Sometimes, when I’m talking with salespeople, something comes out of my mouth and I think, “Damn! I wish I’d recorded that. That was a really great sound bite!”
It happens A LOT. Last week, I actually stopped to write down one of those verbal gems while discussing time and productivity with a team member. This particular seller is in an incredibly competitive industry where you have to be immediately responsive and reactive to the inquiries, questions, and demands of prospects in order to keep them from going to his competitor.
This makes being PROACTIVE really difficult and on any given day, his best intentions can get sidetracked for hot leads and opportunities. Thorough follow-up and outbound calls fall to the bottom of the list and sometimes never get accomplished when everything looks like a hot blazing fire that needs immediate attention.
So, in this scenario, what did I say that was good enough to write down? I offered up one of my best life hacks for sellers, business owners, or just really busy people:
“Take the ‘thinking’ out of what you have to do next so you can put your focus on what you’re ‘doing.’”
Seriously. How much time do we waste every day “thinking” about what should come next? THIS is where we get sidetracked. THIS is where we lose track of time. THIS is where our focus gets diverted.
We stress our brains when we finish one task and then have to switch gears to think, “What’s next?” Over time, making these hundreds of decisions every day creates a phenomenon called “decision fatigue” and we start avoiding making decisions and doing what’s easy, instead of what’s needed.
However, if you automate your “thinking” – taking away those small but draining decisions, you can focus on the “doing” and get things done with more efficiency and focus.
There are dozens of things you can automate in your personal and physical life that take tiny decisions off your plate. Some examples –
- Each night, I grab my workout clothes and set them on the chair in my closet next to my shoes, heart rate monitor, headphones, and car keys. I never have to think about what I’m going to put on in the morning. If I did, I might waver and end up back in bed instead of the gym.
- When I leave after my haircut, I set the next appointment so I don’t have to think about when I should go, where’s that darned appointment website, and when is my hairdresser available.
- When packing for a trip, I roll up each day’s outfit together so I don’t have to think about what goes with something else.
- Before returning from vacation, my family sorts our dirty laundry into light, bright, and dark clothing suitcases so we just line them up and throw one suitcase full of contents in the wash when we get home.
Simple. But really effective time and MIND saving life hacks with thought and preparation on the front end instead of doubling the time and effort on the back end.
For your business life, taking back some time in your day can be really effective but what’s truly important about this is that you’re relieving some of the mental load that weighs you down and ultimately slows you down. Saving brain power for the task at hand means you can focus your energy on what you’re doing and saying, rather than deciding what to do next.
There are two key points to this sales and business life hack: Priorities and Workflow.
Rank and Rate Priorities.
What happens when you don’t have a matrix to determine what takes precedence over something else? Everything becomes a priority – a problem we have now called “Priority Dilution” where we become mired down in what to do first and end up avoiding making tough decisions.
We love to create “to do” lists but usually what ends up getting crossed off is the easy stuff – the stuff that we don’t have to think about, the stuff that doesn’t require hard discussions, the stuff that can be accomplished quickly so when we cross it off, we get that satisfying hit of dopamine.
The hard stuff . . . it usually sinks to the bottom. Saved for another day, or for when it blows up in our faces and forces action.
Here’s how you can tackle those to do lists with incredible effectiveness and efficiency.
Make a list of the things you should accomplish in a workday or work week. I said “should” – not what you usually get to. Do include the things that crop up and you have to address too – such as employee issues, customer complaints, production questions, et cetera.
Step One: Divide your list into four categories –
- Important – These are things that are key to growth, stable environments, or advancing opportunities.
- Urgent and Important – These are things with a pressing timeline that impact outcomes or future opportunities.
- Urgent – These are Interruptions – situations that present to you as immediate.
- Not Urgent and Not Important – These are Distractions – things that take us off course.
The Urgent vs Important matrix was popularized by Stephen Covey in his book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Here’s a more in depth article and resource from CoachingTools.com to dive into this quadrant: Click here.
The key take away from this is to try to stay with what’s most Important and minimize the time spent on Urgent. Doing this task with several sales pros and even business owners often lead them to discover just how much they let interruptions and distractions tear them away from their true priorities.
What would you learn about how you spend your time when you categorize the things that demand your attention?
Step Two: Rank your priorities.
Take your list of things to do and rank them in terms of how you will prioritize the attention you give them. This is your “Go To” for decision making and time allocation from now on.
Starting with the Important and Important and Urgent categories. Contemplate the short term and long term outcomes from the decisions.
For example, if you are working on a proposal for a client that is in the “kicking the tires” comparing offers, do you put that off for a someone who in inquires about a solution and demonstrates a sense of urgency? Decide ahead of time which you put first and stick with that decision.
Here’s another example, a customer calls with a billing problem but yet, you’ve earmarked this time to make follow up calls to try to move decisions forward. Which is more pressing – the existing customer or potential customer? I can’t answer that for you but if you have your list of ranked and sorted priorities, stick with what you’ve already decided is the most effective use of your time at present.
Your priorities will look different than everyone else’s and that’s okay. This is your own personal “Internal Operating System” – or iOS. Think about short term and long term outcomes – weigh them and create your list. You might have to test it for a while but stay committed to your decisions you’ve made when you’re not under pressure of those interruptions and distractions pulling at you.
Sound painful? It will feel uncomfortable at first, but that’s where this second key comes into play . . .
Build Systems and Workflows.
If you have competing priorities or way too many decisions to make on a daily basis, creating systems and workflows will relieve a ton of that mental load from you.
For sellers, after competing priorities, the biggest time drag and brain suck you have is deciding “what’s next in my sales process?” Sales people spend a great deal of their time every day wondering, “Should I send another email? Should I call? What should I say in my voicemail? When should I follow up again? How can I get their attention?”
Creating follow up systems and workflows can take a tremendous burden off your shoulders here, not to mention, improve your results and possibly shorten the sales cycle.
Ask and answer these questions:
- What is my communication cadence with customers before they buy?
(Example: LinkedIn connection request, phone call, email, introduction request, Inmail, phone call, social comment or post, email . . . )
- What resources do I have to offer and demonstrate the value I can bring to them?
(Examples: email templates, articles, white papers, videos, testimonials, referrals)
- What tools do I have to deliver my resources in a consistent workflow?
(Examples: CRM, email marketing, social tools, assistants, sales coordinators, calendar/task reminders)
Boom. You’ve just created the working bones of your sales process. Decide when/how often you’ll communicate, what value you’ll deliver, and how you’ll do it consistently.
Document and set up your complete process. There’s no excuse – you can do it with all free tools or the fancy schmanciest of software programs.
This is NOT meant for you to take the thinking out of what you say and do. No selling like robots or jerks here. This is to take the thinking out of what you do next so you spend that quality time doing “selling” stuff more effectively.
My goal here is for you to challenge yourself to get rid of the sales person or business owner’s number one complaint about business development, “There’s just not enough time in the day to get to it with all the other stuff I have to juggle.”
If that’s your truth, then see how much time you can free up by relieving your mental burden with this Priorities and Workflows life hack. You’ll see an improvement in your mental focus and productivity and then you have no more excuses for hitting those development actions square in the nose, right?
Until next time, stop hoping, start SELLING!
PS – Click here for more time and productivity hacks.