Time is your finite, non-renewable resource. While it may feel like your time is renewed each day, it’s important to recognize today isn't a replacement for yesterday. Today is a different day and yesterday is gone forever. Whether you use your time to work or allow yourself to waste it, your time will disappear. If yesterday you needed to spend time producing important sales outcomes, but instead you scrolled through social media, doing the sales work today differs from having done it yesterday. You took two days to do a task that could have been done in a few hours.
I am sensitive about time. An average life span is around 4,100 weeks. My Countdowns app tells me that, if I live to be 82 years old, I have 1,408 weeks remaining, not accounting for medical breakthroughs. When you realize how little time you have been granted, you start to understand why smart people are industrious and account for their time. Instead of telling you what to do and when to do it, I'll provide you with a list of rules to improve your sales time management. Doing so means producing more revenue in a particular period and over the long term.
Rule 1: Spend Part of Every Day Creating New Opportunities
To be successful in sales, you need to manage your time. Some part of every day should be invested in creating new opportunities. Where most salespeople get into trouble is believing they can prospect later. Let's assume you have a 90-day sales cycle. The opportunity you create on January 1 will close on April 1. If you did no prospecting in the first two weeks of the year, you will miss the opportunities you need to capture in the first two weeks of April.
The person who that believes they can catch up on their prospecting will soon learn that it is incredibly difficult to create new opportunities on a condensed schedule. Spending a whole week prospecting doesn't produce the same result as doing some as part of each day.
Rule 2: Spend Time Pursuing Large, High-Visibility, High-Value Clients
Because your time is limited, it's best to pursue meaningful opportunities with what you might call your dream clients. Unfortunately, they are certain to already have a supplier. Your dream clients spend a tremendous amount of money in your category. They also find what you sell to be part of a strategic decision. Salespeople make the mistake of avoiding spending time on large, difficult-to-win clients, choosing instead to pursue smaller deals that are easier to win.
Given a long enough timeline, every major prospect in your territory will change their supplier. By making time to pursue these clients and nurturing them over time, you become known to them. By using a modern, insight-based approach, you share information the contacts find valuable. This will ensure you are invited to talk with your dream client contacts when they discuss change.
Those who chase small, easy-to-acquire deals need to create and win many more of them than the salesperson who wins larger clients.
Rule 3: Touch Every Existing Opportunity
Time does not kill deals, but I know for certain that deals die when there is no forward momentum. Once you create an opportunity, you must keep it moving forward. The longer you go without any meaningful activity, the more you put that opportunity at risk. Your CRM's pipeline is likely to have many opportunities that have died of neglect.
Selling has two outcomes you must invest time in: 1) creating opportunities and 2) capturing them. Both are critical to your success in sales. Improving your sales time management means doing what is most important for these two goals. There is always a reason to create value for your clients as they pursue change, so make a call or schedule a meeting. You may need to be creative or more persistent to keep the momentum going. You may also need to follow up and help your contacts push things forward.
Rule 4: Maintain Relationships
You know that deal you won nine months ago? Eight months ago, you followed up to make sure things were going well, but you haven't spoken to your contacts since then. Absence makes the heart go wander. Maybe nothing has changed in the intervening months, but maybe something has. You need to know if your contact faces a problem that would benefit from your help. It's important to remember that your competitor is going to do what you won't do, including giving your clients their time and attention.
Hate your CRM. Complain that it’s Big Brother. Then, spend some part of your time maintaining your relationships. The maintenance of client relationships is critical to your long-term success in sales.
Rule 5: Spend Time on Professional Development
There are two types of salespeople. The first type believes selling is a job, and they approach their role as they would if they worked as a cashier at their local Taco Bell. The second type is a business advisor who consults with their clients about strategic issues. Clients immediately notice the difference between these two types of salespeople.
Salespeople who study their craft, be it through reading, training, or coaching, gain an extreme advantage over salespeople who treat sales like a job. More and more, selling is moving in two directions. More transactional sales are being relegated to the internet, where a salesperson is often unnecessary. Complex sales require more consultative approaches. Anyone who is not getting better is getting worse.
Whether you are studying an industry to build your insights, or reading something that will help you help your clients, you need to make room for professional development.
Follow these five rules, devoting time to each of them instead of cleaning your desk or indulging in some novel distraction. When you are tempted to waste your time, remind yourself of these rules and instead focus on investing in your future. By making this conscious effort, you will improve your sales time management—and your results.