In commenting on my post, Given A Choice, Customers Generally Prefer Not To Have Their Time Wasted, my friend Gary Hart struck a chord, stimulating this post. Thanks Gary!
There is not a lot that we as sales professionals control. Our companies set our quotas, define our territories, give us sales and marketing programs, and help define out priorities. We can’t control the products, product quality, our pricing, or much of the customer experience.
The one thing that is in our control is how we use our time. Yet, too often, I see too many sales professionals wasting time. No I don’t mean the time hanging out with colleagues and buddies sharing war stories–though in excess this is a terrible waste. But it’s how we structure our days, weeks, years to achieve our goals and objectives. It’s about how disciplined, focused, and purposeful we are==each hour, each day, each week.
We also have mistaken concepts about using our time. Working harder, working longer are not necessarily the answers. If we are using our time poorly, working harder and longer just means we raise a sweat wasting more time. It ends up being meaningless, but we spend more time doing it.
Some thoughts on how we might be spending our time.
Being purposeful: What are we trying to achieve? Quota is part of it, but each of us has or should have personal goals. What we do in our jobs is part of it, but we have to have some broader meaning. What are we trying to achieve–earn a certain amount of money, the satisfaction of accomplishment or winning deals, moving forward in our careers, developing ourselves as professionals or members of the community, learn more, ….. whatever. What are you trying to achieve and how does what you are doing right now contribute to it? If what we are doing doesn’t contribute to what we are trying to achieve, then we are wasting our time.
Knowing our priorities: Yes, we all keep to-do lists (how many have a to-don’t list). And, yes, we roll over those we didn’t complete yesterday to today’s. Our to-do lists get too long and then are ignored. Or we have priorities–they are all top priorities, “A’s,” “must-do’s.” Or the opposite, we don’t have priorities–we let others set them for us, reacting to the next thing that comes up rather than doing what’s most important. Don’t stop at prioritizing, be vicious in your prioritizing!
Avoiding avoidance: There are things we hate doing as part of our lives (not just our jobs). It may be updating CRM or reporting, it may be prospecting, it may be generating that proposal; each of us has those things we just hate doing and spend a lot of time avoiding. Often we spend more time in avoidance than the task actually takes. Man (or Woman) Up! Nike has it right, Just Do It, then celebrate it’s completion.
Diversions and excuses: This is related to the previous topic. Often, we create diversions to help us avoid things that need to be done. We check email, we’re tweeting or doing some other social media activity, we are doing something–but not what we should be doing. Sure we need to do those activities, but when they become the excuses we use to avoid doing the things we should be doing, we are wasting our time.
Multitasking: Multitasking is the single greatest productivity myth in the world. Multitasking is one of the biggest time drains I have ever seen. It’s the biggest excuse we have in wasting time. We all know this, but we can’t refrain from it. Somehow I think multitasking is a form of conceit. It’s thinking, “We are so important, our time is so valuable, that we have to do multiple things at a time–disrespecting and wasting the time of those working with us.” Several years ago, I spent a day with one of the top executives of a $10 Billion + company. We were on the road, visiting offices and customers. What impressed me the most was he only checked his email/Blackberry 3 times during the day. He scheduled 15 minute “private” periods mid morning, around lunch and late in the afternoon. He never looked at it during any of the meetings. In discussing it with him, he commented, “There is never anything so important that demands my immediate attention. Everything can wait a few hours–often, it’s better just to let it simmer.”
In your next meeting, look around the table or room. Anyone with both hands below the table, eyes diverted downward, is doing something that’s not relevant to the discussion. They are wasting your time and theirs. Invite them to leave because clearly what they are doing is more important than the subject of the meeting. If you find yourself with both hands below the table(and I don’t mean neatly folded in your lap), your eyes diverted downward, just leave the meeting!
Presenteeism: Multitasking causes us not to be present–not to be engaged in what we are currently doing. There are other things that cause us not to be present. Being worried or distracted by other things or priorities, not wanting to be doing what we are doing. Presenteeism is an enormous problem. There are actually studies that indicate that it impacts US productivity by $ billions every year. If you aren’t present, you are wasting your time and those who you are spending time with. One of the most impressive things about the executive I described in the previous section was that in each meeting he was not only present–he had an intensity of focus on what he was doing that was inspiring. Don’t just be present, be intense in your presenteeism.
Planning and Thinking Time: I’ve written about this a number of times. I’m always amazed that people always seem to have the time to do something over, but we seldom have the time to do things right. It is impossible for us to use our time well if we don’t take the time to plan and think. Without this, we aren’t in control, we aren’t purposeful, we have no priorities. In the absence of planning and thinking, we let others set our priorities, control our time and waste our time. If you think so little of your own value and your own time, then let others fill it. If you are a professional, you take the time to plan and think.
Value Your Time: In our business, everyone is on 100% commission. It causes each of us to viciously manage our time, because time is, in fact, money. You don’t have to be on 100% commission to value your time. But you do have to know what it’s worth. It’s useful to set a dollar, euro, yuan value to your time. It’s useful to monitor how much time you are wasting or how much others are wasting your time.
Until you value your time, it’s impossible for you to value the time of anyone else!