For many years I was guilty of believing and saying that good salespeople are disorganized—it just goes with the territory of hiring a top producer. Then one day, I stepped back and analyzed some of the top sales professionals that I was working with and realized: top sales producers are focused, good at planning, and they manage their calendars rather than letting their calendars manage them.
The pressure on every aspect of a salesperson’s job has increased dramatically over the past few years. Customers are more sophisticated, more demanding, and harder to see. Good salespeople are organized and productive, but many “old school” time management techniques have little application for the salesperson.
In her new book, What to Do When There's Too Much to Do: Reduce Tasks, Increase Results, and Save 90 Minutes a Day, Laura Stack says the key is to work less to achieve greater success. (Did saving 90 minutes a day get anyone’s attention?) She turns time management on its head and debunks the idea that you have to run yourself ragged to be more productive.
Take a look at how Laura slays these common time management dragons:
- Multitasking makes you more productive. Quite the opposite, actually. Multitasking may work for computers, but for people, single-tasking—focusing tightly on one task at a time, to the exclusion of all others—actually works better. That way, you don't waste time switching between tasks and then refocusing on the new one.
This is especially important to remember when working on sales tasks that require concentration and focus such as pre-call planning, account analysis and practicing new skills.
A Stanford study tested two groups (heavy media multitaskers and those who don’t regularly do media multitasking) who were given three tests. The heavy multitaskers lost in every case because they had trouble filtering out irrelevant information.
- I need to stay connected at all times. While your smartphone, the Internet, and email can certainly make you more productive, tread carefully here. Responding instantly to calls, email alerts, and Tweets shatters your focus and diverts you from real work. Research shows that it can take you seven to fifteen minutes to return to full focus and productivity. (And then we wonder why salespeople aren’t thinking and acting more strategic in their approach to businesses?)
So slip off the electronic leash. Turn off your global email alerts and create a “Rule” to play a sound when your best clients email you, thus increasing the odds it’s worth the interruption. When you absolutely must concentrate on a critical task, shut down your email, browser, and cell phone. Take care of your communications when you come up for air after 15-30 minutes.
- More is better. Some people believe the more they check off their to-do lists, the more productive they are. Be careful—don't confuse busyness with true productivity. If you accomplish two calls worth $50,000 each in the course of an eight-hour day, then you've far out-produced your neighbor who polished off 35 tasks worth $500 each during a twelve-hour session.
Working smarter not harder goes back to point number one. If you are always in “do” mode rather than “think” mode, you don’t take the time to determine the highest value activities to be accomplished each day, week and month.
- If I think of something to do, I should do it right then. When you have a random thought that sounds good, capture it right away, but don’t DO it. Thoughts don’t appear in order of importance. Use a little notebook in your shirt pocket, a Day-Timer, a handheld device like a Blackberry or iPhone, a compact voice recorder, 3 x 5 index cards, your iPad—whatever works for you—as long as it’s handy.
Once you've recorded your idea, your brain will think you've done something about it and will stop bugging you, so you can focus. (Have any of you ever had trouble falling asleep at night because your mind is racing?) This habit can help eliminate those sleepless nights which leads to unproductive days.
Sam Horn, author of POP, says it best: “If you think it, ink it.” Once it’s logged, then you can figure out when you are going to address the task. It might be this week or next month.
Good salespeople are organized and manage their time well. Read Laura's book so you can learn all the secrets of achieving fantastic value without succumbing to overwork! Finally, a “work less, more success” guide to time management!
To learn more about Laura Stack, America's premier expert in personal productivity, go to www.The Productivity Pro.com. Could 90 more minutes in your day help you make more money?