How to Get More Done in Less Time, and Free Up More Time for Selling

Posted on 12 January 2017 by CRadmin2

By Art Sobczak

Most of us would agree that we could sell more if we just had more time, or, realistically, better control of our time. After all, you can’t manage time any more than you can manage the weather. You can only control what you do with that time while on the phone–and off–to squeeze more productivity from every day.

Here are strategies and specific tactics to rid yourself of the feeling that you’re running in place, and instead, spend more time doing what you do best: selling.

Lists, Lists, Lists…

Like anything else productive, you must start with a plan.

  1. Don’t make a “to do” list at the beginning of the day. Make a “To Get Done” list. View your plans as something you’ll accomplish, not as an activity you’ll try to perform.
  1. According to author and certified management consultant Jeff Davidson, after preparing your “to get done today,” list, categorize the tasks under “urgent” and “not-so-urgent. Then, as unexpected hassles blindside you during the day, start a second list, the stuff you’ll get to tomorrow (after all, it’s normally the little fires that ignite during the day that steal our attention from even the best-intentioned plans, and upon close analysis, much of it truly can wait). Then, right before leaving, transfer today’s unfinished business to tomorrow’s list so you’re back to just one list.
  1. Do one more list. Harold Taylor, editor of Time Management Report, suggests that a “not to do” list is just as important as the others. Since managing time is a “zero-sum” activity, every item of secondary importance that you pinch from your schedule frees up that much more time to be invested in revenue-generating activities. Therefore, refuse to let yourself get caught in time-wasting meetings or committees that aren’t mandatory, and delegate clerical work whenever possible. Also, put this on your “not to do” list: don’t chase prospects who won’t commit to anything.

Ideas From the Experts

I asked an expert on the subject, Jeffrey Mayer, author of the book “Time Management for Dummies,” for some quick tips professionals can use.

  • Review your “Master To Do” list throughout the day. This ensures you don’t spend time looking at one pile after another, trying to decide what to tackle next, getting depressed in the process, and then saying “screw it” and getting up for another cup of coffee or a chat with your neighbor.
  • Do the important stuff first. That’s what you’re paid for. Make the bigger calls, work on the larger proposals, the more difficult projects … all early before the inevitable little annoyances begin chipping away at you.
  • Don’t let the arrival of e-mail messages, voice mail messages, or postal mail interrupt you. You know that when you’re engrossed in something you’re on a roll. Discipline yourself. And when you do review these interruptions, sort out the items that need immediate attention and add them to your Master To Get Done List. The others can be left for later. Or trashed.

Dan Wallace wrote an article in Home Office Computing called “Do Twice as Much in Half the Time.” I’ve excerpted and adapted the ideas that apply here.

  • Ask for the first appointment of the day. Whether it be a phone appointment, or in person, it’s the one least likely to start late.
  • Update your contact-management program and keep it current. Place a printout of your accounts/prospects by the phone and make manual corrections on the paper when you receive mail back or otherwise hear someone has moved on. Then, when you’re on terminal hold with someone, update them in the computer.
  • Rearrange your work space. Use the “near-far” rule. Keep things you use frequently at arm’s length, and things you don’t use often far out of the way. If piles are cluttering your desk, invest in some shelves.
  • If you’re right handed, place your phone on your left and keep a pad and pencil nearby. If you’re a lefty, do the opposite.
  • When you have a backlog on your voice mail, write or type the messages, and delete them. You won’t waste time scrolling through them the next time you check your system.
  • Use the lunch hour to return calls that require only a short answer, or when you’re posing a simple question. Many people will be away from their desks and you’ll reach voice mail.
  • Discourage interruptions. If you have an office, stick a sign on the door that says, “Important sales calls in progress.” Or, hang one on your cubicle that reads, “Door closed.”

More Tips

Here are even more tips I’ve accumulated over the years to help you more effectively control your time, and squeeze more production out of every day.

