Time management is one of the most important skills for sales professionals. And yet, recent research shows very few sales reps use any sort of time management methodology (22%). If you’re in the other 78% and you’re reading this from your news feed, after scrolling mindlessly for 15 minutes–don’t feel bad, we get it. The Internet is making us all lose focus, and working efficiently is harder than ever.
Thanks to mobile phones, we know have all the wonders of Internet – friends, family, social media – right in our pockets. And it’s hard to resist the scrolling habit.
If you don’t believe me–here, check out this cute kitten!
I’m definitely no expert in time management (did I show you that picture of a kitten?), so I asked six sales experts what their most effective time management strategies are, what are some of the worst time wasters, and what tools they use to increase sales productivity and efficiency.
Here’s what I learned.
Make Technology Work With You, Not Against You
There’s a huge debate right now in the public space on whether technology is good for us or not. While some argue it’s making us lazy, there’s substantial evidence on how it’s increasing productivity significantly in businesses. Surprisingly, some of the advice that sales experts offer today is to just turn your email OFF, if you are to be more productive. Email has been identified as one of the biggest time wasters, shows Teri Robb, Regional Vice President, Central US Sales at Check Point.
“Many salespeople live and die by their email and get distracted with the email on top of their inboxes (versus doing what is important and necessary). This may sound odd, but turn your email off for a few hours a day and get your sales work done. This will help you focus and prioritize. Many of those ’emergencies’ will have worked themselves out,” said Teri.
Technology needs to work with you to make your work more efficient – and it does this by automating admin tasks. According to InsideSales.com research, sales reps spend an inordinate amount of time with administrative tasks– 12,8% of their time.
“In sales, it’s important to eliminate and automate monotonous and administrative tasks. We use tools like Salesforce, Drift, Join.Me, ContactMonkey’s email templates, email tracker and mail merge, Asana, Trello, Slack and DocuSign,” says Mark Gray, corporate sales manager at ContactMonkey.
Get Organized and Use Templates
A messy desk may be a sign of genius, according to some accounts– however, in sales, not being organized means that you might be wasting precious time you could spend with prospects. Email templates save precious time for sales reps, if there are common questions that customers have about products.
“I have found that email can be a massive time drain for sales professionals. There are a few protocols we use to streamline our sales team emails. We use canned responses and setting up email into zones for efficiency,” said Ian McClarty, CEO of PhoenixNap.com.
“We provide each new member of our sales team pre-formatted canned responses as part of our sales funnel. Up to 40% of emails can be replied to with a canned response, some only requiring a small custom edit. Some replies take just two clicks, saving valuable time,” added Ian.
Prospecting With a Purpose
Spending too much time researching a prospect is one of the major mistakes that sales reps make. If your pre-call research lasts more than a few minutes, you’re doing it wrong. You are spending way too much time in-between calls.
The “Time Management for Sales” study shows that sales professionals spend 12% of their time researching target accounts and prospects. Research, along with administrative tasks, were the most time-consuming activities for sales reps. It’s just another way to procrastinate before the cold call, say sales leaders.
“Sales people always tend to find everything to do but prospect. Why is that? Because you get rejected non-stop when you are prospecting. Some of the biggest time wasters are responding to email, spending too much time researching when the person you are researching may not even be a qualified lead. Analysis paralysis is one of the ultimate killers of a sales person,” said Grayson Lafrenz, CEO and Business Development Lead for Power Digital Marketing.
Scheduling Daily Sales Activities
To make sure sales reps spend time on what matters, you can schedule daily sales activities and set clear expectations about them. Sales cadence tools are a good way of automating sales activities and workflow for this purpose.
“I live and die by what the schedule tells me to do. This allows me to look back, see where I spent my time and improve it,” said Ryan Stewman, from HardcoreCloser.com.
And if you think you need complex planning for scheduling tasks, you don’t. Sometimes a piece of paper and a pen work just as well as a project management software.
“Tools for time management? Piece of paper and checklist – It might sound old school, but it’s the best time management tool I’ve implemented in the last three years,” said Adam Becker, Senior Director of Account Management at Octiv.
Finally, there’s something to be said about a team that needs permanent supervision about how to manage their time. If you can’t trust your team to effectively manage their time, perhaps consider your entire sales process has an issue – or your sales tools might be ineffective.
“Give your staff the trust to manage their productivity. Ultimately, this will pay off through motivation and commitment. Trust is one of the most valued gifts you can give your staff,” said James Lloyd-Townshend, CEO at Frank Recruitment Group.
Want to know more about how sales reps spend their time?