Whenever I conduct seminars and sales workshops around the world, I usually ask the audience if anyone would like to improve his/her time management skills. Without fail, one hundred percent of the hands in the room go up.
One American expert giving help to sales professionals is Hilton Johnson. I've never had the pleasure of meeting him face to face but have been very impressed with his ideas. Hilton used to offer a FREE "Sales Coach" newsletter online. Here are the ten strategies that the Sales Coach recommends. They will help you control your time and your life.
STRATEGY 1: The Twenty Five Thousand Dollar Idea
The late Earl Nightingale used to tell the true story of a large steel company CEO that offered to pay anything within reason to improve efficiency. Charles Schwab, the president and CEO of Bethlehem Steel Corporation, paid $25,000 to that consultant for an idea that was presented to him in just 20 minutes...and Mr. Schwab later said the idea was worth every penny. Here is the idea:
Write down on a piece of paper the six most important things you have to do tomorrow. Number the items in the order of their importance. Put the piece of paper in your pocket and don't look at it. Tomorrow morning look at the piece of paper and go to work on number one. Don't worry about number two, just stay with number one until the activity is completed. When number one is completed, go to work on number two, then three, four and so forth until you need to make a new list.
Simple idea...but in the early 1900's, the president of the largest steel company in America said that from a production standpoint, this was the best idea he had ever implemented among his managers to improve efficiency.
STRATEGY 2: Disqualify Early
Perhaps the single greatest reason that salespeople burn themselves out of the selling business is that they spend their time with the wrong prospects.
You probably already know how to qualify a buyer but do you know how to DISQUALIFY someone who is going to waste your time?
The next time you're with a prospect, rate them in your mind using a simple system based on motivation, urgency and if appropriate, credit worthiness. On a scale from one to ten, where are they?
If after rating them, they are not an “ideal, serious and qualified" buyer, disqualify them gracefully and spend your time with someone who is. Your disqualification language might sound something like this:
"Mr. and Ms. ______, based on what you have been telling me and based on the way I work, it doesn't sound like I could be of benefit to you folks at this time. I do, however, appreciate the time we've spent together…you seem like nice people. Do you have any questions before I (you) leave?"
STRATEGY 3: The Day Timer System
This time management system dictates that you enter all of your pending activities into a Day Timer each week and prioritize them with “A" activities (the most important), "B" activities (the next most important) and "C" activities (unimportant activities to handle at your leisure).
The next step is to prioritize the "A" goals in the order of importance with numbers. Example: A1, A2, A3, etc. You prioritize the "B" goals and the "C" goals the same way.
This is a much more regimented version of "The Twenty Five Thousand Dollar Idea".
STRATEGY 4: The Color Folder System
When Ronald Reagan was president of the USA, he was once interviewed by a reporter who noticed the president kept only three folders on his desk at any one time.
When asked, the President explained that the green folder contained activities that needed immediate attention, the blue folder was for information and the red folder contained private matters.
STRATEGY 5: Focus, Focus, and Focus
One of the greatest problems I see salespeople and company executives make today is that they try to work on too many projects or activities at the same time. This is a big mistake.
When the New York Mets conduct spring training in Florida each year, they don't travel 1,000 miles from home just because of the Florida sunshine. Management wants them to walk, talk, think and live baseball and baseball ONLY. To accomplish that, they have to get them away from most of their diversions.
Michael Crichton, famous author of Jurassic Park and other best selling novels, said that when he sits down to write a novel, he focuses so strongly on what he's writing about that he gets into what he calls “a seizure." He is so focused that the "seizure" causes him to get up earlier and earlier each morning and stay up later and later each night doing nothing but thinking and writing the novel.
I believe that uninterrupted, focused attention allows one to tap into the creative genius of the subconscious mind which can only be accomplished by being totally focused. Decide on what's important to you and don't allow any interruptions or distractions that get you off track and sway you from your goals at hand.
STRATEGY 6: High Income Activities
A friend of mine, Marilyn Jennings, was the top real estate agent for RE/MAX in Canada for several years until she went into the speaking business.
During the last six years of Marilyn's real estate career, she earned over $700,000 a year working just six months a year. Her secret: She focused strictly on high income activities and delegated the other 200 plus activities to other people. Does that give you any ideas?
STRATEGY 7: Effective Personal Management
Stephen Covey in his wonderful book, "The Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People," wrote that effective management is being able to be a function of your values rather than a function of the impulse or desires of any given moment.
Mr. Covey designed a complex but effective matrix system to plan activities based on writing out a mission statement, deciding what your key roles are in that mission and then planning your weeks in advance based around long-range business goals and important personal values.
The key to his system is "not to prioritize on what's on your schedule but to schedule your priorities." In other words, the important projects that would take you closer to your major goals would be scheduled into your weekly planner in advance (as an appointment to yourself) along with the urgent/important activities that have to be addressed as well. It's also a good idea to assign a block of time for each of these activities to be accomplished.
Instead of just working on urgent/important activities, your weekly planner includes your long-range important (but not necessarily urgent) activities too. That way you keep moving steadily towards your ultimate goals.
STRATEGY 8: Plan Backwards
Effective time management is basically goal setting with all of your daily activities being minor goals within themselves.
Decide on what your major goals are and you can simply work backwards by years, months, days and even into each single activity of each day. That kind of planning and time management will give you order and measurable daily results.
Look at it like you're building a beautiful brick home with each brick representing a single important goal within itself contributing to the final outcome of your structure. Once you have decided on your major goal, break the ultimate goal all the way down to single daily activities. Then focus on those activities individually and passionately. By placing just one brick in place at a time, you build a solid foundation with a "blueprint" of your dreams.
STRATEGY 9: The Power of Routines
As a salesperson, you know the tremendous payoff of prospecting and learning presentation skills on a regular schedule. Why not schedule them into your weekly planner and make them a daily and weekly routine from which you will not waiver.
By setting aside time to generate sales leads (prospecting) and improving your sales skills, you are guaranteeing sales success in less time and with a much more enjoyable process.
The key is to take a proactive approach to the really important activities that fuel the engine of your sales practice and make those appointments non-negotiable in your weekly planner.
STRATEGY 10: Hire an Assistant
How do you ever plan to earn a million dollars a year when you're still doing seven dollar an hour work each day?
If you study the most successful salespeople today you will discover that they have learned the ultimate time management system--they have one or more personal assistants.
Make a list of the three or four activities that are high income producing for you and your firm, work only on those activities and delegate everything else to an assistant.
If you feel that you can't afford an assistant, decide on how much money you want to make in the next 12 months and how many hours you're willing to work. Divide the hours into the income you want and if it's more that $10 per hour, you should plan right now on hiring at least a part-time assistant.