During challenging times, we often have to re-think our plans and patterns of work, don’t we? Maybe we used to join some associates for a coffee on Friday mornings to discuss and consider challenges or share successes. Due to current restrictions, that coffee shop might only allow take-out or perhaps you’re all social distancing. Rather than dwell on what we can’t do. This is a great time to re-think what we can do. It’s a good time to figure out ways to be more productive with our time.
Managing time really means, we manage ourselves. That includes avoiding the time traps that plague salespeople. Sadly, many of us are keeping ourselves from achieving the success of our dreams because these four time traps kill sales.
No. 1: Disorganization
How much valuable selling time has been lost or compromised because we’re looking for information, our keys, or an address? Have you ever been flustered at the beginning of a meeting with a prospective client because you lost track of time? How about forgetting their suite number and having to backtrack to the directory to find their office in a large complex? These are all things that we can and should control if we want to be successful. By being organized and giving attention to the details of every aspect of our business life will allow us to have more and better quality interactions with potential clients.
No. 2: Procrastination
This includes underestimating the amount of time something will take. Stop putting things off until they “have to” be done. Try increasing your time allotment in preparing for client contacts by 20% and feel the difference in how you feel. It’s likely you’ll feel more calm, more competent and prepared. And that competence will show on the outside–increasing the confidence potential clients have in you. True professionals in sales do what needs to be done when it needs to be done. They battle procrastination at every turn, instead economizing on their preparation time to allow for more client time.
No. 3: Unnecessary or unnecessarily long phone calls or meetings
Treat every client contact like a meeting. Set a goal for it. Prepare a brief agenda (so you don’t forget to cover any key points). And, estimate how long the contact should take. Remember to add 20% of time to allow for important sidebar comments your client might make. And, write out how you anticipate ending the contact. A brief summary of what was covered is a good strategy. When you don’t have a plan for your client contacts, you’re giving the clients free rein on your time. If you do business with people who tend to be chatty, set the stage at the beginning of your contact with them with something like this: “Paul, I’m happy we’ve connected today. I’ve prepared heavily in order not to waste your valuable time. I believe we can cover all of our most important topics of discussion by 11:30 so we can both move on to our next commitments in a timely manner.” This sets an end time for the contact that will, hopefully, be honored by both of you.
No. 4: Unconfirmed meetings
Stop being afraid that people will cancel on you if you check in with them the day before or morning of a scheduled contact. We’re all busy people. Not everyone watches the clock. It’s easy to underestimate the time needed for things (see point #2 above). Send a quick email or make a brief call prior to your scheduled meetings and say something like this: “Hi Sue. I’ve worked hard in preparation of our time together. I’ll be ready promptly at 2 for our meeting. I promise not to waste your time, and to provide you with the information you need in order to make a wise decision about (name one of your benefits).” When the recipient knows you’ve done work in preparation for the meeting, they’ll feel at least a twinge of guilt if they were thinking of cancelling. If you confirm by phone and something has come up to require a change of plans, at least you’ll have them on the phone and be able to re-schedule right then and there.
Think of yourself as an engineer. You’re constantly on the lookout for ways to make your career more effective, more efficient, and more valuable. Incorporate new ideas as quickly as possible–before you lose your enthusiasm for them. Taking in new thoughts without acting on them is yet another time trap. You may feel enlightened, but you won’t benefit from that enlightenment until you act!