“Lost time is never found again, and what we call time enough, always proves little enough.”
– Benjamin Franklin
Benjamin Franklin makes two great points about time. Once we use time, it is gone. We never get that time back. Franklin also emphasizes how we estimate time. At the beginning of a project, we have all the time in the world. At the end of a project, we never have enough.
Salespeople face unprecedented time management challenges. Today’s salespeople are more accessible than ever before. Whether through text, email or phone call, customers expect a quicker response. This expectation causes salespeople to constantly veer from their intended course. How can salespeople plan when they are constantly interrupted?
Technology that was intended to make salespeople more productive has made salespeople less productive. Salespeople become distracted by all of the noise. Humans are already easily distracted. These distractions, coupled with greater access, cause salespeople to believe they no longer control their time. They believe time is controlled by customer demands and interruptions.
Salespeople are left feeling stressed out, strung out and burned out. Most of our lives are spent working. Being stressed and strung out is no way to go through life. What if there was a better way?
As the economy continues to strengthen, everyone is getting busier. This is good. Customers are going to call more. Prospects are more interested in your ideas. After the Great Recession, this is a good problem to have. During these peaks, time management becomes even more important.
Time is our most precious and fleeting resource. We have all there is, but we never seem to have enough. Time management is self-management. Here are some time management tips to help you be a more productive salesperson.
The famous management guru, Peter Drucker, said, “There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.” Drucker is referring to the importance of effectiveness. Effectiveness is doing the right things. Effective salespeople naturally sift through tasks and determine what’s most important. They focus their time and energy on goal-achieving activities.
To identify goal-achieving activities, first break down yearly goals into more manageable, weekly goals. At the beginning of every week, schedule daily activities focused on achieving your goals. Effective salespeople never substitute a low pay-off activity for a goal-achieving activity. Schedule your goal-achieving activities and safeguard this time.
Efficiency is doing things the right way. Productive salespeople do the right things the right way. Here are some ideas to help you be more efficient:
Schedule goal-achieving activities during the most productive time of the day. Some people are early risers, others are night owls. Figure out your most productive part of the day and schedule your goal-achieving activities during that time. Schedule less important tasks during your non-peak times. This idea is called peak planning. It will help you use your time more efficiently.
Grouping is another efficiency tactic. Grouping is scheduling a time to complete a group of similar tasks. For example, you need to call twelve customers to follow up on various proposals. It would make sense to call all of these customers while you are in follow-up mode rather than call each customer sporadically. As you complete similar tasks, you gain natural efficiencies. You gain a certain rhythm.
Stop Procrastinating. Procrastination is the enemy of productivity. Stop putting off until tomorrow what should get done today. Procrastination creates stress. Salespeople that are overwhelmed and stressed don’t perform well. Here are some tips to reduce procrastination:
Give yourself a shorter timeline. Navy historian C. Northcote Parkinson once wrote, “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” If you give yourself two weeks to finish a project, it’s going to take you two weeks to finish the project. If you give yourself one week to do the same project, it’s going to take you one week. It’s natural to procrastinate when there is a deadline. Deadlines are given to work that we don’t like. Give yourself a shorter timeline to reduce procrastination.
Reduce procrastination by creating a to-do list. Crossing items off a to-do list is satisfying. You feel a sense of accomplishment. Don’t overwhelm yourself by thinking of all the things you have to do. Instead, create a to-do list of ten items. If you have more than ten things to do, then create another list. The logic is simple. It’s easier to complete two, ten-item lists than one twenty-item list. A shorter to-do list is less stressful. Get your items on a list and cross them out.
Finish the hard stuff first. Once you have completed a more difficult task, the next task seems easier. Also, you feel more productive. Crossing off the hard stuff gives you a greater sense of accomplishment.
Oil tycoon John D. Rockefeller once said, “No man has a right to occupy another man’s time unnecessarily.” Rockefeller ruthlessly controlled his time. He respected his time without disrespecting another’s time.
Too many salespeople don’t believe they control their time. Salespeople will say, “I have to do this for my customer” or “my manager is making me do this.” You have absolute control over your time. No one has greater control over your time than you. You have final say on how you spend your time. Remember, once time is spent, it’s gone. How are you going to spend your time?
Paul Reilly is president of Reilly Sales Training, a St. Louis-based, privately-owned company that specializes in training sales professionals, sales managers and service professionals. Call Paul at 636-778-0175 or email [email protected].