How to Manage Time to Maximize Sales Results

The most precious thing salespeople have to offer is their time, but few salespeople realize the value of their time, as well as how to easily make the most of it. <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> <b>The Problem is Persistent. </b><br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> Several years ago, a successful salesperson told me he began his conversations with prospects by stating the most valuable thing they both had was their time, and he was not going to waste it. He proceeded to say if at any point during their conversations they became convinced taking the next step in the sales process was not in their mutual best interest, he would promptly end the dialog. The implication was he would stop the current sales process, and then shift his focus to other opportunities with greater sales potential. He was one of the most productive, respected salespeople in the organization.<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> The value of a salesperson’s time often rivals that of the highest paid executive in the company. The hourly value of a salesperson’s time may be calculated as follows: <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> $ Annual Sales Quota ÷ 2,080 hours in a year = $ Per hour value of a salesperson’s time<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> Multiply this by the number of salespeople in place, and senior executives suddenly may have a much better understanding of the value and importance of using sales time sensibly. <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> In a recent study by the Industrial Performance Group, Inc., of 1,502 salespeople representing 17 industries in North America, the salespeople indicated they spent an average of only 38 percent of their time selling. Another 39 percent was spent on operations and management tasks, and the remaining 23 percent was spent on questionable activities.<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> Their study compared the time management of peak sales performers with non-peak sales performers and found the peak performers were spending 58 percent of their time on revenue-generating activities, fully 20 percent more time selling than the average salesperson. Common sense suggests that the additional time invested in revenue-generating activities is contributing to sales success.<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> Since all the salespeople have the same hours in a week, the peak sales performers clearly are managing their time better, more productively, and with greater sales results.<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> <b>The Causes are Clear</b><br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> The causes of this strategic and tactical difference in sales productivity between average and peak sales performers are many. <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> In the Industrial Performance Group study, respondents indicated the gap was the result of five barriers: <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> 1. Inefficient and outdated work processes<br clear="none" /> 2. Lack of focus<br clear="none" /> 3. Too much or too little information<br clear="none" /> 4. Outdated sales training<br clear="none" /> 5. Inability to execute<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> In his book, “The New Solution Selling,” author Keith Eades calls peak performers “eagles,” and when compared to the average salesperson, suggests these types of salespeople have a:<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> 1. Stronger process orientation<br clear="none" /> 2. Tighter process integration with their sales tools and job aids<br clear="none" /> 3. Better pre-call planning<br clear="none" /> 4. More convincing focus on value<br clear="none" /> 5. Better ability to find and develop opportunities, and <br clear="none" /> 6. Smoother transition between the close of the sale and the delivery of the solution’s value.<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> The root cause of the difference in sales productivity is managing the available time wisely. By managing time wisely, salespeople create an opportunity to overcome other barriers, and establish real value for their customers, higher sales volumes for their employers, and consistently greater economic rewards for themselves.<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> <b>A Simple Solution</b><br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> While there may be many things salespeople can do to improve their sales performance, gaining control over the use of their own time may have the most lasting effect.<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> Inspired by a brief conversation with a former colleague, a particularly strong-minded vice president of sales from Chicago, the solution to more effective time management for salespeople is actually pretty simple: Just start each selling day with the same basic set of priorities in mind. In order of importance, these priorities are:<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> 1. Close the closeable.<br clear="none" /> 2. Prospect.<br clear="none" /> 3. Move opportunities through the funnel.<br clear="none" /> 4. Gather prospect information.<br clear="none" /> 5. Everything else.<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> This is a straightforward list of priorities and a proven time management process that spans every sales position in every industry. It provides a mental checklist that is easy to understand, easy to communicate, easy to document, and easy to execute. <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> This process is intended to complement and not compete with sales methodologies. It may be implemented immediately for a quick payback on the investment in time required to turn an otherwise disorganized, unproductive sales day into a synchronized flow of sales activity and a more consistent return on sales time invested.<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> <b>Take the next step with this simple how-to guide for salespeople.</b><br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> <i>Step 1: List and then classify your sales opportunities, activities, and tasks into a few basic prioritized categories.</i> <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> The prioritized categories are:<br clear="none" /> 1. Closeable opportunities.<br clear="none" /> 2. Prospects.<br clear="none" /> 3. Opportunities in the funnel.<br clear="none" /> 4. Prospect information.<br clear="none" /> 5. Everything else.<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> Categorization is difficult the first time through, but then gets easier each time you do it.<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> <i>Step 2: Place the priorities into daily use. </i><br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> Create a to-do action item checklist to start and proceed through each day with these priorities in mind. <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> Specifically:<br clear="none" /> 1. Close the closeable.<br clear="none" /> 2. Prospect.<br clear="none" /> 3. Move opportunities through the funnel.<br clear="none" /> 4. Gather prospect information.<br clear="none" /> 5. Everything else.<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> Place this list on a sticky note on a refrigerator door, a notepad by the telephone, on a paper calendar, as the first appointment of each day on a personal computer calendar, as a daily task set on a personal digital assistant or smartphone, or write it on your significant other’s coffee cup so it can serve as an easy reminder of what to do next. <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> <i>Step 3: Repeat.</i><br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> Remember to keep it simple and integrate the priority list into daily activities, especially first thing in the workday so you can quickly and clearly answer the questions, “So, what am I supposed to do today?” or “So, what am I supposed to do next?”<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> Now, go execute and prosper.<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> <i>Dennis Gallinat is currently the lead sales compensation consultant for the Qwest Communications Business Markets Group. With over 20 years experience in high technology and telecommunications sales, sales operations, and marketing, he has developed and managed programs to improve sales and marketing performance for companies including Apple Computer, Concurrent Computer, and Raindance Communications, and has personally developed and closed million-dollar deals for GE Capital and large, multi-year deals for Kana Software. He can be reached at <a href=""></a>.<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> Contributors to this article include Neal Nicholas, currently director of key accounts at Autodesk and former vice president of sales at Raindance, and Gregory Gallinat, CEO at startup company Stampcam.</i>