Over the years, I've seen some regularly occurring patterns develop— tendencies on the part of salespeople to do things that detract from their effective use of time.
Here are the four most common time wasters I've observed. See if any apply to you.
1. Allure of the urgent/trivial.
Salespeople love to be busy and active. We have visions of ourselves as people who can get things done.
A big portion of our sense of worth and our personal identity is dependent on being busy. At some level in our self image of ourselves, being busy means that we really are important. One of the worst things that can happen to us is to have nothing to do, nowhere to go, and nothing going on. So, we latch onto every task that comes our way, regardless of the importance.
For example, one of our customers hands us a very involved "Request for Quote." "Better schedule a half-day at the office," we think. "Need to look up specifications, calculate prices, compile literature, etc." We become immediately involved with this task, working on this project for our customer. In retrospect, couldn't we have given the project to an inside salesperson or customer service rep to do the leg work? Couldn't we have just communicated the guidelines to someone and then reviewed the finished proposal?
We are so enamored with being busy and feeling needed that we often grab at any task that comes our way, regardless of how unimportant. And each time we do that, we compromise our ability to invest our sales times more effectively.
2. The comfort of the status quo.
A lot of salespeople have evolved to the point where they have a comfortable routine. They make enough money and they have established routines and habits that are comfortable. They really don't want to expend the energy it takes to find a better way, or to become more successful or effective.
However, our rapidly changing world constantly demands new methods, techniques, habits and routines. Just because something has been effective for a few years doesn't mean that it continues to be so.
If you haven't changed or challenged some habit or routine in the last few years, chances are you are not as effective as you could be.
For example, you could still be writing phone messages down on little slips of paper when entering them into your contact manager would be more effective. This is a simple example of a principle that can extend towards the most important things that we do. Are we using the same routines for organizing our work week, for determining who to call on, for understanding our customers, for collecting information, etc?
Contentment with the status quo almost always means salespeople who are not as effective as they could be.
3. Lack of trust in other people in the organization.
Salespeople have a natural tendency to work alone. That's generally a positive personality trait for a salesperson. Unfortunately, when it extends to those tasks that could be done better by other people in our organization it turns into a real negative.
Instead of soliciting aid from others in the organization, and thereby making much better use of our time, many salespeople insist on doing it themselves, no matter how redundant and time-consuming the task is. The world is full of salespeople who don't trust their own colleagues to write an order, to source a product, to enter an order in the system, to follow up on a back order, to deliver some sample or literature, to research a quote, to deliver a proposal, etc.
The point is that many of these tasks can be done better or cheaper by someone else in the organization. The salespeople don't release the tasks to them because they, the salespeople, don't trust them to do it. Too bad. It's a tremendous waste of good selling time and talent.
4. Lack of tough-minded thoughtfulness.
Ultimately, time management begins with thoughtfulness. I like to say that good time management is a result of "thinking about it before you do it."
Good time managers invest sufficiently in this process. They set aside time each year to create annual goals, they invest planning time every quarter and every month to create plans for those times, they plan every week and every sales call. Poor sales time managers don't dedicate sufficient time to the "thinking about it" phase of their job.
Not only do good sales time managers invest a sufficient quantity of time, but they also are disciplined and tough-minded about how they think. They ask themselves good questions, and answer them with as much objectivity as they can muster.
"What do I really want to accomplish in this account?"
"Why aren't they buying from me?"
"Who is the key decision maker in this account?"
"Am I spending too much time in this account, or not enough in that one?"
"How can I change what I am doing in order to become more effective?"
These are just a few of the tough questions that good sales time managers consider on a regular basis. They don't let allow their emotions or personal comfort zones to dictate the plans. They go where it is smart to go, do what it is smart to do. They do these things because they have spent the quantity and quality of thought-time necessary.
There are hundreds of other time-wasting habits. The above four are the most common. Correct them, and you'll be well on your way to dramatically improved results.
About the Author:
David Kahle, President of DaCo Corporation has published over 300 articles, three books (The Six-Hat Salesperson, How to Excel at Distribution Sales In The New Millennium and his latest title 10 Secrets of Time Management for Salespeople) and numerous multi-media training programs.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are strictly those of the author. CPSA does not endorse any of the companies, products and services mentioned within this article.