One of the oldest principles of sales is the more time you spend selling, the more revenue you will generate. Unfortunately, as a sales rep, you can’t always focus purely on your sales efforts. Today, reps must juggle responsibilities, carry heavier workloads, and manage multiple sales channels including the phone, email, social, and even in-person meetings.
You must effectively prioritize and manage both your tasks and time in the midst of increasing distractions and responsibilities. Otherwise, eventually your time will be taken away from you, you will spend less time selling, and may miss your goals.
In order to take control, ensure your day is scheduled to maximize your sales productivity. Here’s how:
Discover how you spend your time
In order to organize your time, you must first uncover how you actually spend it. Start a written list, and pay attention to the activities you perform over the course of a few days, including what you do, when you do them, and in what order. Record when you make calls, when you check your inbox, when you send emails, when you prospect, or when you have meetings.
Be honest with yourself and also record the times where you are not productive. Spend time reading the news or checking social media? Note it. Distracted by an in-office conversation between colleagues? Write that down too.
Of your daily activities that you have recorded on your list, determine which ones generate the most value, and contribute the most to your success. Create a ranking scale of 1-5 from least valuable to most valuable, and score each activity. You should also determine which tasks you never seem to complete. When you create your new daily schedule, prioritize the tasks that possess the most value, as well as those that absolutely need to get done, regardless of if you actually want to do it or not.
Start with the one thing you don’t want to do
We’ve talked before about how you should eat a frog every day. For all of us, there is that one task that we absolutely do not want to do and put off forever. An unwanted responsibility only gets heavier and more urgent every time we push it away. That weight ends up crushing productivity because we dread or avoid working on it. Tackling our most difficult task first is an excellent way to make sure the rest of the day is a smooth, productive process.
Create and use a prioritized list
Every night or each morning (whichever works best for you), create a prioritized list of what needs to be accomplished the next day. Always rank your tasks by priority and difficulty. When it comes time to use that list, stick to it, but allow yourself some flexibility for the inevitable interruptions that happen to all of us during the workday. The list will help you focus on your priorities, therefore, you should prioritize having everything crossed off at the end of each day. When you create the list, keep it reasonable. Be realistic about the time you have and what you are capable of completing.
Work in intervals
No one can constantly focus for an entire eight plus hour workday. In Cal Newport’s book Deep Work, the Georgetown professor makes the argument that humans are only capable of 4 hours of total, high quality focus each day. He suggests that we should work to cultivate these 4 hours of focus, because that is how the best breakthroughs happen. That doesn’t mean adopt a 4 hour workweek, but rather ensure that we are working deeply on our most important tasks, and use the rest of the time for mindless, menial tasks like email or CRM hygiene. Tactics like the Pomodoro technique can be very effective, or simply block out 60 to 90 minute intervals with five to 10 minute breaks between each of them. If you can stick to this schedule, you will be able to approach each working period with a fresh focus, produce higher quality work, and be more effective.
Block out time for cold calls
If you’re going to make one cold call, make all of your cold calls. Cold calls are not the type of thing to do one at a time. Block out time on your calendar to focus purely on dialing cold leads. This allows you to get in the groove and focus on your pitches and conversations. You also only need to overcome the initial awkwardness once and continue dialing, instead of having to get over the wall before every single call.
Know when to call
It is imperative that you schedule your calling blocks at the right time. Use data and reporting from your dialer to determine what time of the day gets you the best pickup rates and then block that time on your calendar.
Your calendar isn’t just a place for your prospects to schedule demos. You can also use it to your advantage. Set reminders for yourself about specific things that need to be done and block off time slots that are just for you to concentrate on your work. The right sales tools also allow you to automatically create follow-ups and reminders after calls and emails, then remind you when it is time to check back in.
Keep things organized
Organize everything. Your inbox, calendar, cheat sheets, sales content, notes, and even your desk. When things are orderly and easy to find, you spend less time searching and therefore less opportunities to get distracted by something else. When things are messy, you waste time and exhaust yourself searching for the basic things that you need. You’ll be surprised how much more productive you are when everything is right where you need it to be.
Streamline or automate sales activities
Much of a sales rep’s time is taken up by recording data, logging notes, making record changes, and so on. Implement a sales application that automatically logs call times, connections, dispositions, and even notes. You can also use a sales cadencing solution to help reps schedule essential outreach activities like emails and phone calls.
Be cautious, however, of over-automating your sales process. Auto-dialers, robo-callers, and automated appointment setting applications can actually reduce your sales effectiveness and create a disappointing customer experience that can cause a loss before your sales process has even begun.
Isolate yourself from distractions
The sales floor can be extremely distracting, there’s chatter, other calls, your teammates, even music or games. If you don’t properly manage your focus, this can be a recipe for disaster. Find a quiet place to work if you find yourself pulled away one time too many.
Focus on one thing at a time
Multi-tasking, or even working on unrelated tasks one after another wastes time and decreases your productivity. A University of Michigan study found that when workers tried to accomplish two or more tasks at once their productivity actually decreased by 40 percent, meaning that multitasking is essentially useless. There is also another price associated with moving between tasks. The mere action of swapping windows on your screen carries a switching cost of 13 seconds per movement.
Stay out of your inbox
Your email inbox can be one of the biggest black holes for productivity, but in sales it is imperative that you stay on top of your emails. Try to limit the amount of time you spend in your inbox outside of your crucial sales conversations. RescueTime found that employees look at various communication channels up to 40 times per day, and check email or chat applications every 7.5 minutes. Perhaps even worse, email tends to dominate our morning hours which for many is the crucial time to get our major tasks finished. Only check emails at regular intervals outside of scheduled tasks, do not let it interrupt other activities. The same goes for tools like Slack and Microsoft Teams.
Reduce the amount of internal meetings
Give yourself permission to say no to meetings that are not a good use of your time. While internal communication matters, how many internal meetings you attend isn’t going to help you make quota. Become an advocate for yourself and defend your time as if your quota depended on it (it does). Outside of a daily sales standup, only take important meetings. When you can, schedule meetings yourself and try to keep them as short as possible. Atlassian found that over the course of a month, the average employee considers half of the meetings they attend a waste of time. Those meetings further cause 31 hours wasted per month.
With the right tactics in place you can protect your precious time, better manage your schedule, and overcome distractions. You may even see an increase in your sales performance because of it.