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Making The Most Of Your Time & Effort When Selling

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Posted on April 11, 2017

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Recently, I published a blog post on Numerik about “how to turn it around and hit your sales targets”. This blog post focused on strategies that sales reps can use to come from behind and win it when they are tracking down in the current quarter or sales period. If you haven’t read it yet, then I suggest you go here to do so.

Today we’re drilling down further and focusing on one element of that previous post that I think is perhaps the most important to get right:

Using your time and effort wisely, in order to create the best sales outcomes.

We're going to cover WHY you need to be efficient with your time and activities order to make more sales - and WHAT steps you can take to achieve this.

So Much To Do, So Little Time

Think of an average day at work. How many different activities might you wind up undertaking:

  • Prospecting

  • Replying to emails

  • Prepping for sales calls and meetings

  • Attending sales calls/meetings

  • Filling in paperwork

  • Driving to customer and prospect meetings

  • Fielding inbound phone calls

  • A bit of idle chit chat

  • Browsing social media and news websites (that’s prospecting, right?)

  • Reading or watching sales training material

  • The list goes on and on!

Now think about how long an average day at work is - 8-10 hours is the standard, although many of us might go above and beyond that to try and get the results we want.

However, it doesn’t matter which way you cut it; the fundamental problem remains that there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done that you would like to achieve.

There are simply so many different activities and ways to spend your time that you couldn't do them all even if you wanted. 

So what does this mean for the humble sales rep or manager trying to make target? Let's delve deeper ... introducing:

The Opportunity Cost 

In economics, there is a principle referred to as "opportunity cost". Maybe you've heard of it and know where I'm going with this, but I'll explain anyway so we're all on the same page.

The opportunity cost of any action is "the loss of other alternatives when one alternative is chosen". It describes the fundamental relationship between scarcity and choice. If I've got $1000 in my bank account to either invest in shares or spend (and I choose to spend it) then my opportunity cost is those shares and the dividends and capital gains I could have enjoyed had I invested the money.

When it comes to sales, this concept of an opportunity cost is actually very useful for understanding WHY it is so important to use your time and effort wisely.

Let's say you work a standard eight hour day. You've got eight hours in which to get everything done you possibly can in order to make more sales. For example, the opportunity cost of spending an hour filtering and sorting your email inbox is that you could have spent that hour following up on the phone with hot leads and trying to move some deals through your pipeline.

The Question You Always Need To Ask Yourself

The principle of opportunity costs means you need to be using your time and energies wisely, in order to get the best sales outcomes possible. This is especially important if you are behind on your target. When the pressure is on to hit quota and you’re behind where you need to be, then using your time and energy wisely is even more imperative. This is because you have to sell more with less available time. As you fall further behind, you need to be increasingly judicious with your efforts to prevent the situation from getting worse (and hopefully reverse the trend instead!)

Fundamentally, what it all boils down to is constantly keeping the following question in the back on your mind:

“Is everything I am doing with my time and energy tying directly back to the ultimate goal of hitting my sales target?”

If you can’t honestly answer yes to this question, then there are probably a number of opportunities available for you to adjust your time management and daily actions, in order to sell more and hit your target.

So we've answered "why" it is so important to manage your time and effort effectively when trying to make sales (especially if coming from behind to catch up to target). If you don't work efficiently, then you'll risk falling even further behind!

Now let's look at what you can do to ensure you are using your time and effort wisely.

The Solution

The first phase of using your selling time and energies effectively is taking the right actions with the right customers. 

One of the biggest areas of opportunity we see for sales reps is discovering which activities and which accounts are leading to be the best outcomes for you in terms of closed deals, new business, and moving you towards hitting your target. Once you have worked this out, then you focus in on where you are winning the best and sell even more!

You’ve probably heard of the 80/20 rule (also known as the Pareto Principle) which states that 80% of your results will come from 20% of your actions. What you need to do is identify that 20% of fruit-bearing activity, and then double-down and focus on that to help you make more sales and hit/exceed your targets. Likewise, you should try to work out the 20% of accounts/customers that are top performers, and focus on extracting additional business out of them.* 

*Obviously, you don't want to ignore new prospects and those "whales" you've been trying to close. However, when you've got limited time to get ahead of target, it will pay dividends to focus primarily on that more lucrative 20% of accounts! 

