Apply these time management strategies from sales experts to improve performance! Keep reading to find out more.
In this article:
- What Contributes to Poor Time Management
- Effective Tips on Managing Your Time Effectively
Effective Time Management Strategies for Salespeople
What Contributes to Poor Time Management
Time management is one of the most important skills for sales professionals. And yet, recent research shows very few sales reps use any sort of time management methodology (22%).
If you’re in the other 78% and you’re reading this from your news feed, after scrolling mindlessly for 15 minutes—don’t feel bad, we get it. The Internet is making us all lose focus, and working efficiently is harder than ever.
Thanks to mobile phones, we now have all the wonders of the Internet – friends, family, social media – right in our pockets. And it’s hard to resist the scrolling habit.
If you don’t believe me—here, check out this cute kitten!
Getting distracted by social media and the Internet can lead to procrastination. Schedules will end up getting held up, priorities become jumbled, and it will eventually lead to major blunders.
You may forget schedules with clients or miss important updates or emails, possibly losing a chance to close a deal. You and your prospect will be wasting time.
Effective Tips on Managing Your Time Effectively
I’m definitely no expert in time management (did I show you that picture of a kitten?), so I asked six sales experts what their most effective time management strategies are, what are some of the worst time wasters, and what tools they use to increase sales productivity and efficiency.
Time management is more than just ticking off the to-do list on your personal or team board. If you don’t utilize tools or set up your time well, then you won’t get the results you need to achieve long-term goals.
Here’s what I learned.
1. Make Technology Work With You, Not Against You
There’s a huge debate right now in the public space on whether technology is good for us or not. While some argue it’s making us lazy, there’s substantial evidence on how it’s increasing productivity significantly in businesses.
Surprisingly, some of the advice that sales experts offer today is to just turn your email OFF to be more productive. Email has been identified as one of the biggest time wasters, shows Teri Robb, Regional Vice President, Central US Sales at Check Point.
Many salespeople live and die by their email, and end up distracted by the email on top of their inboxes (versus doing what is important and necessary). This may sound odd, but turn your email off for a few hours a day and get your sales work done,” said Teri.
He added, “This will help you focus and prioritize. Many of those ’emergencies’ will have worked themselves out.”
Technology needs to work with you to make your work more efficient – and it does this by automating admin and repetitive tasks. According to XANT research, sales reps spend an inordinate amount of time with administrative tasks—12.8% of their time.
“In sales, it’s important to eliminate and automate monotonous and administrative tasks. We use tools like Salesforce, Drift, Join.Me, ContactMonkey’s email templates, email tracker and mail merge, Asana, Trello, Slack, and DocuSign,” says Mark Gray, corporate sales manager at ContactMonkey.
2. Get Organized and Use Templates
A messy desk may be a sign of genius, according to some accounts—however, in sales, not being organized means that you might be wasting precious time you could spend with prospects.
Improve your time management skills by utilizing templates for your work, whether it’s for emails, texts, or progress trackers.
Email templates save precious time for sales reps, if there are common questions that customers have about products.
“I have found that email can be a massive time drain for sales professionals. There are a few protocols we use to streamline our sales team emails,” said Ian McClarty, CEO of PhoenixNap.com.
He further said, “We use canned responses and setting up email into zones for efficiency.”
“We provide each new member of our sales team pre-formatted canned responses as part of our sales funnel. Up to 40% of emails can be replied to with a canned response, some only requiring a small custom edit,” added Ian.
“Some replies take just two clicks, saving valuable time.”
3. Prospecting With a Purpose
Spending too much time researching a prospect is one of the major mistakes that sales reps make. If your pre-call research lasts more than a few minutes, you’re doing it wrong.
You are spending way too much time in-between calls. You could have used the time spent on doing other activities to improve your sales performance.
The “Time Management for Sales” study shows that sales professionals spend 12% of their time researching target accounts and prospects.
Research, along with administrative tasks, were the most time-consuming activities for sales reps. It’s just another way to procrastinate before the cold call, say sales leaders.
“Salespeople always tend to find everything to do but prospect,” said Grayson Lafrenz, CEO and Business Development Lead for Power Digital Marketing.
He added, “Why is that? Because you get rejected non-stop when you are prospecting. Some of the biggest time wasters are responding to emails and spending too much time researching when the person you are researching may not even be a qualified lead.”
He further reminded sales professionals, “Analysis paralysis is one of the ultimate killers of a sales person,”
4. Scheduling Daily Sales Activities
To make sure sales reps spend their valuable time on what matters, you can schedule daily sales activities and set clear expectations about them. Sales cadence tools are a good way of automating sales activities and workflow for this purpose.
What is Sales Cadence? This refers to the monitoring of a team’s progress through meetings.
“I live and die by what the schedule tells me to do. This allows me to look back, see where I spent my time and improve it,” said Ryan Stewman, from HardcoreCloser.com.
