It’s a simple tenet for the sales professional: The more time spent selling, the greater the likelihood of achieving or exceeding quota. A simple premise, yes, but a challenge to actually implement. According to research by CSO Insights, on average, sales professionals spend only 35% of their time selling. What’s more, this number continues to decline.
There are are number of factors that have contributed to this – more meetings, more responsibilities, and more technology meant to help the sales process, but which require more time spent inputting, analysing and exporting data. This all comes at a cost. And despite the added responsibilities, quota still remains high or in many cases, continues to escalate. Guarding your time is more important today than ever before.
The only way to effectively manage it, is to measure it. You must be able to benchmark how and where you are spending your time, and which activities move you closer to reaching quota. Measuring and effectively managing your time is crucial to succeeding in the highly competitive sales arena. How do you do it?
1. Measure your time
The first step to improving anything is knowing where you are starting. As the old phrase goes, you can’t manage what you don’t measure. Spend a week or two really looking at how and where you spend your time. Pay special attention to what activities generate the most leads and best results. You might manually write this down in a notebook you carry with you everywhere or utilise a software to automatically track it for you.
2. Recognise distractions
Notice I’m not saying to eliminate all distraction. That is not a realistic expectation. The average worker is interrupted every three seconds. It typically takes up to 23 minutes to get back into the workflow after a major interruption occurs. It's a fact of life – you are probably going to check your phone, Facebook or Twitter multiple times throughout the day. However, this doesn’t have to derail your productivity either. Take a hard look at where your major distractions are and if they are truly impacting your workday in a negative way. You may find those frequent check-ins you thought were short are actually eating up large blocks of time, or those 'quick' chats with co-workers are taking away too many valuable minutes that could be spent selling. Or perhaps it’s the mandatory meetings that are pulling you away from the potential sale.
3. Increase your selling time
If you are accurately measuring your time, you will likely discover you simply don’t have enough time reserved for tasks directly related to selling. Even top-performing workers across all professions say they spend an average of 70 percent of their time on tedious, non-value added tasks. This is not a problem unique to sales. If you have measured accurately you now are armed with information to help you determine how you can increase your selling time and where your biggest time wasters are. You also have the hard data to take to your manager, for example, and explain that you are spending too much time on reports or updating your CRM instead of something that could actually generate profits. Measure, analyse then iterate along the way.
4. Regularly check in
Bad habits are easy to slip back into. As with any other goal, it’s important to set regular intervals to review your progress. Consider setting up a tool that allows you to automatically track your time so you can quickly peer in on daily or weekly basis. Otherwise, mark your calendar for 60 to 90 days in the future to track your time again in a journal. Take note of how you have improved and what additional changes you still need to address.
5. Utilise the resources around you
Whether you work remotely or in an office, you likely are part of a team of people who are all having the same struggles as you. When the team as a whole makes an effort to track their time, you can begin to pinpoint what’s working and what’s not. You might discover a productivity hack or activity that’s producing major results for a co-worker that you can then implement. Again, this is also valuable information you can take to management to tighten up operating procedures. Sharing best practices amongst the team will start to form a blueprint for success that you can regularly refer to and even use for new hires.
Remember, making changes to how you spend your time all starts with awareness. The more we can identify best practices and eliminate unnecessary time wasters, the greater the chances for success. Even if you are crushing it – blowing quota out of the water every month or quarter, think about what you could be doing if you had even more time to sell.