A while back, I gave away a bunch of copies of Jill Konrath’s new book, MORE SALES. LESS TIME. I tied those giveaways to an offer of a free consulting conversation about the struggles business owners and sellers face to be productive in this stressful and ever distracting “shiny object” environment.
My purpose was two-fold: 1) Help my audience with productivity advice and 2) Learn which issues were the biggest, most common, and most difficult to work through.
In addition to the fantastic ideas in Jill’s book, I was able to share MY best time and productivity advice to address THE most common problem repeated by both Sales Reps, Business Owners, and Sales VP’s.
“I don’t have enough time to get it all done.”
In my conversations with these busy sellers about growth and improved results for 2017, most prefaced the discussion with, “I can’t figure out how I’m going to do MORE than I’m already doing.”
Today’s sellers are time-starved. And – much like being deprived of oxygen – you suffer, make less brilliant decisions, and start making mistakes, leaving yourself vulnerable.
On any given day, there’s the minutia of administrative work, calls to make, emails to return. There’s the tremendous stress of people to manage, people to hire, people to fire, and people who invent new ways to steal our precious time and drive us nuts. Add managing customers or a book of business, coordinating production and operations and billing and receiving. Oh, and let’s not overlook the pressure of achieving quota, prospecting, generating leads, nurturing new business.
But here’s the catch – being more productive isn’t about doing MORE – it’s about doing things DIFFERENTLY.
I realized when I left the corporate world and created The Selling Agency that work could and WOULD absolutely consume me if I didn’t purposefully do things differently than I had been.
So much of attracting and serving clients is creative and to be creative, it takes time – to THINK. Which, we have discounted as “not productive”, right.
In reading MORE SALES, LESS TIME, this line struck me:
“The quality of our thinking is a huge differentiator in our work, yet few sellers realize just how important it truly is.” – Jill Konrath
As we believe differentiation leads our clients to their ideal customers, we feel like the time to think about differentiation, plan for it, implement, execute, and practice it – is HUGELY important so you can achieve more selling success.
So how do you do things differently to access that thinking and planning time?
Here are my top 3 ways to be more productive so you can spend more time thinking and selling:
Schedule everything – everything goes into my calendar. EVERYTHING. If it’s pajama day at my child’s school or I’m going to slow-cook a roast and I need to start it in the morning – EVERYTHING goes on my calendar. I don’t make lists on orange and green sticky notes anymore. Once something comes across my desk or counter, it gets scheduled and/or tossed. When you make the decision immediately and don’t put it in a pile to remember or tackle later, it frees up space in my head to not hold onto trivial things. On Sundays, I review my calendar for the upcoming week and in the evening for the next day. If something is important enough to remember or needs action, it goes on my calendar.
I’m also incredibly specific and purposeful about my calendar: I block and tackle. If I need to research different prospecting tools for a client, I block that off and dump the names of the tools I want to research in it. If I’m writing sales email templates for a sales team, there is a calendar block for ONLY that time and I write all my ideas in there as they come to me ahead of time. This eliminates lists and sticky notes everywhere and I know EXACTLY what I’m supposed to be focused on during that block of time.
I also have intentional “Calendar Rules” that I have created for myself. For instance, I will not cancel a meeting with myself. I have two personal rules (sick child or desired client asked to meet during that time) that allow me to postpone a meeting with myself but I NEVER cancel. Never.
I’ve set clear rules for myself and follow them – once you do, it’s easier to say NO, it’s easier to find the time because every task belongs in a box on your calendar.
Shut down and focus – As someone who has had 26 tabs – okay, it was 32 tabs open on my browser at once while doing research, it can be REALLY easy to be distracted. That’s why when I’m working – in one of those boxes on my calendar – I shut everything else down. YES, even EMAIL. I even silence my phone and move it across the room so I’m not tempted to look at notifications.
I work using a Pomodoro Technique – which is a timer set for 25 minutes at a time (there are many apps out there for this technique). I work-work-work for 25 minutes then take a quick break. Working in these intensely focused short bursts with a brief break is believed to sharpen your mental acuity. For me, the key is focusing on only one thing for this duration.
When you block off your time and tackle a single subject or type of work, your brain is fine-tuned for that one activity. Invoices – they all happen at once. Blog posts – two at a time within one hour. Client calls – all in one batch. Shut down everything else and focus on one thing. This means shutting your door and NOT allowing interruptions either. Share with your colleagues or employees that you’re working this way and those “emergencies” that require your attention magically become less urgent and less frequent. They’ll figure it out or resolve it more often without you. Win. Win. Win.
Sounds harsh but we’re now inundated with communication, visibility, and transparency in our work, on projects, and in our communities. It’s so easy to be sucked into the drama and “decisions by committee” mentality that divert our attention to matters that don’t need us to weigh in or take up the cause.
Much like I had to learn to keep a tight scope of work in our contracting agreements, to be productive, I’m determined to watch for those little time vampires that creep into the day, the week, the month . . . and steal away precious working time.
You’d be surprised what doesn’t HAVE to get done or what happens when you stop committing to everything. Know what your gifts and talents are and where your time is best used. You can encourage and support others to take up the slack or tasks that are not the best use of your time by keeping to your calendar system. You might even be giving someone else an opportunity to prove themselves. If there’s not a box on your calendar that this task fits into – chances are it’s not going to be something you SHOULD do.
These 3 concentrated efforts should help you improve your focus and tighten up control of your schedule. You can be more productive and buy back time to accomplish those high-level priorities.
What are you going to do with that extra 42 minutes every day? Of course, I have an idea. You should use that time to do more customer-facing, relationship-building, SELLING Activities.
If you’d like to talk more about your selling activities – what you should be doing, when, how, and where to earn more sales – contact us and we’ll start with where you are today.
Until next time, stop hoping, start SELLING!
PS – Have a genius productivity hack? We’d love to hear it. Share it in the comments below.