Time Management is a top issue impacting sales productivity. It’s tough to establish measures on time management. Some people keep an inventory of what they’ve gotten done, for example to-do’s completed. One of the things I like tracking–not on an ongoing basis, but from time to time is: Time Available For Selling.
There are lots of ways to look at this. It’s important to establish your own definition and maintain consistency in how you track it. Many tend to define it in the following way: Time actually spend meeting with customers and prospects (whether in person or on the phone/web conference), plus time spent in preparing for the meeting and in direct follow up.
Most of the market survey’s on “Time Available For Selling” is reasonably in the same range, 37-45%! This means 63-55% of our time is spent in non sales activities! Surprised? We’ve done some assessments where we have seen time available for selling as low as 18-30%.
It’s kind of amazing, our jobs are to be working with customers, yet the marjority of our time is spent in other activities. A lot of those are important activities. Training meetings, some time spent in customer service/non selling activities, some necessary administraioon , travel, and other things. These are all part of our jobs and part of what we need to do to be sales people.
However, when you start monitoring how you spend your time, it’s important to look at “time drains.” These are things that detract from your time available for selling. As we’ve helped organizations assess this, we find some stark contrasts between sales people in large organizations and sales people in small organizations.
In large organizations, there are lots of distractions to selling activities. There tend to be lots of internal meetings–they may be well intended, but they are drains on people’s time. For example, in one Fortune 25 organization we worked with, we found marketing, product managers, customer service and all sorts of people interested in “understanding what the customers thought, what was happening in the field,” and other things. These were well intended people, doing their jobs, but when we looked at the collective impact of hundreds of these people vying for sales people’s time, the impact was great. In this same organization, there were continual new programs and initiatives. Again, each product manager was anxious for their initiatives to be successful, they spent time with sales people, getting mindshare, training. Each effort, alone, was a small impact, but when you looked at all the things going on across the entire organization the impact was enormous.
Many of these things are important. However, it’s important to look at the overall impact of each of these little time drains. In the case I cited above, everyone–sales, marketing, product managers were simply unaware of the impact of these time drains. Once they became aware of them, we were able to look at doing things differently. In the case of this organization, we were able to free up 20% of the time–without changing anything about how the people sold, we were able to almost double time available for selling, consequently double productivity.
Every large organization has these time drains. We become unconscious to them, and over time they grow. Assessing the time drains periodically can give tremendous improvements in Time Available for selling.
In small organizations, it’s a little more difficult. The reason is, often sales people wear multiple hats. In addition to selling, they may be doing some marketing programs, customer service or support. It’s simply because the organization is small and cannot afford to put the resources in place for each function. The time drains are very obvious, but the fixes are more difficult. Sometimes when they get to be big enough, you find you can justify hiring a person to do the function, freeing up the sales person to sell. Sometimes, sales people use these other duties as an escape or an excuse. If you know you have to do a lot or prospecting and you want to find excuses for not doing it, you can always use your other responsibilities as a mechanism for avoiding it. It happens to all of us. For example, I reserve time once a week to process bills and send them to our accountant for handling. Usually I do this on Saturday mornings. Today, I had a large block of time that I needed to do prospecting — I’ve told you how much I hate it. I almost decided to do my bill processing–I could have easily rationalized it–fortunately I didn’t.
In organizatons, large and small, we can always find excuses not to sell. There are always “important meetings” to go to, reports to complete, research to be done. Too often, sometimes unconsciously, we create the time drain. This is the worst possible time drain–something top sales professionals minimize.
Leveraging Time Available For Selling:
If we accept the market surveys, the average sales person only has 405 of their time available for selling—that’s less than half our time! Think about it, we have quotas that require our full time effort to achieve, but we have less than half our time to achieve them!
We need to make sure that whatever time we have available to sell, we use as effectively as possible. This is where planning comes in–investing the time to develop a strong deal strategy–focusing on how you increase your odds of winning and reduce the sales cycle is critical. Making each sales call count—figuring how you might compress what you would normally accomplish in 2-3 calls, compressing it to 1 call. Planning, preparation, then effective execution are critical to making the most of the time you do have available to sell.
It’s hard to monitor Time Available For Selling and the Time Drains. Once a quarter, I take a week and closely watch my time. At the end of the day, a look at how I’ve spent the day. After collecting data for a week, I look at how I’m spending my time. Are there time drains I can identify and eliminate? I look at the time I have spent selling, have I used that time to maximum impact?
In sales we can recover virtually everything. The only thing that we lose permanently is our time–it’s critical that we make each moment of the day as impactful as possible.
We’ve done lots of work in this. If you need help in looking at how you are spending your time, give me a call!