh for longer periods of time overall. It can be anything from standing up and stretching at your desk, walking around your building outside, or grabbing a quick snack far enough out of reach that you have to get up.
This simple act of taking a small break significantly increases your productivity, helps to prevent burnout and improves your focus. When you return to your desk and the task at hand, you will be refreshed and ready to tackle the rest of your day ahead.
Tactic #9 - Embrace Saying No
The longer you spend chasing unqualified leads, the less time you have to close deals with your qualified ones.
While we’re encouraged in most areas of life to be optimistic and look for the silver lining, in sales, you’re better off looking at a prospect more pragmatically. Instead of letting one promising quality lead you down a rabbit hole of calls, emails, follow-ups, and more, disqualify the lead and move on.
If someone tells you “no,” take it as a victory for your schedule and move on!
Tactic #10 - Don’t Reinvent the Wheel — Use Templates
There’s a time for creative thinking . . . and there’s a time for being strategic. Instead of starting from scratch when you need to connect with a prospect, start with a template and then customize it to fit your unique situation.
There are scripts and email templates for just about every situation under the sun. Use them as inspiration or a jumping-off point to keep a prospect moving through your pipeline.
Wrapping It All Up
Effective time management must be a priority as a salesperson. Succeeding in sales, achieving your goals, and giving clients and prospects the proper attention, requires the ability to complete a multitude of tasks each and every day.
The time management tactics covered above are a good start for salespeople to be able to streamline tasks in the workday and free up valuable time to focus on closing more deals. These will also help to ensure you still have time left in the day to take a break, recharge, and have a work/life balance. As a sales manager or leader, it is also your job to ensure your sales team has the tools available to help them get organized, create a plan, and stay focused throughout the day.
Ultimately, the saying rings true, “work smarter and not harder”. This is the key to time management for busy sales reps. Have specific goals you can visually look at, prioritize and focus on your most important tasks, and get rid of distractions. You will be more productive, more successful in selling, and less stressed overall.
What tactics have you utilized to save time and increase your productivity both on the sales floor and out in the field? Let us know. We want to hear from you!