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Making The Time To Sell

by David Brock on April 11th, 2012

Virtually everything we do can be recovered.  We make a bad call, we can fix it and recover from it, we lose a deal, we can learn from it and win the next ten deals.  The one thing we can’t recover is time–once we’ve spent it, it’s lost, we can’t re-do it, we can’t recover it.  So it’s critical we manage our time to maximize our impact and effectiveness.

If our job is to sell—to acquire new business, orders, and revenue; then clearly we want to maximize the time available to sell (as well as maximize our effectiveness for the time spent–but that’s a different post).  This seems obvious, you might be asking, “tell me something I don’t know.”

However, when we start looking at how sales people spend their time, increasingly we find more time is spent in non-selling related activities than in selling related activities.  Surveys show time spent in sales related activities at a little more than 40%.  In surveys we’ve done with a number of organizations recently, we are seeing sales related time significantly lower, sometimes south of 20%.

We’ll never be able to spend 100% of our time selling, there are things we have to do as sales people that aren’t sales related.  But we want to do everything we can to maximize the time we have available to sell.

Generally, we find two categories impacting time available for selling:

  • How we, individually, manage our time.
  • Organizational impacts on our time.

In maximizing time available for selling, we have to look at both.

Managing our time available for selling:  We are responsible for setting our daily schedules and priorities.  Too often we don’t manage our time–we let interruptions manage us, our time is consumed with reacting or responding.  Or we get into an avoidance mode.  We know we have to prospect, we find all sorts of excuses to avoid prospecting.  Or we just don’t have a plan at all.  Soon our time available for selling disappears.  Vicious prioritization of our time, focusing on where we invest our time, blocking time focusing on the activities that enable us to achieve our goals is critical.

Track how you spend your time.  Look at how much time you spend in selling, look at the other time drains.  Block your time, schedule yourself, make sure that you are conscious about how you invest your time–invest it in activities that enable you to achieve your goals.

Organizational impacts on time:  Sometimes our ability to manage our time is out of our control, people in our company start consuming time.  Most of the time it’s unconscious, it’s people, our colleagues doing their jobs.  They may have questions, they want to understand what’s happening with customers.  Sometimes, roles and responsibilities are unclear, as things start falling through the cracks, in order to serve our customers, sales people step in to take up the slack.  Sometimes, our organizations just impose a lot of bureaucracy.  We have to work with our colleagues.  We have responsibilities within our own organizations, but too often–and inadvertently, the internal meetings or requests can start to consume our time.

We see systemic issues impacting selling time within organizations.  Often it is the result of poorly defined roles and responsibilities, sometimes it is poor mechanisms for managing communications in the organization.  It’s important to understand where the time drains are.  It’s important eliminate those that you can.  For the others, it’s important to see how you can minimize the impact.  For example, often product managers want feedback from sales on new features they may be considering.  They may survey 100% of the sales force.  Get a few product managers surveying 100% of the sales force, all of a sudden you have a huge time impact.  If each surveyed only a portion of the sales force, the impact on each sales person could be significantly less.  Usually, there are pretty simple solutions, but first we have to know we have a problem.

Organizations and systemic impacts on selling time are difficult for sales people to deal with.  Typically, a sales person cannot refuse to comply.  Managers need to be attentive to these organizational and systemic time drains, seeking to eliminate or reduce their impact.

One of the easiest ways to improve sales productivity is to simply make more time available for selling.  Moving from 20% time available to 30% time available can improve results by 50%.

  • Are you using your time as effectively as possible–maximizing the time you have for selling?
  • Are you looking for the time drains on your schedule, seeking to eliminate or minimize them?

 

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2 Comments
  1. You make a good point about the unrecoverable nature of time. When I think about the people I know who are best at sales, they all place a great importance on disciplining themselves to make the most of their most precious resource.

    Finding ways to measure the outcomes from our activities is difficult, but definitely a worth while endeavor.

    Don F Perkins

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