Focus on your most important investment - your time

By Colleen Francis

No matter how wealthy, talented or successful we become, time is the one thing we can never get enough of. The top 10% of performers are acutely aware of the value of their time. In fact, all successful sales people practice disciplined time management. As a result, they spend the most time doing those activities that make them the most money, and little time doing those tasks that earn them little or nothing.

When it comes to sales, this boils down to focusing your time on the three Holy Grails: Prospecting, Presenting and Closing. Notice that all three of these activities involve prospects or customers. That's because you sell more when you spend more time in front of your customers, whether prospecting for new business, presenting solutions to problems or closing business.

Despite knowing this intuitively most sales reps I meet complain regularly that they can't find the discipline to practice it regularly. What this says to me is they won't get organized to manage their time effectively.

If you hear yourself saying "I can't focus on making calls yet, I'm too disorganized!" or "I need to get motivate before I can make calls!" consider implementing the following 11 time and organizational techniques every day:

  1. Set a monthly sales target, and calculate how many prospects you need to talk to each month in order to generate enough business to hit that target. Once you have those numbers set, your priority becomes making the calls. Your second priority becomes working those leads that are already in the sales funnel, and moving them closer to a sale. For more tips on how to set goals to move your career ahead, check out our article on Goal Setting to get you started! Tie every piece of activity you do during the day to your goals.
  2. Calculate the value of your time. What is every productive hour worth? There is a simple calculation at Secrets of the Top 10% - Part IV: Stay Focused. If you want a more accurate calculation of your times worth try this. At step 2, divide your desired earnings by only those productive hours in each day. Be honest with your self, most executives guess that they have less than 1 hour of productive time per 8 hours of work. Productive time does not include water cooler talk time, smoke or bath room breaks, sales meetings. Productive time is that amount of time engaging with customers, prospecting presenting and closing.
  3. Block time off in your calendar everyday to make calls and prospect. Don't just make a mental note - actual block the time off physically so you and everyone else can see it clearly.
  4. In a place you can easily see everyday post your revenue goal in big, bright numbers.
  5. Staring at this number everyday will remind you what you need to do first thing every day.
  6. Staring at your goal everyday will help you stay focused. I recommend posting it both at home and in the office to achieve maximum effect. My goal is pasted on the bathroom mirror so I see it first thing in the morning.
  7. Remember that, in sales, there are only two times of the day: pay time, and non-pay time.Simply put, there are only so many hours in a day that you can talk to customers, so use that time wisely. Any activity that is not directly related to meeting people, building relationships and closing business should be done before 8am or after 5pm - unless of course you're selling to different time zones!
  8. Stay away from the Life Suckers in your office. They are not customers, and they will not buy from you. Your customers are on the outside (or the other end of the phone). Life Suckers will waste exactly as much of your time as you permit. In the end your profits will be reduced by them, and you will only have yourself to blame.
  9. Close your door, hide, and work from a different office! As Dan Kennedy says: "If they can't find you, they can't interrupt you." I put my phone on do not disturb for at least 2 hours per week while I am making prospecting calls. I answer all messages at 11:30 am that day. I suggest leaving a very specific outbound message alerting callers. "Hi this is Colleen, I will be on the phone with clients from 9-11 today. Please leave a message and I will return your call at 11:30".
  10. Be on time. I find that the more often I am on time for meetings, calls or appointments the more often people treat my time with respect.  This is not a coincidence. Its reciprocity at work. Simply put, show respect for other people's time and they will eventually show respect for yours.
  11. Make and use a Hot list or task sheet everyday. Preferably in your CRM but if you have to use pen and paper a yellow legal pad is better than nothing. When I started in sales at London Life we used a shoe box and index cards. Both kept all my client information in one place allowing me to focus on calling my clients, not on wondering where I put their information. Today I use an online CRM because I like to keep everything about my client interactions in one place that I can access from anywhere. Every CRM on the market allows you to create scheduled appointments, unscheduled tasks and to do's. At Engage we use Salesforce.com because it easily can be accessed in real-time on the road and can be synched up to my Blackberry. Act, Maximiser, SugarCRM, and Outlook, are all also great tools.
  12. If you are waiting to get motivated before you make calls remember this: Motivation comes from action not the other way around. Most sales people wait to get motivated before they take action. You must do the opposite. Take action now! Regardless of how you feel. Simply pick up the phone and start making calls. Your activity will motivate you to keep going. You will always feel better after you accomplished something profitable.
  13. Minimize office meetings, especially during prime selling time. I expect the sales teams I coach to have their weekly meetings starting at 8 am or after 4pm. My dad used to have his sales meetings at 4pm every Friday! - I guess I learned this time management technique at an early age. To maximize profits you must maximize client meetings when your clients are at work. Remember - you can not sell to your fellow sales professionals.

Losing control of your time is the worst mistake a sales professional can make. You must jealously guard your time in order to stay productive. If you are productive you are in control. If you are concerned about your productivity - or are not hitting your goals - take an honest look at who is controlling your time most often. You, or someone else? If you can honestly say it's someone else, then implement a change immediately. Take at least one of the 10 techniques above and implement it in your business immediately. Taking action will always yield you a better, more profitable result.

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Nonstop Sales Boom by Colleen Francis Make sure you check out Colleen's latest book, Nonstop Sales Boom for powerful strategies to drive consistent sales growth quarter after quarter, year after year.

Colleen Francis, Sales Expert, is Founder and President of Engage Selling Solutions (www.EngageSelling.com). Armed with skills developed from years of experience, Colleen helps clients realize immediate results, achieve lasting success and permanently raise their bottom line.

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