A couple of years back I met a friend for drinks. Naturally, over the course of the evening discussion turned to work.
Since we share a mutual acquaintance at his office I asked how she was doing.
I was a bit surprised to learn she’d been let go. By all accounts she’d been doing well in her sales role.
So of course I asked what happened? I was under the impression she was doing very well.
My friend then proceeded to regale me with all of her accomplishments. And assured me how important she was to the team.
But what he was telling me didn’t add up. If she was so successful, why did they let her go?
It turned out she was doing everything EXCEPT the sales job she was hired to do. Her contributions to the company were undisputed. But she didn’t bring in many new clients.
This is a lesson everyone in sales can all learn from. Being busy and being effective aren’t the same thing.
So here are some tips to be super effective at time management for sales.
Why Salespeople Need Time Management Skills
It’s no secret that salespeople are the financial lifeblood of your company. When they do well, the company does well.
Unfortunately, the opposite is also true. When salespeople aren’t effective the company suffers as a direct result.
In this article we’ll look at proven ways salespeople can spend their time, energy, and focus on the tasks that produce the biggest returns.
Here we go!
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To Do Lists Don’t Have A Bottom
To Do lists are great. They keep us organized and they help us stay focused on what’s important.
But they’re not perfect. They come with a big limitation – they largely ignore the reality of time constraints.
There’s only so many things you can do in a day. And your To Do list doesn’t care. It pretty much has no bottom..
Fortunately, there are ways to manage your never-ending list of tasks in a way that makes sense.
Know Your Minutes
Everyone has the same 1,440 minutes in a day.
But how many of those minutes are actually productive? If you start counting your minutes you might be surprised how few minutes are actually spent working.
Consider a theoretical 9 – 5 day. Do you work every minute of that 8 hours? I doubt it!
Like everyone, you probably go out to eat, chat with colleagues, and waste a bit of time online.
So you can’t realistically expect to achieve 8 hours of ACTUAL work in an 8 hour day. It’s not possible, unless you are planning not to pee all day!
Spend a few days tracking EXACTLY how many minutes of work you can really do in a day. You’ll probably find the number is between 300 to 400 minutes. Depending on your work environment, it might be significantly less.
Knowing how many minutes a day you are productive will help you plan your day with precision.
There’s no point scheduling 420 minutes of work if your productivity ends at 360 minutes. You’ll just get frustrated!
Plan Your Calendar The Night Before
Calendars are great.
Unlike To Do lists, a calendar tells you what you are supposed to do. And when it needs to be done. .
Every night plan your next day in detail. Visualize what your day is going to look like. And figure out exactly when you are going to do every task.
You already know how many minutes of REAL work you can do. So build the necessary slack into your calendar.
Waking up to a perfectly planned day is a gift you can give yourself every single night. It costs nothing, and only takes a few moments.
And not only does it feel great to have clarity about your work. Your productivity levels will skyrocket as a result.
Schedule Around Your Energy Levels
During the day our energy levels tend to rise and drop.
So it’s worth paying attention to the times of the day you experience your peaks and valleys of focus and energy.
Then schedule your activity around those times.
Many people have their highest levels of energy and mental acuity first thing in the morning. So they should use the first 90 minutes of their day to do their tasks with the highest priority, or require the most focus.
Do The High IMPACT Stuff First
On a related note, try and schedule your longest and most challenging tasks for the start of the day.
From a scheduling point of view, it means you’ll get your most important tasks done first. So by noon you’ll have your most important goals checked off.
It’s also nice because your day gets progressively easier. The tough tasks get sorted out in the morning. And your afternoons are filled with tasks or lower difficulty and importance.
When you’re planning your evening schedule, score your to do items by their IMPACT on revenue. This way you know you are focused on tasks that drive revenue.
Client & Non-Client Hours
Given the nature of sales work, some tasks have to be done during the prospect’s working hours.
Client-centric activities (like setting sales appointments) are usually the highest impact thing on your to do list. So try to do them in the morning when your prospects are most likely to be at their desk.
Theme Your Days
Switching between tasks requires energy. We’re forced to reset our focus and find ‘flow’ every time we start a new task.
So consider batching your work by creating daily themes.
For example, imagine you need to do 5 hours of prospect research every week. Instead of doing an hour a day, you can do it all on Mondays.
Batching work is especially effective when it comes to out of office meetings. It makes WAY more sense to do 4 meetings in an area on the same same day. Rather than coming back to the same area 4 times over a week.
