As inevitable as the smell of burnt turkey, “Home Alone” on TV and elderly relatives falling asleep in a comfy chair after overindulging in the festivities is the annual spending spree that takes place each holiday season, seemingly regardless of the state of the economy.
However, not everyone involved in sales breathlessly counts down the days till the end of November each year. While the final quarter of the year is boom time for consumer sales, it often marks a slower period for business-to-business enterprises. Budgets have been spent, peoples’ minds are on looming vacations, and the focus shifts to finishing existing projects rather than launching new ones.
It’s even more essential that sales teams optimize the time they have to hit their sales quotas during this period. Here are some tips for hacking calendar management that can result in booming sales.
Run a time audit.
It may sound counterproductive to focus on anything other than meetings and calls when it comes to growing sales numbers. But if reps can identify a quiet moment in the week – maybe a Friday afternoon or a Monday morning before the end-of-year madness begins – it will help maximize their effectiveness over those crucial weeks ahead.
By taking a long hard look at how and where their time is spent, reps can identify those time drains and alternative time sucks that might be keeping them from achieving their goals. Managers can help identify better working trends and practices and reps can lean into those at this vital time.
Reps should write down what primary goals and priorities were for the previous month. Next, they can look at how they spent their time. Tools like Toggl Track, Harvest, Clockify and Calendar Analytics are the gold standard here. However, they can also just revisit their calendar and honestly account for as many hours as possible.
They should ascertain what percentage of their time was spent in activities related to key priorities. If that figure is lower than expected, can you help identify the main distractions? Look for positive tendencies too. Did they make more headway on priorities in the mornings? Did they lack motivation by the end of the week?
Schedule regular time for planning.
What? More time wasted not knocking on doors, hitting the phones or blasting out emails? Actually, yes. Armed with the knowledge they now have about their current time management practices and productivity, reps should now apply that insight to the hectic time ahead.
They should schedule a couple of hours at the beginning of each month to plot their priorities. These could include goals like specific leads they hope to land, conversations they intend to have with specific decision-makers, or a certain number of follow-ups with older leads. Perhaps there’s groundwork to be covered, such as an email campaign they would like to align with marketing or a few social posts they’d like to share on LinkedIn. And don’t forget admin, such as adding leads to CRM system or upskilling via training.
At the start of each week, each rep should decide precisely which of these priorities they intend to tick off this week and then schedule them into their calendar.
Schedule the day into chunks: calling prospects, admin, responding to emails. Constantly switching between tasks can rob you of up to 40% of your total productivity. Salespeople should do all their background in one block; Make all calls in one block; Do all CRM and follow-ups in one block. This is much more efficient than researching a contact, making a call, noting the outcome and then updating CRM.
Schedule around individual productivity patterns. If a rep is more motivated and energetic in the morning, they should make that the time for calls, pitches and appointments, then use afternoons for paperwork, research and less demanding tasks.
They should not be over-ambitious with how much they can achieve in each chunk. Research shows that we all tend to overestimate our productivity and are then disappointed when we fail to complete all our planned tasks.
Of course, sales executives should employ all of this advice year-round. However, with all the usual holidays and days off at this time of year, and the added disruption that the pandemic brings, reps will do well to consider potential targets’ and leads’ schedules too. They should plot their schedule around the prospect’s availability to make sure they get through to them during this busy end-of-year period.
Make Pareto your polestar.
The Pareto principle states that 80% of results come from just 20% of one’s efforts. In few roles is that as accurate as in sales. With availability and budgets scarce and deadlines fast approaching, reps must prioritize their tasks according to their likely conversion rates.
If a good deal of business comes from smaller firms with shorter approval lines, maybe it’s time to prioritize 10 of them rather than chasing the one enterprise whale with months of procurement red tape.
Likewise, if there’s that one all-star email they use that always helps book appointments, they need to dust it off and get it out to as many potential targets as possible. Salespeople can’t panic and try to do everything. They need to do the high-potential things well. One tried-and-trusted way to do this is known as the “rule of three,” and simply means prioritizing the three most impactful things you can do each day. How one determines “impactful” is up to them, but we’re going to assume it means bottom line.
Use a scheduling app.
With the pressure high and time tight, sales teams must be operating efficiently and smoothly as they head into the holiday period. Automating simple, time-consuming tasks is one way to do that, and adopting a scheduling app is the perfect holiday gift for sales teams, in particular.
Scheduling pitches, product demonstrations and follow-up calls is a vital part of the job for sales development representatives everywhere. Yet, Doodle’s data reveals that the to-and-fro of trying to schedule these can eat up between 20 and 30 minutes for each meeting. That time is spent playing email ping-pong and calendar Tetris, rather than contacting or communicating with leads.
Scheduling apps like Doodle bring that time to just a few minutes per email, as availability can be shared and participants can choose a convenient slot without the back and forth. All participants’ calendars are updated, and Doodle can auto-generate a Zoom link, further simplifying the process.
Significantly, the URL for scheduling appointments can be shared by email, text message or even on your website, meaning leads can book appointments at their convenience, whether the rep is working or not. That’s particularly important at this time of year, when people are taking a few days’ annual leave and, increasingly, working uncommon hours due to juggling their personal commitments with the need to work from home.
Use the downtime effectively.
Inevitably, there’s going to be some quieter periods when working in sales during the holiday period. Reps should try to anticipate and even embrace these as they can also increase productivity in the longer term, if not right away.
Salespeople can start planning for the year ahead, ironing out priorities for the next quarter and even scheduling time for January. They can draft the emails they plan to send and the social copy they plan to post after the New Year.
Role-playing is an effective sales tool, so use those quiet hours to jump on a call with a colleague and practice cold calls and pitches. Reps can test out some new approaches and they will likely be able to share some tips.
Do all this and your team will be ready to start the year with all systems go and can get the upper hand on all those who spent the holidays preparing meals instead of preparing for sales success.
Renato Profico is CEO of Doodle, an enterprise scheduling platform.