Are You Wasting Your Most Valuable Sales Resource?

Paul Reilly discusses how time management can make all the difference in sales, and how to determine if you're spending too much time and effort in the wrong place.

“Lost time is never found again.”

Benjamin Franklin is pointing out the obvious. With time, there are no do-overs. What’s done is done. For salespeople, time is our greatest currency. Time levels the playing field because we all have the same amount. It’s how we manage our time that determines our success or failure. How are you spending your sales time?

Salespeople spend too much time on non-sales-related activities. Our calling habits study revealed that salespeople only spend 20 percent of their week face-to-face with customers. That’s only one day per week. What’s getting in the way of selling? Consider other professions… Would anything keep a surgeon from operating or a lawyer from practicing law?

When salespeople do sell, they sell to the wrong accounts. They fail to pursue the most viable opportunity. In our recent focus study, we show that only 13 percent of salespeople believe they spend their time pursuing ideal prospects.

Other salespeople spend too much unnecessary time serving their accounts. This is called helicopter selling. Salespeople hover over their accounts just waiting for a need. Serving the customer is important; that’s why you have a team in place. Customers often don’t care who satisfies the need, as long as the need is satisfied.

Sales time management is simple. It’s a matter of prioritizing activities. Salespeople should spend their time, energy, and effort where they will get the greatest return. To get the greatest return on your time investment, ask yourself these three questions.

Am I a hunter or a farmer?

There are two types of salespeople, hunters and farmers. One is not better than the other. Either way, you are eating. The type of salesperson you are determines how you allocate your time.

If you are a farmer, then spend 80 percent of your sales time in defensive selling mode. Your goal is protecting and leveraging existing accounts. 80 percent of your time and energy is focused on existing customers. Spend 20 percent of your time prospecting. No matter how well you protect existing business, you can still lose customers. Therefore, dedicate one day per week to prospecting.

If you are a hunter, then spend 80 percent of your time in offensive selling mode. Your goal is identifying and winning new prospects. Four days per week should be dedicated to prospecting activities. Spend 20 percent of your time in defensive selling mode. Incorporate your service team to help with defensive selling activities.

What are my high-payoff activities?

Begin every day by asking yourself this question. This question clarifies what is important. Your time and energy should be spent on activities that help you achieve your goals. Once you establish these activities, schedule them in your calendar. Scheduling an important high-payoff activity is just as important as scheduling an important high-payoff meeting.

We all have more productive times of the day. We get it done. We are in the zone. Schedule your highest-payoff activities at this time of the day. For example, if you’re a morning person, schedule your highest-payoff activities in the morning. Guard this time and only break the schedule for an even higher-payoff activity.

What are my most urgent activities?

We all have deadlines. Certain things have to get done. If an item is both urgent and high payoff, get it done. Unfortunately, many salespeople allow urgency to trump payoff. Meaning they will focus on things that have to get done versus high-payoff activities.

Whoever said procrastination is a bad thing doesn’t know how to do it properly. If you put off a low-payoff urgent activity and focus on a higher-payoff activity, then you’re procrastinating effectively. Since we all have more productive parts of the day, we also have less productive parts of the day. Reserve this time for the low-payoff, urgent activities.

Time management is about spending your time and energy where you get the greatest return. If you are a farmer, spend your time on your most viable customers. If you are a hunter, spend your time on your most viable prospects.

Begin each day prioritizing high-payoff activities. High-payoff activities are those that help you achieve your goals. Schedule these activities during your most productive time of the day. Reserve low-payoff activities for your least productive time of the day.

Nobody has more control over your time than you. It’s your choice. Remember, lost time is never found again.

Paul Reilly is president of Reilly Sales Training. Reilly Sales Training is a St. Louis-based, privately owned company that specializes in training sales professionals, sales managers, and service professionals. Reilly Sales Training offers public seminars, in-house sales training programs, and hiring and training assessments. For additional information on our training programs call or e-mail Paul at 636-778-0175 or [email protected]. You can also visit and signup for his free newsletter.

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