Control Your Environment
Your environment has a huge impact on your productivity. So re-evaluate your working conditions. And look for ways you can enhance your working area to increase your ability to focus on important tasks.
Block Social Media (and other time wasting sites)
Your environment doesn’t just mean the area where we sit. It refers to your electronic domain, too.
Who among us hasn’t ‘accidentally’ spent more time than we intended on social media. Yeah, pretty much everyone.
A ‘quick peek’ at Reddit suddenly becomes a 45m journey down the ugly path of the inane. Where you find yourself losing valuable working time because some guy got filmed driving like an idiot.
So use a site blocking extension and add in the sites where you habitually waste time. You might need to leave Linkedin unblocked for work. But you can eliminate your access to sites like Facebook or YouTube during working hours.
The Sound Of Silence
Your productivity is directly tied to your ability to find flow. Do your best to find a quiet place to work without interruptions.
Peace and quiet doesn’t just make sales calls 100x easier.
It also acts as a content filter. One where you get to avoid all the office conversations about office politics, current events, and people’s personal lives.
If you want to get stuff done, find a place without disruptions to work.
Email Has No Mercy
Sales reps get email and other notifications throughout the day. Which means someone is begging for your attention without stopping.
Getting constantly pulled away from what you are doing to look at messages makes you ineffective. And it DESTROYS your time management plan.
Worse, constant interruptions make you sell less because you’re doing less.
If you react every time someone contacts you then you are completely at the mercy of other people’s schedules.
Schedule 1 – 5 times during the day when you will handle email. This needs to be on your calendar. If it’s not one of those times, then don’t check your email.
Being deliberate about email puts you back in control of YOUR time. So pick your email and SMS response times and don’t check them unless it’s on your schedule.
Pre-Qualify In-Person Meetings
Without a bit of planning, offsite meetings can turn into a HUGE time waster.
There’s nothing worse than going across town to a meeting only to discover they aren’t really a good fit for your solutions. You want to avoid this scenario at all costs.
To make all your meetings worthwhile, come up with ONE question that automatically qualifies your prospects.
Ideally the information will be available online. And you won’t even need to ask them. You can do some research and qualify them before the first call.
But if the info can’t be found online, be sure to ask your question when booking your meeting. The one time you don’t ask is the time you’ll end up travelling for a meeting that has no chance of closing.
And you’ll have wasted a big chunk of the day.
So make qualifying a part of your sales routine. The cost of not qualifying well is simply too high.
Work With An Assistant
The easiest way to be effective at time management for sales is to make the workload manageable.
Fortunately, a lot of non-essential tasks don’t have to be done by a highly paid salesperson. Work that’s administrative in nature can be passed off to an assistant. Which ultimately saves the company money.
Working with an assistant makes it possible for sales reps to scale their activity. They can spend more time on client facing tasks rather than dealing with admin related work.
And for many sales roles it’s even possible to work with a remote sales assistant. Tasks like prospect research, outreach, document preparation can be done anywhere in the world.
So put some of the task load onto other shoulders. You don’t have to do everything. And the more you can shift to someone else, means more attention on high value closing activities.
Time Management For Sales Managers
The one thing most sales managers would change if they could is the amount of time they have in a day.
Successful sales managers learn early on that even a slight improvement in time management can translate into substantially improved sales production. And, more importantly, the proficiency they demonstrate in effective time management is emulated by their sales team.
But, while they are your priority, salespeople can also be your biggest time-wasters.
It’s not uncommon to find successful sales managers micromanaging several aspects of their salespeople’s business, sometimes on a daily basis – checking their numbers, asking about appointments, looking at schedules.
However, that’s not the job of successful sales managers. It’s the sales person’s responsibility to make sure they are hitting the numbers and filling their schedule.
Your job is to set the expectations and create a system that enables your sales team to hold themselves accountable.
As a sales leader, you then provide the coaching they need to achieve the incremental improvements in their activities and production.
Sales performance improvement occurs through coaching, not micromanaging. So teach your salespeople to manage their own time effectively.
Sales Is All About Time Management
The more proactive you are about managing your time the more deals you will ultimately close.
Is there anything missing from the above? How do you manage your time to ensure you are as effective at sales as you can possibly be?
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Matthew Murray is the Managing Director of Sales Higher. He knows any company can THRIVE with enough qualified sales leads. So he’s spent the last decade helping companies meet engaged prospects and win new deals.