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

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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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Time Management

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Time Management

Posted on 18 August 2014 by cradmin

By Dr. Tony Alessandra

Time is nature’s greatest force. Nothing can stop it; nothing can alter it. Unlike the wind, it cannot be felt. Unlike the sun, it cannot be seen. Yet, of all nature’s forces, time has the most profound effect on us.

Time remains constant, but our perception of it changes. When we focus on it, it slows down. When we turn our backs on it, it speeds up. Our illusion makes us think it is something tangible. We arrange it, divide it up, give some to our friends. Sometimes we feel it is precious; at other times we waste it. We give it the power to heal when we say, “Time heals all wounds.” It can also kill, as when we live stressful lives because we never seem to have enough time. On a day-to-day basis, nothing is defined and redefined in our minds as much as time. It’s a wonder we can still recognize it!

Herein lies our power: Because things are as we perceive them, we can choose to see time as a manageable commodity and live our lives according to that assumption. This is one of the secrets of successful people – they work at shaping those things that others think are uncontrollable.

Efficient Vs. Effective

In discussing time management, some people argue, “What we need is to be more efficient with our time!” Other people claim, “Let’s not worry so much about efficiency; let’s be more effective!”

Efficiency means doing things right. Effectiveness means doing the right things. Working efficiently is doing things with the least amount of wasted effort. Efficiency gets you from point A to point B via a straight line. Inefficiency goes in circles. Effectiveness means doing the things that yield results.

Many people, when learning about time management, ask the question, “Which should I work on first, efficiency or effectiveness?” In theory and practice, the best answer is to improve your effectiveness first. It’s much better to aim your sights at the result than to worry about the process. Too often, we get bogged down in the means and lose sight of the end.

Eliminating Time Wasters

Time wasters come from the people around you as well as from within yourself. Some time wasters are unavoidable but reducible nonetheless. Identify the most frequent sources of time wasters in your day. As a means of comparison, we’ve included a list of them here. Many researchers find the same handful at the top of their lists, which indicates that they are problems common to all of us:

  1. Scheduling less important work before more important work
  2. Starting a job before thinking it through
  3. Leaving jobs before they are completed
  4. Doing things that can be delegated to another person
  5. Doing things that can be delegated to modern equipment
  6. Doing things that actually aren’t a part of your real job
  7. Keeping too many, too complicated or overlapping records
  8. Handling too wide a variety of duties
  9. Failing to build barriers against interruptions
  10. Allowing conferences and discussions to wander
  11. Conducting unnecessary meetings, visits and phone calls
  12. Chasing trivial data after the main facts are in
  13. Socializing at great length between tasks

Setting Priorities

When setting your priorities, there are two famous laws to remember. The first is Parkinson’s Law. It states that work tends to expand to fill the time allotted for its completion. Parkinson’s Law makes setting priorities twice as important. If you don’t know what your priorities are, your other work will expand to fill in the extra time. It will take longer for you to accomplish less.

The second law of note is Pareto’s Principle. Pareto’s Principle, in this situation, states that 80 percent of your results come from 20 percent of your efforts. Another way to look at it is that 80 percent of your business comes from 20 percent of your clients.

Using a To-Do List

A list of things to do for each day and week is a valuable aid to managing your time. A to-do list organizes your thinking and planning onto one form in the least amount of time with the maximum amount of efficiency. Such a list is especially helpful if it coincides with the record keeping you already do for your company. After a short time, you will find yourself handling a greater volume of work without increasing your stress. You’ll simply become more efficient.

As we mentioned before, Parkinson’s Law states that work expands to fill the time allotted for it. Your to-do list should, therefore, define a specific amount of time, if possible, for each activity. This will keep work from expanding.

Your activities should be listed in order of priority. Work on high priorities first. In listing the activities, it is helpful to spell out the result as well as the process. Stating when, where and what you’re going to do increases your chances of doing it successfully.

As the day goes by, check off completed activities and make any notes that seem relevant. In the evening, make out a new to-do list for the next day and include any activities you couldn’t complete the day before. Always save your to-do lists for future reference and evaluation.

Keeping Records of Time Use

The experts in time management all agree that the more records you keep, the more you will be aware of the opportunities for improving your use of time.

Through systematic record keeping, you will learn, among other things, which tasks you’re having trouble completing. You can actually chart your performance to get a graphic illustration of your strengths and weaknesses.

Procrastination

“Don’t put off for tomorrow what you can do today,” my mother has said ever since I can remember.

