We have all heard the old saying, “Time is money.” Well, there is no place that this expression could be more true than in the sales world. While most professions require a great level of time management and focus to succeed, in sales it is a bit different. It is more about doing the right things with your time.
Given the high level of flexibility that exists in the sales profession, it is important that each rep practices strict time management to ensure they are focused on the right tasks at the right times. Reading, writing, prospecting, networking, writing proposals, managing sales calls, prospects and existing customers are just a sampling of what an average sales rep has on their plate at all times.
Successful reps are maniacally focused on time management. Every minute counts. One technique I have used successfully over the years is something called "front loading."
What is front loading?
I like to start my day early. My most productive days are those when I get an early start. I like to get up an hour earlier than I normally would and get stuff done. Ideally I’ll get up at 5:30-6:00 am and spend the first couple of hours getting work done that would otherwise get pushed off. I read, write, reflect on my business and knock out an item or two from my to-do list. By 9 am most mornings I already have a good head start on the day. Around this time I’ll take my dogs out for a run to clear my head and get a little exercise before catching up on emails, returning calls, and touching base with my team. By noon on a good day I have accomplished a decent days work. By 3 pm, I have a lot done and I feel accomplished. Anything after that is gravy.
I use front loading weekly, monthly and quarterly as well. I plan for the week on Sunday and get out of the blocks strong on Monday, accomplishing as many of my weekly tasks as possible in the first few days of the week. I always make sure to start out the first week of every month very strong and try to make the first month of the quarter a big one as well. This approach has worked well for me throughout my career. When I was carrying a bag, I very often took the last week of the quarter off as I was already beyond my goal. I used that time to rest and get set up for a strong start for the following quarter. This approach takes a lot of discipline, but does wonders for stress reduction and productivity.
That being said, I still have to work at this everyday. It’s so easy to get off track given the very busy lives we all lead. Below are a few tools and techniques that I have learned over the years to help me stay productive, happy and stress free.
1. Start with the end in mind. Start with your long term goal and then work backwards. Write down your quarterly, monthly, weekly and daily goals as well as the tasks necessary to get you there.
2. Determine what is truly important. Prioritize the activities that will allow you to progress towards achieving your goals and do them first. The other stuff can wait.
3. Get an early start. If you get up an hour earlier than your competition every day and do something productive, you will have a 300 hour advantage over the course of a year. Think about how much can be accomplished with 300 extra hours!
4. Don’t multi-task. Many studies have shown that multitasking actually drives down performance and wastes time.
5. Just get started. I put this piece of advice into action with this blog post. I was wrapping up my day yesterday waiting for a colleague to join me for dinner. I did not have enough time to devote to completing it, but I just got started anyway. Turns out I got my entire first draft done. In the past I would have waited until I thought I had enough time to finish. Changing my approach has worked really well for me. Just getting started on something for even a few minutes often results in completing an important task.
6. Enjoy, have fun, rest, and relax. This is the most important one of all. After all, the reason we want to be efficient with our time is so that we can be productive and successful. What good is that if we are not enjoying our lives? Take all of that extra time you have saved and go have some fun!
Overall, it is critical that the tasks we are spending our time on are effective and targeted. With the right approach, we can all save time in our sales process. What is your approach to time management?