The second phase is to actually free up more time each day for productive selling tasks. This can be achieved through effective time management, as well as automation and elimination of time-intensive tasks that aren't necessarily providing much value. 

Now time management for salespeople is a massive subject (and a lot of excellent content has been created on this subject already - and Numerik is going to create some more shortly) so for now let's look at some high-level points to get you started:

  • Plan your day. There's an old saying that goes something like this: "Proper preparation prevents poor performance." Planning out your day and allocating blocks of time to different tasks can really help focus the mind and get you working more productively. Whether you go old school and plan with a pen and paper, or use an app or calendar software to do so, the results of planning your day can be immense in terms of reduced time wastage and more productive outcomes. 

  • Strive to eliminate or automate low value activities. Low value activities are often easy, repetitive and time-consuming when conducted on scale. More importantly, while they may be necessary they don't necessarily result in getting more deals closed or prospects found. They are work, but not truly productive work. Tasks like clearing your inbox, replying to internal communications, filling out paperwork etc are all necessary in the grand scheme of things, but do not directly generate sales outcomes. High value activities on the other hand may be time consuming and require more effort, but directly result in growing your pipeline and closing more deals. Effective time management means eliminating and/or automating low value activities where possible, and replacing that time with high value activities. 

  • Avoid wasted time. When you've got to get ahead, you can't afford to be wasting time on things like office chit chat, browsing social media, or watching cat videos on YouTube. At least low value activities serve some purpose ... time wasting activities serve none at all in the context of helping you fulfill your duties and make sales. Get your work done promptly and efficiently, so that you do have the time to go home at the end of the day and unwind! 

  • Say no to multitasking. The concept of multitasking is a myth. Many studies have shown that you cannot do two (or more) things at once and create desirable outcomes. Start one task - and one task only - and work diligently to see it through to completion within the timeframe you have allowed yourself. For example, if you've got one hour to send prospecting phone calls, then make sure you aren't also answering emails at the same time. By planning your day and allocating time to tasks, you can avoid multitasking. 

  • Automate where possible. One of the best things about selling in the Internet age is the amount of automation that is possible. There will be an automation solution out there for just about every repetitive task you can think of. Look to automate processes that will free up more time for face-to-face or phone interaction with prospects and existing customers. Resources like email templates can be invaluable and save you a lot of time - freeing it up for other activities. 

To Recap:

  • WHY do you need to use your time and effort wisely? You've only got a limited number of hours to "make it count" and get the results you and your business need. You can't do everything, and every single action you take has an opportunity cost. Getting this right becomes especially important if you're behind target - you need to pull out every stop and use every minute wisely in order to get ahead.
  • WHAT do you need to do? Firstly, identify the accounts and actions that are yielding the most fruit (think of that 80/20 rule). Focus on those accounts and actions to drive more sales. Secondly, look to eliminate "time sinks" in order to free up more hours in the day for productive selling activities. Seek opportunities for automation of repetitive, low-value tasks where possible. 

Conclusion

We are all given the same 24 hours in the day, and the same seven days a week in which to achieve results in all aspects of our lives. When it comes to the working week, there is even less time! Realistically, you’ve probably got 40-50hrs each week to get out there, make those sales, and meet your target.

You’ve got to use your limited time wisely, and you’ve got to do the right things within that time to maximize the value you derive from it.

At Numerik, we believe the real secret to hitting your sales targets comes from two key factors:

  1. Having a defined sales target you need to hit. Without a target you’re just firing blind! This target needs to be the score you “live and die” by.

  2. Focusing your actions and time usage around this target, ensuring that everything you do in your day-to-day work is directly contributing to meeting that target.

Making the most of each day will help you undertake activities that have a direct, positive impact on your sales outcomes. This means more closed deals for you! In this blog post we've covered why it is so important to use your time wisely (because without doing so, you are leaving potential sales on the table) and what steps you can take in order to achieve this. 

At Numerik, we are currently developing a unique application to help salespeople meet their targets, through prioritising time and action to put in your effort where it truly counts and reap great results. If this sounds like something that could help you achieve more sales, then contact our team today for more information.

This blog post was written by Sam Frost, Marketing Manager for Numerik. Connect with him on LinkedIn to keep up to date with what is happening with Numerik. Make sure you’re also following the official Numerik LinkedIn page, as well as our Twitter account for more great sales insight and product updates.


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