Procrastination is like a virus. It creeps up on you slowly, drains you of energy and is difficult to get rid of if your resistance is low. Procrastination is a close relative of incompetence and a first cousin to inefficiency, which is why their marriage is taboo. These suggestions will help you conquer the virus:

  • Give yourself deadlines. In moderation, pressure motivates. Extreme pressure debilitates. Set appointments, make commitments, write out your goals and otherwise develop the determination to succeed.
  • Don’t duck the difficult problems. Every day we are faced with both difficult and easy tasks. Tackle the difficult ones first so that you can look forward to the easy ones. If you work on the easy ones first, you might expand the time that they take in order to avoid the difficult ones waiting for you.

Many people put off difficult or large tasks because they appear too huge to tackle in a reasonable timeframe. They feel that if they start and complete the large task at one sitting, it will prevent them from accomplishing any of the other tasks they have to do on that day. The answer to this problem is to break all large or difficult tasks into their smaller subparts. Then, you can do each of the subparts of the larger project over a series of days, if appropriate.

  • Don’t let perfectionism paralyze you. This is a problem that many salespeople have when writing proposals. They sit with pad and pen in hand waiting for the right words to come out. What they are doing is avoiding the process of writing. Be prolific in your activities. You can always go back later and polish those things you’re unhappy with. Better yet, you can delegate the polishing to someone else.

Because humans are so susceptible to procrastination, you must work at building up your immunity to it. Effective action is the best medicine.

Handling Paperwork

Try to answer any correspondence immediately. After you’ve read the letter, write your reply on the back and give it to your office administrator to type. An even more efficient method is to record your correspondence and leave the rest to your administrator, if you have one.

The other mail you receive should be dealt with in the same way. Act immediately on whatever you can. If you receive a magazine, peruse it and clip out articles you intend to read. Try categorizing your reading material into three groups: articles you must read soon, articles you should read and articles that would be nice to read. Clipping the article makes it more accessible.

Naturally, there will be more than mail accumulating on your desk. Adopt a policy of picking up paperwork only once. This means you should not look at something and put it back down where you found it. It’s much wiser to take some form of action on the item. Decide what to do with it and move it along to the next step toward completion.

Telephone Calls

The telephone is, of course, one of life’s greatest time savers. It saves time over writing letters, making trips and meeting with people. It can also be a great time waster. To avoid spending more time than necessary in calling people back, follow these suggestions:

  • Determine the best time of day for you to return calls.
  • Prepare information in advance when you call back. You can pull files and gather documents you’ll need to answer questions. This is obviously a time saver to you.
  • Curtail the length of your calls when and where appropriate.
  • Be organized. List the questions or topics you wish to discuss and have them in front of you.

Relaxation and Stress Reduction

In our goal-oriented, hyper-motivated, moneymaking workday, we often deny ourselves much-needed periods of relaxation. Like a high-powered sports car, we can be very impressive at high speeds but sacrifice distance, efficiency and physical integrity in the process. Our bodies and minds are designed to work well if they are not overtaxed. Frequent periods of relaxation and stress reduction are important to the longevity of our bodies and minds.

“The person who doesn’t take time for relaxation will be obliged sooner or later to make time for illness,” said John Wanamaker.

All too often, the sacred coffee break is abused rather than maximized. People become focused on the process rather than the desired result of the break. A coffee or lunch break should be used as a time to relax so that you are more effective when you return to work. The relaxation you seek during a break should achieve three things:

  1. It should provide distraction and get your mind off the job.
  2. It should alleviate tension.
  3. It should be short enough not to severely interfere with your workday but long enough to provide you with some benefits.

There is no denying the importance of relaxation despite it appearing unproductive.

Change Your Bad Habits

“Habit, my friend, is practice long pursued that at the last becomes the man himself,” said Evenus in the 5th century B.C.

Managing your time efficiently and effectively will require some changes in your behavior and thinking. Those changes require practice.

Giant strides, when looked at closely, are made up of many small steps. In overhauling your management of time, you, too, need to take small steps. Start today doing those things that will make you a better manager of your time. After you’ve improved in one area, choose another and so on.

How about taking a moment, right now, to list the ideas you’d like to implement? Review this article and circle or highlight the items of most immediate value to you. Then put them on tomorrow’s to-do list for action. Remember this: If it is not affecting your actions, it is doubtful you believe it.

 

About the Author

Dr. Tony Alessandra, CSP, CPAE has authored 13 books, recorded over 50 audio and video programs and delivered over 2,000 keynote speeches since 1976.  Dr. Alessandra is recognized by Meetings and Conventions Magazine as “one of America’s most electrifying speakers.”

Copyright©  Tony Alessandra. All right reserved. For information, contact FrogPond at email susie@FrogPond.com.

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