The beginning of the year is always a good time to talk about organization and time management. With customer face-to-face time shrinking, sales professionals must take maximum advantage of all customer contact time. Time and territory management is more essential than ever for salespeople.
Sales time wasters create a negative domino effect. The more time spent on sales time wasters, the less time there is available to call or visit with customers. The more time spent on time wasters, the less time to do planning and follow up.
Sales time wasters fall into two categories:
- Self-generated time wasters – caused by the salesperson
- Outside time wasters – caused by other people or circumstance
Self-Generated Time Wasters
Here are the three most damaging self-generated sales time wasters cited by sales professionals and sales managers:
- Calling on the wrong accounts - This is a huge mistake. There are a finite number of sales calls that each seller can make in a year. If you call on an account with little upside or growth opportunity, you’ve wasted a sales call that you will never get back. That wasted time would have been better spent elsewhere.
- No appointments - We realize that sometimes you need to just stop in, but too many unscheduled sales calls will waste a lot of travel and potential sales time. Also, what message does it send to a customer when you just show up?
- Failure to plan - What is the purpose of each sales call? Who do you need to meet with? What resources should you bring with you for each call?
There are many other self-generated time wasters, such as disorganization, too much time socializing, failure to automate routine sales tasks, and procrastination. You will be able to free up a lot of wasted time if you address all of these, but most especially the Top Three cited above.
Outside Time Wasters
Here are the three most frequent outside sales time wasters that are caused by other people or circumstances. Learn to manage these time-wasters so that you are not overcome by them.
- Email - Learning to efficiently manage email can save an enormous amount of time for a sales professional. Don’t let email constantly interrupt your work flow. Set aside specific blocks of time for sending and responding to email.
- Internal meetings - A poorly run meeting wastes everyone’s time, and is time that otherwise could be spent by a seller in sales planning and sales calls. If you are responsible for planning or contributing to a meeting ask yourself this question: What can you do to improve this meeting to free up more productive time for everyone involved? Less is more!
- Reporting and Paperwork - Excessive paperwork takes away from valuable selling time. Try to accomplish these tasks when you wouldn’t be able to be meeting or talking with a customer. If you are responsible for requesting sales reports, ask yourself how can you strike a balance between the need to gather this information from the salespeople without making the reporting requirements too excessive?
During our Time Management for Sales workshop we help sales teams and sales managers identify common sales time wasters and then brainstorm solutions to minimize these time wasters
Leveraging Lessons Learned When Setting New Sales GoalsAs we approach the end of the business year it is a great time to evaluate sales results and set new goals for the coming year. Of course, this process can and should also take place throughout the year, for example on a quarterly or monthly review basis.
How Did You Do? Focus first on the positive.Which goals did you attain or surpass?
Next, ask yourself this question: What did I do that helped me to succeed in reaching these goals? For example, let’s say that one of your goals was to cross sell more effectively to existing customers, for which you set an appropriate metric that you surpassed. Congratulations!
Now, use the second question to learn from this success. Suppose that you notice that most of your cross selling successes occurred in a particular target market or product. Use that insight as something that you will then do more often in the coming year.
Next, look at the goals that you didn’t reach. What prevented you from reaching these objectives? Look for some patterns. For example, suppose that the majority of your "misses” were lost opportunities to a specific competitor. Most importantly, what will you do differently to avoid this from happening again? We’ve all heard the saying that one definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, yet expecting a different result. When you sell against this same competitor in the future think about what you should do differently.
No sales professional likes to fall short of a sales goal but, at the very least, try to learn something constructive from it.
Why Do Your Goals Fall Short?There are two common reasons why many salespeople fall short of their sales goals.
The first reason is to underestimate the amount of time that is needed to win new business. Face it, the sales process can be very time consuming. Sales prospecting to generate and qualify good leads isn’t easy. Gaining access to key decision makers can require repeated attempts. And this is time spent before you even have the opportunity to present your product or service.
The second reason is poor time management. You can’t reach your sales goals if you’re not spending enough time on actual selling and customer interaction. With all of the time wasters and distractions, it is easy to fall into some bad habits regarding time and territory management. If you feel that this is an area for improvement, set some personal self-development goals to improve in this area.
"Time is the scarcest resource. If it is not managed, nothing else can be managed" - Peter Drucker
Which Salesperson Do You Resemble?
Compare two different salespeople and decide who you or your salespeople resemble the most:
Seller #1 makes time to plan for each face-to-face sales call and schedules a full day of appointments with key accounts and prospects. He/she schedules follow-up actions for each sales call, even if it means there are fewer unscheduled sales calls made by the end of the day.
Seller #2 calls on many customers throughout the day alternating between the big and the small clients/prospects, depending upon what makes sense geographically, even if it means stopping without an appointment. His/her busy schedule often doesn’t allow time for careful pre-call planning, and also results in infrequent follow up.
As a former sales manager, I can personally attest that many salespeople do a poor job of time and territory management. Busy schedules and poor planning unfortunately place more sellers into the category of Seller #2. Successful salespeople plan their sales calls, schedule their time strategically and make time to follow up by building it into their day/week/month.
Sales professionals must take maximum advantage of all customer contact time, including face to face visits and telephone calls, and time and territory management is more essential than ever for salespeople.
During STAR’s Time Management for Sales workshop, we work with sales teams and sales managers to identify common sales time wasters and then brainstorm solutions to minimize these time wasters.