There is research indicating that salespeople spend very little time actually selling. Various studies show that they spend about 35 percent of their total time on sales and the rest on administrative tasks and meetings with people other than contacts or clients. In a 40-hour workweek, that means about 14 hours are dedicated to work that is directly related to selling. To double your sales, you could double the time you spend on sales-related tasks and still have 12 hours for things that aren’t directly involved in selling.
Compared with many other roles in business, sales roles often come with more autonomy. Success, however, doesn't reward autonomy; it rewards discipline. Those who want to succeed in sales will find it easy if they are disciplined—and impossible if they are not. Time management for salespeople is reliant on a set of disciplines and routines.
A better description of the discipline required to succeed in sales is "me management." You can't manage time. It passes whether you use it wisely or not, and there’s nothing you can do to slow its relentless march. The only thing you can control is what you do between the ticks of the clock. In sales, there is no way to make up lost time once the quarter ends. You always need to stay ahead of the clock.
Time Management for Salespeople
There is only one outcome you need to succeed in sales: winning opportunities. But winning those deals first requires you to create them. The process of creating opportunities begins with a meeting with your prospective client. Acquiring meetings means cold outreach using the telephone. Those who avoid the phone will have too few meetings, too few opportunities, and too few won deals.
Our universe seems to be governed by cause and effect. Nothing happens without a cause. It also seems to run in seasons. You plant seeds in spring so you can harvest them in the fall. The order here has not changed in the last 30,000 years of our existence. And it is unlikely to change, so it is imperative you follow nature's laws. There are five elements of time management that will help you manage yourself and maximize how you use your time.
The First Element of Time Management: Goal Setting
The first element of time management for salespeople is to set your own goals. Your company is going to assign you a quota. That number is what your company needs from you, but even if it creates motivation or pressure, you are better off setting your own goals.
Those who are naturally hungry have no trouble setting their own goals. But whether you have an innate drive or not, it's important that your goals motivate you. You will do more to reach them by connecting to the reasons they are important to you. Aligning your goals with your quota will help you do the work.
The Second Element of Time Management: Planning Weeks and Days
The best tool for anyone pursuing a goal is a calendar, which is essentially a tool for documenting your priorities and your commitments. When you add a meeting to your calendar, you wouldn't dare miss that meeting. Treat your other sales activities with the same respect. By putting your commitments to your work on a calendar, you need to consider that time block to be as sacred as a meeting with a client.
By planning your week before it starts, you give yourself a tremendous head start. While other salespeople rummage through their inbox, looking for something to do, you are already working on your priority for the day and the week. The ability to know what you need to do and documenting that commitment on a calendar removes the possibility of wasting time.
The Third Element of Time Management: Removing Distractions
We live in a world of constant interruptions and distractions. The first of these interruptions is the smartphone. Between phone calls, text messages, and notifications, the smartphone encroaches on your time. The phone is the most important tool you have for booking meetings, but it is also one threat to sales productivity.
When sitting in front of your computer, you have access to the browser, a weapon of mass distraction. You have access to everything available on the internet, and you also have your internal chat, Slack, and email. Without removing the distractions that steal your time, you will be tempted to waste it.
The Fourth Element of Time Management for Sales: Cold Outreach
A long time ago, I realized that opening is the new closing. You can never win an opportunity you didn't first create. Without recognizing that every good thing that ever happens to a salesperson begins by meeting with a stranger, salespeople fail to reach their goals and miss their quotas. Time management for sales must start with meetings.
The more consistent your prospecting, the better your results. When you use your time to create new opportunities, you are making the best use of your time. The time you need to block for cold outreach is personal. You don't want to count calls; you want to count meetings. One salesperson might need 60 calls to book three meetings, while another person can book the same number with 15 outbound calls.
The Fifth Element of Time Management for Sales: Pursuing and Winning Deals
Once you have created an opportunity, you must win it. You must dedicate a large part of your time to pursuing opportunities. If most of your time is spent on creating and closing deals, you will have better results than your highly distracted and undisciplined peers.
Many of your peers will tell themselves the lie that they will make cold calls tomorrow. On the following day, they will repeat this lie. Their good intentions can never save them from themselves.
Time Management for Sales
You are responsible for time management for sales. You must set your goals, plan your weeks and days, remove the distractions, and create and win the new deals that will deliver your goals and retire your quota early.
When you say yes to small things that don’t support your sales work, you are saying no to your priorities and goals. Time management for sales requires you to reverse this tendency by devoting your time to sales activities and ignoring anything and everything else.