7 Time Management Hacks for Sales Reps
So, time is money, we all know the phrase. For sales representative in particular, planning effectively for the time you have and the tasks that must be accomplished within that period is critical. Time management is one the sales rep’s biggest challenges. If you can master it, you’re half the way to success. The challenge is to find the best formula to prioritize the tasks to maximize the value of available time.
Well, a day only has 24 hours and even within then you need several breaks and enough time for personal life. Fortunately, with a few time management hacks, you can significantly improve daily productivity. Here are 7 of my favorites.
Prepare to pivot
I remember when I was in outside sales I spent several minutes to a few hours just organizing e-mail lead generation process. Every rep has a tactic that they stick to and mine was to organize leads by location and have the date of the last contact for every lead noted.
The same tactic can be applied in inside sales. When you’re in sales for a while, you know that prospects cancel meetings all the time. You should always be prepared to switch to other profitable activities. Try not to shift gears on your activities. For instance, if you’re prepared to have an explanatory call expected to run for half an hour and the prospect cancels the appointment, don’t switch your mind to a different activity such as face-to-face meeting. Since you’re already focused on an explanatory call, spend that half an hour preparing for other explanatory calls booked within the week. Your mind is already set on an explanatory call, let it remain there.
I know some are already thinking what a foolish idea it is because most reps would want to spend the reclaimed time prospecting or making follow-up calls. While I agree that you should always try to prospect at every given opportunity, the truth is that unless you have leads and are fully prepared to prospect, you may end up wasting that time getting ready to make those calls.
From my experience, launching e-mail lead generation (or prospecting) is most effective if it’s deliberate, planned, and scheduled… which takes me to my next point.
Stick to the task at hand
Multitasking is a myth, it is rhetoric. Even when you’re watching TV while having a meal, you’re not multitasking at all. Studies show that humans cannot do two things at the same time; what happens is that people quickly switch between two tasks. Unfortunately, this switching isn’t great for your productivity. It dilutes focus and slows people down because each time you move from one activity to another, your brain has to move from the old task and adjust to the new one. I know great books about the subject, one of them is called Focus by Daniel Goleman, if you’re interested in learning more.
From a sales perspective, whenever you switch from one activity to another, the brain also has to adjust. For example, e-mail lead generation will need a different mindset than a pre-call prep or giving demos. To be effective and efficient, a sales rep should group similar activities.
Let’s look at prospecting for instance. We’ll assume that your organization uses email and voicemail as key channels for prospecting, and that you only have two hours to make prospecting calls. You can accomplish this by dialing the phone, getting the prospect’s voicemail and leaving a message, then composing a follow-up email, sending the email, and documenting the activity on your CRM or letting sales automation software do this for you. After this you can set a new activity to try to reach your prospect again before moving on to the next prospect on the call list. So, for the entire two hours, you’ll simply be repeating this cycle.
From the first sight, it appears good enough. However, a keener examination reveals major flaws; switching between tasks not only drains you out of energy but can chew up time pretty fast. There are several ways to achieve the same results with minimal strain and increased efficiency. One way is to group activities.
1. Start by determining the maximum number of prospects you can call within the two hours if all you had to do was dial the phone and leave a voice message. Research on the prospects before the scheduled time comes.
2. At the beginning of the 2-hour period, pull up your list of prospects for non-e-mail lead generation and keep it on the ready.
3. Call each prospect leaving a personalized voice message based on the pre-call research.
4. Record the call activity in your CRM and quickly move on to the next prospect on your list.
5. Repeat steps I-IV until the two hours are over by which time you should have called all the prospects on your list as recorded in (I) above.
6. Later in the day, schedule an administrative time during which you revisit the set of prospects you called and send to each of them a follow-up email.
This simple tactic of grouping activities yields a much higher volume of calls within similar timeframe, significantly increasing chances of finding someone on the phone to talk to about what you’re selling. That’s what you want, right?
Learn to deal with your weaknesses
As humans, we have strengths and weaknesses. Every rep has one or more tasks that they just can’t stand. For some it’s prospecting, for others it is logging, and some people say it’s writing follow-up emails. The key is to find out what you don’t really like about being a sales rep and try to deal with it or outsource it.
Finally, we can find enough ways to seem productive while avoiding the important tasks we dread. Unfortunately, it’s not the right thing to do. One activity cannot make up for another. When you intentionally overinvest in one task to avoid doing another, you’re just wasting time because if it’s a critical activity it will always have to be done at some point.
Just do it even if you’re uncomfortable with it and get over with. If you can do it fast enough, the better.
Keep the wheels rolling
It is almost natural to stop for a moment to pat yourself on the back each time you accomplish a goal or achieve success. We all need to motivate ourselves and a short coffee run can sometimes be a good way to prepare for future tasks. Well, I’m not against taking a break, what I must share with you is that the best time to make a call or book an appointment is right after you’ve booked that other important appointment or had a great call. So, even if you’ve had some success, if you had allotted a certain amount of time to a given activity, continue with the activity as planned and celebrate later.
Prioritize your activities
To be a successful sales rep, you will also have to learn to prioritize your activities. Although all tasks are important, they promise different returns on investment.
Start by listing all the tasks you have to accomplish in your sales role and arrange them according to the potential return on investment. The activities at the top should be the most important while those at the bottom are the least prioritized. Accordingly, tasks at the top should be allocated most time with those at the bottom receiving the least attention. Sometimes low ROI activities are things the company can’t avoid; in this case, find ways to group them to minimize the time you spend on them.
Plan your day around your customers
Experts have come to a consensus that the best time to connect with prospects is in the afternoon, very early in the morning, late-to-mid early morning, in the evening, and on weekends. Of course you can go over your sales activities at any time of day, the time frames given here should just be an option.
There really isn’t a perfect time to connect with buyers. It depends on a buyer’s behavior and their own daily routine. For instance, if you’re selling to contractors, calling them at around 10.00 AM won’t work because they’re probably already busy on the job site. It may also be ineffective trying to call a restaurant with a thriving lunch business any time in the afternoon. The only thing you can do about it is actually learn more about your prospect’s behaviors and work routine to avoid unanswered calls.
Streamline repeatable business
If you target a specific type of customer, it also helps to learn what works and stick to it rather than develop a new set of rules for every new prospect. For instance, rather than form a brand new list of questions every time you schedule an interview with a prospect, you can devote some time to develop a core set that will work and customize it.
Another good idea is to categorize and save email contacts for easy repurposing or have a ready-made script within email automation software. This way you just have to make a few tweaks and hit send. You will save a lot of time.
These are just a few tricks I have come up with that have helped me in the past. They help sales reps gain more control of their time often leading to increased efficiency and ultimately improved results. What hacks have helped you become more productive in your field? Share your ideas with others in the comments section below.