Despite the changes of the last decade to the sales role, sales time management is still difficult. Reps face a ton of inputs – from Slack notifications to emails to calendar reminders and more. The tyranny of distraction makes it easy for reps to lose focus on what matters most very quickly: building customer relationships.
If you think you or our team don’t struggle in this area, take a quick inventory of how much time is spent with customers and prospects actually selling, and how much time is spent on other tasks.
As a starting place, follow the sales time management categories laid out by Salesforce in 2019:
Not selling (non-revenue-generating)
Your time in the mornings are a precious commodity. Before all of the meetings, distractions and general exhaustion from your day hits, you have a few valuable moments to focus and achieve something. Since interactions with customers are your top priority, our advice is that reps should focus here first.
Conveniently, the data shows that the morning, generally between 10am-11:30am in the recipient’s local time zone is optimal for getting the most pick-ups. We detail more information about why we think this is the case in our 2020 Sales Prospecting Performance Report.
According to the Deep Work philosophy, you should reserve your less mentally-intensive tasks for when your energy levels are depleted. When it comes to your sales time management, that probably means the afternoon is the ideal timeframe to do things like work through your email inbox.
The data shows that open rates are highest in the afternoon, so optimizing your day around the 2-3pm email open rate peak is a wise investment of your time.
For many years, thought leaders and sales gurus have quoted the shocking research that shows that sales reps spend less than 36% of their time actually selling, and over two-thirds of their time on non-revenue generating activities. One would think that this has changed, but the most recent Salesforce 2019 State of Sales report paints an even more dire picture, showing that reps only spend 34% of their time actually selling.
What does this mean for you? How can you take this bleak data and make it actionable, especially if you feel constrained by the same percentage of non-revenue generating activities? Our advice is to take a serious inventory of how you spend your time and what the most detrimental activities are to your selling time.
If you are able to itemize your day and name the issues that you are facing, this gives you the language and insight that you raise the concerns with your manager. Stuck in too many meetings? Being able to demonstrate the percentage of your selling time that goes to meetings is a powerful first step to reducing that time from the top-down.
Unfortunately, salespeople deal with far too many inputs at any given time, and in many cases it is totally unavoidable. However, as much as it is within your control, try to avoid dealing with multiple inputs or tasks at the same time. Research shows that our brains actually can’t handle multitasking – it is actually cognitively impossible for us to focus on more than one thing at a time, and all we do by trying to accomplish multiple things at once is slow ourselves down.
It may seem pointless to mention this considering we have been talking about how to spend your time for the previous 4 points, but time management mindfulness is a critical piece of better performance.
Even though research shows that multitasking is bad for your performance, research also shows that perceiving or believing that you are multitasking is better for your performance than thanking that you are focusing on a single task. This can be used as a way to trick our minds into kicking into high gear – if we become more aware or remind ourselves of all of the inputs and responsibilities that we are dealing with in a sales role, we become more intentional and effective.
Considering the state of sales technology, there is absolutely no excuse for wasting 31% of your time searching for and creating content or writing emails, as a 2015 Salesforce research infographic observed.
If you spend much of your selling time communicating with prospects or customers over email, this may sound crazy. But the truth is, when it comes to outbound prospecting or responding to inbound leads, sales sequence software should handle the bulk of the work, allowing you to spend your time on critical messages or optimization.
If you are spending 31% of your day in your email inbox, you are wasting time on tasks that could be automated away. This means that not only are you losing effectiveness as a salesperson, but you are also not future-proofing your career for continual technological transformation.
Alex Lamascus is the Sales Content Manager at RingDNA. He has previously scaled and managed an inside sales team and has supported B2B sales in various industries for the past 5 years. When not writing or buried in the latest sales book, he can be found repairing vintage turntables in his garage or honing his grilling skills.