And if you think you need complex planning for scheduling tasks, you don’t. Sometimes a piece of paper and a pen work just as well as a project management software.
“Tools for time management? Piece of paper and checklist – it might sound old school, but it’s the best time management tool I’ve implemented in the last three years,” said Adam Becker, Senior Director of Account Management at Octiv.
You can also use a whiteboard for all your team members to see what should be the priorities for a particular week or month. This way, everyone is aware of what your team’s goals are.
5. Don’t Micromanage
What is Micromanaging? This means a person in higher position controls every single aspect and activities of a group or organization.
Finally, there’s something to be said about a team that needs permanent supervision about how to manage their time. If you can’t trust your team to effectively manage their time, perhaps consider your entire sales process has an issue—or your sales tools might be ineffective.
Micromanaging your people will only result in frustration for you and your entire team. Your team may end up with low morales if you don’t allow them to manage their time and processes on their own.
“Give your staff the trust to manage their productivity. Ultimately, this will pay off through motivation and commitment,” said James Lloyd-Townshend, CEO at Frank Recruitment Group.
“Trust is one of the most valued gifts you can give your staff,” he added.
6. Stop Focusing on Small Tasks
When you start your workday, you may have been taught to do the most important tasks first. But some people like to tick off the small, unimportant things on their list first.
After a long day of working on these small tasks, they start to think they’ve been productive. That’s just another way to procrastinate and avoid doing the most important tasks.
David Allen, the author of Getting Things Done, believes in using your mind for worthwhile activities instead of getting boggled by small, 2-minute tasks.
If something comes up that will only take one or two minutes to do, then do it right then. You don’t have to schedule it for the next day.
Your mind will then be free to focus on more important tasks, like preparing a sales pitch for your next client.
If time is money, then wasted time will mean lost funds for your company. As a sales professional, not managing your time properly may spell disaster not just for your personal goals, but also for your team’s deadlines.
Prioritize tasks, don’t get distracted with social media or other time-wasting activities, and stay focused on the most important tasks.
Practicing good time management will help sales reps be more productive and take them several steps closer to their personal sales goals.
Want to know more about how sales reps spend their time? Download the XANT research – “Time Management for Sales.”
7. Time Management Apps
Bad habits are hard to break, and sometimes we all need some extra help to get back on track. Many time management apps on the market will help you organize your time more effectively and utilize your time to be more productive. Some are free with addons and some you pay for monthly or annual subscriptions.
‘Be Focused Timer’ is free on IOS/Mac and offers a convenient way to track blocks of work and lets you follow your past work history. You can set and manage your tasks, customize work interval duration and track goals to increase your output.
‘Calendar’ time management app syncs your data across all devices and provides a virtual assistant that learns your schedule and plans meetings, invitations, and diary adjustments. One time-saving tool can even add meeting transcripts. The upgrade can also produce an array of analytics which allows you to see how your time is spent with people and in meetings.
For those of you who like to work listening to music or have the TV on for background noise, this app is for you. Focus@Will, available on IOS and Android, was developed by three neuroscientists to help you concentrate more and achieve flow. The app hosts a compilation of music and sounds to serve a particular neurological function; the tracks are designed to get you to focus.
Successful investor and tech entrepreneur , Andrew Chen, from the San Francisco Bay Area says, “For me, time management tools are super important,” and uses them to clear his emails.
8. Take Regular Breaks
Taking a break improves your productivity and allows you to focus better. It’s a simplistic notion that really works. If you think that working through your lunch break will give you an extra hour to catch up. Think again.
Consider taking a short time out every hour or at least every 90 minutes max, especially when working on a computer. This will clear your mind and improve concentration, as well as give your eyes and body a rest.
When you come back to your desk, you will be recharged and ready to deal with your next task.
Bob Pozen, Senior Lecturer at MIT says, “taking regular timeouts can help you refresh your focus and get more done.” The ‘Extreme Productivity: Boost Your Results, Reduce Your Hours’ author, says the question to ask yourself is “what is the appropriate time period of concentrated work you can do before taking a break?” and not how many breaks you should take in a day.
9. Stop Multitasking, Get Better at Time Management
Recent studies have shown that multitasking is a performance killer and may even damage your brain. According to experts at Stanford University, multitasking makes you perform worse, even if you think you’re good at it.
Because your brain can only focus on one thing at a time, multitasking decreases your productivity and ability to perform. Doing two things at the same time makes your brain underperform both tasks.
Multitaskers have more trouble when it comes to organizing their thoughts and sorting out irrelevant information. Professor Clifford Nass says that “Everything distracts” the heavy multitaskers.
Prioritizing sales activities and focusing on one task at a time will maximize your efforts.
Want to know more about how sales reps spend their time? Download the XANT research – “Time Management for Sales.”
Are you struggling with managing your time? What are some of the factors that contribute to this? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.
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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on January 24, 2018, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.