8 Keys to Good Time Management for Salespeople
How is it that the people who sell the most work the least? That sounds counterintuitive, doesn’t it? You would think someone selling millions of dollars of print or signage would have no family, few friends, a 25 handicap, an un-mowed lawn, and bags under their eyes from lining up back-to-back-to-back 14-hour workdays. But the fact is, the best of the best understand what the rest of us need to know: Life might be a circus, but effective time management can make you its ringleader.
The successful mastery of identifying the right tasks and top priorities, matching them up with the moment at hand, and executing a productive day of sales not only helps top reps achieve their financial goals, but sends them to the winner’s circle of life itself. It starts with sales efficiency and ends in, well, happiness.
Sales Efficiency — The Holy Grail of time management is to sell more in less time. Top salespeople plan. They are constantly thinking ahead, taking into consideration what’s coming up tomorrow, next week, and next month, all while seeing where they are in the calendar year as well as the selling cycle.
It’s because of this preparation that they set themselves up for success. Then, when they engage their plan, they know to ask one critical question over and over again as a spot check: “What is the best use of my time right now?”
The best of the best say, “No” a lot. They don’t chase every opportunity. They don’t accept every order. They delegate. We are all given the same number of hours in the day. It’s just that the best of the best use those hours better than the rest.
Creativity — Top salespeople understand that taking on less allows them to focus more creative energy on the areas of their business that are most profitable. By working hard to make it look easy, they make it look easy. Every time you say, “Yes” to even the smallest activity or request, it drains you just a little bit. The, “Oh, this will just take a minute or two” action items chip away at your energy levels a tiny bit each time.
Instead, we need to manage our time in a way that harnesses the lesson of Pareto’s Principle, which taught us 80% of our business comes from 20% of our customers (okay, Pareto didn’t actually say that. John Juran did, but …). This means we all have fat on the bone.
You see, another interpretation is this: 80% of our profitable sales activities comes from 20% of the items on our task list. If this is the case, 80% of the to-do’s don’t need to be to-done. Skip them. Erase them. Ignore them.
Motivation — Youth, as the saying goes, is wasted on the young. They’ve got plenty of time to waste and simply do not understand how efficiency could possibly be a motivating factor in life. For those of us with a few gray hairs, we understand the great value felt when the head hits the pillow after a productive sales day.
We wake up with the same positive feeling the next day and it manifests itself as motivation. That, in turn, plays a positive role in a second productive sales day. And then a third. Likewise, an inefficient sales day from poor time management has the opposite effect. Nothing is more frustrating than a string of unfinished tasks, poor choices, and disappointing results.
Work/Life Balance — How’s yours? Does listening to Harry Chapin’s classic song, “Cats in the Cradle,” leave you feeling badly about yourself? In the end, we strive for an appropriate mix of both work and play. Nirvana is achieved through good time management. It’s possible to have an incredibly satisfying and productive selling day but still feel unfulfilled overall by either working too many hours or coming home to the pressure of an equally busy list of personal tasks.
These days, it’s perfectly acceptable to consider the priorities of both sides of the equation when setting up the day’s agenda. One feeds the other. For example, imagine looking back on a day where you knocked off three top work priorities and took an hour midday to pick up some needed groceries. Your parents’ generation might not approve, but the rules have changed and this kind of blend is now completely acceptable.
Less Stress — If you are constantly behind the eight ball and perpetually feel discouraged because yet another day ends and you are not caught up, it brings on a stress that permeates into all aspects of your life. Understanding the No. 1 rule of time management might help: You will never catch up. Don’t make catching up your goal. There will always be something more to do.
Instead, strive to plan and prepare, to identify and knock off top priorities, and to end each day with a plan for the next one. Done correctly, you accept that what didn’t get done didn’t need to get done.
By following this process and, in particular, the part about planning tomorrow, you are able to leave work behind, happy in the knowledge that tomorrow is taken care of. This allows you to be less stressed but also gives you a chance to give your family a beautiful gift: your complete presence and undivided attention.
A Better Professional Reputation — You might think we are in the graphic arts business, but it could also be argued we are in the time business. Customers rely on our word when it comes to delivery dates. Shipping late not only frustrates, it damages our brand. Effective time management can have a positive effect on how a customer sees you.
Being prepared. Being punctual. Hitting your delivery dates. All of this can help tip the odds in your favor when it comes down to you versus a competitor.
A Better Chance of Reaching Your Life and Career Goals — This one might seem like a bit of a stretch, but take it from someone who is looking back on four decades in sales and six on the planet itself. At some point, we all stop and set goals for our time here. There is a lot to do and life will get incredibly busy somehow. Whatever you want to achieve is made possible through the management of time.
Less Procrastination — One big reason why we put things off is the lack of structure. The best of the best manage their day to the point where uncertainty is gone. There is always a priority and there is always motivation to complete a task. Those who procrastinate suffer because of, in part, the lack of a plan.
Nothing seems important and that is the spawning ground for the doldrums. Further, adding accountability increases the chances important tasks get done and decreases the, “I’ll get to it later” mantra of the procrastinator.
The key to time management is preparation. 75% of your success in this area comes from thinking ahead, prioritizing, and beginning every day with a plan. The other 25% comes down to execution. The results of this repeat pattern are 100% positive and reach far beyond sales growth.
Life should feel less like a game of Whack-a-Mole and more like a carousel. It’s a circus either way, but mastery of time makes you the ringleader and not the mole.
Bill Farquharson is a respected industry expert and highly sought after speaker known for his energetic and entertaining presentations. Bill engages his audiences with wit and wisdom earned as a 40-year print sales veteran while teaching new ideas for solving classic sales challenges. Email him at email@example.com or call (781) 934-7036. Bill’s two books, The 25 Best Print Sales Tips Ever and Who’s Making Money at Digital/Inkjet Printing…and How? as well as information on his new subscription-based website, The Sales Vault, are available at salesvault.pro.