  • Flush your account files. I’m astounded by the rubbish that resides in many reps’ follow-up files, some of it not even as valuable as garage sale leftovers. Read the skimpy account notes, and you see a long list of comments like, “Not ready now, check back in 6 weeks.” Simple math tells you that time you spend trying to push a two-ton rock up a hill would be better invested looking for someone you have a chance with. Set an objective for a decision of any type on your next contact with these people. Ask, “When do you feel you’ll move forward with a purchase?” You save time on your calls, and the results are more pleasing.
  • Know when and how to say “No.” I’ve seen far too many sales reps who feel obligated to jump through hoops at the request of prospects who want to pick their brain, or otherwise want obscure product information or other research done. And reps comply without even knowing if they’ll get something in return! Before investing inordinate amounts of time with prospects, be certain there’s a potential payoff. There’s nothing wrong with saying, “I’ll be happy to do this for you. I’m assuming you want it because this is something you’re interested in, and that we’ll be working together on a purchase?”
  • Help people get to the point. Those who just want to chit-chat with you are pick-pockets. You wouldn’t let them snatch a $20 bill off your desk, would you? That’s what they’re doing with your time. Regardless of whether they’re customers, peers, or vendors, politely help them explain the reason they’re talking to you: “So how can I assist you?”/”What can I do for you?”
  • Talk in the past tense. To signify the end of the call you can say, “It’s really been great speaking with you …” or, “I’m glad we had the chance to talk.”
  • Reschedule personal interruptions. When friends call to chat, let them know you’re busy, but still want to speak with them.

“Mike great to hear from you. I want to hear all about your vacation to North Dakota. I’ve got some business calls I need to make here, so what’s the best time tonight for me to call you back?”

  • Use “Power Blocking.” Set aside blocks of 45-minute time blocks for activities, and do nothing but that during those times. For example, you might have two blocks of prospecting, and three blocks for follow-up calls during the day. This helps you focus and avoid spraying your activity in all directions.
  • Take the “Why am I doing this?”-test. When engaged in a questionable activity … stuffing envelopes … writing a proposal to a marginal prospect, ask why you’re doing it. If you can’t honestly say it’s either making you or the company money (or saving money), don’t do it. Or delegate it.
  • Analyze and adjust your work hours. You might be physically present for eight hours, but how much work do you get done during that time? Perhaps by coming in a half-hour earlier each day, you can accomplish what would normally be two hours worth of work later in the day. That would be like squeezing out another ten hours worth of production per week!
  • Never write memos or E-mail again. Got something important (and is it really that important, anyway?) to say to someone internally? Say it as you walk by their desk. Or call them for goodness sakes! I know, I know, some situations require that you cover your behind with a written record, but most are just plain drains of your time.
  • Go public with your intentions. If you must do something for someone else, commit to completing it by a specific time. Saying, “I’ll have that price quote to you by 2:00,” forces you to get right on it and complete the task. It avoids procrastination.
  • Turn wait time into productive time. If you think it’s dumb to waste money, it’s even more asinine to waste time. After all, you’ll make more money. Even Bill Gates couldn’t buy more time. Think of all the places you wait … in traffic jams, at the airport, doctor appointments, mechanics, and so on. Always carry with you a file of reading or light paperwork you need to get done. Doing it during this idle wait time eases the frustration of waiting, employs that time productively, and frees up your work time for more important tasks.

And Finally, The Most Important Point of All …

No tips on time control will do any good unless you desire to be a lean time machine. Do you?

It’s simple: if you want to get more done, you will. And from that desire flows your plan … your monthly, weekly, daily, and hourly plans for accomplishment. There’s no magic here. It’s back to the basics. If you have that burning desire, implement these ideas and you’ll find yourself getting more done in less time, and selling more by phone.

About the Author

Art Sobczak gives real world, how-to, conversational ideas and techniques helping business-to-business salespeople use the phone more effectively to prospect, sell, service, and manage accounts without “rejection.” Art is author of numerous books, taped training programs, and publisher of the TELEPHONE SELLING REPORT sales tips newsletter. He’s also a speaker and trainer, providing high-content, one-hour to multiple-day customized speeches and seminars.

Copyright© 2017, Art Sobczak. All rights reserved. For information, contact FrogPond at email susie@FrogPond.com.

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