“People often complain about a lack of time when lack of direction is the real problem.” Zig Ziglar
Over my career, I have trained several thousand salespeople. Some go on to be successful, some not so much! As much as I would like to claim credit for the successes, I cannot. I have learned the difference between my students who excel, and those who fail – is how they manage their time.
Everyone who attends my sessions has an equal chance of success. But only a few will be successful. And it isn’t the smartest one, or the most outgoing, or the one who is the best closer. It is the one who figures out how to best manage their time to be able to incorporate the new skills they have learned.
Recently I started incorporating some time management elements into my training. I found some great apps to help sellers stay focused on the big picture. I also began developing these best practices that I am sharing in this article. Some I learned on my own, some I learned from my students. Each one helps to incorporate new ways of selling into a daily routine.
Take time to learn. I spend 30 minutes every morning, first thing, with my coffee, trying to learn new stuff. I come across articles during the day that I would love to stop and read. Instead I bookmark them to read later – during this 30 minutes.
Three things happen when I do this. First, I don’t get distracted from whatever task I am trying to accomplish when I came across the article. Second, I start my day being motivated – learning new ideas or apps always inspires me, or reminds me what might be possible. And third, I often come across great ideas that help me improve what I am doing.
Take time to plan. There are two kinds of planning – tasks and goals. It is easy to plan tasks – most of them are urgent and have a deadline so it is just a matter of keeping track of them. It is much harder to plan for accomplishing goals. There are usually no immediate repercussions if you don’t accomplish these goals. There are of course long-term consequences of career failure or total stagnation!
The process I have found to accomplish long term goals is simple. Have a goal, figure out the multitude of smaller steps that you need to take to get you to that goal. By smaller I mean stuff you can do in no more than 10 minutes at a time. Next you need to rank and schedule those smaller steps. If I fail to break down a big project or goal into tiny steps, the likelihood of accomplishing that goal is almost zero. Sometimes I think, this goal is REALLY important to me, I am going to spend 4 hours on Monday working on this project. Something more urgent comes up and I never ever have 4 hours to work on anything. Alas, that project gets postponed. Yet, if I spend 10 minutes thinking it through, breaking it up, I find that I have lots of spare 10 minutes that I can commit to doing something important.
Take time for EACH step of your sales funnel that produces revenue for you. For most salespeople, this is pretty simple – your funnel probably looks like something like this:
You could decide to spend 20-30 minutes per day on each area. Or, what I would recommend is spending the most time where you see the best return. Perhaps you work for an organization that provides you pretty strong leads, so you would spend more time in the engage and convert areas as an example.
In Influencer Sales, our funnel looks a little different because we try to follow the path of our buyer. So here is our funnel which follows the typical path to purchase of our buyers:
I have learned that our biggest opportunities for revenue come from time spent in the Explore and Inquire phases. I would commit to spending time daily on the two sales strategies for those buyer phases.
As an example, I spend 30 minutes, 3 times a week on LinkedIn. During that time I am looking for contacts. I am reading posts in my groups – and commenting on others posts. I am growing my contact list and I am contacting a few people every session. All those activities fall under the Explore phase.
Also in the explore phase, I spend 30 minutes each week looking for good content to share and another 30 minutes scheduling posts to share that content. Five days a week, I am spending 30 minutes a day positioning myself as a trusted adviser which is our strategy when our buyer is exploring.
I used to think I needed to spend hours on LinkedIn but once I started doing it 3 times a week, I found that was usually plenty. Some weeks I come across something interesting and I may add it to my learn something new list but for the most part, 30 minutes, 3 times a week works like a charm.
Rinse and repeat for the Inquire phase. Our goal in this phase is to be fabulous, first and fearless. This would be an easy step to ignore until it became urgent. This is when our customers are finally ready to start a conversation with us. We could wait until they reach out, but that makes it almost impossible for us to be first, or fabulous.
Instead, in this phase I spend some time each day – no more than 30 minutes, usually less – creating content that will allow me to make a great impression, fast.
For example, on Mondays I review my buyer personas (or create one). The goal is to see what you can create that draws a clear connection from what your buyer needs to what you have to offer. I will come up with two or three potential needs my client might have and spend a few minutes thinking about how my product uniquely addresses those needs. Tuesdays I will map out what my future Doodly or landing page might look like by filling out my Story checklist. Wednesday I might search unsplash.com for images to convey the emotional side of what I am trying to communicate. Thursday I will create a draft video or landing page based on the research I have done. Friday I will put the finishing touches on it. Presto, I have another great tool in my arsenal to wow a potential client.
I make sure to keep track of what I create in Trello.com so I can easily search and access the perfect response. This puts me in a great position to be able to respond quickly to any inquiry. Because my response (video, doodly, etc) it is already complete, it typically blows away any prospect. Nobody can compete with me because I have put in the work slowly over several weeks and months to be sure I am first, fabulous and fearless!
Track what works. I spend a little time every week looking at what worked and what didn’t, and I record that in Trello too. Snip.ly provides a handy dashboard so I can see what content I shared and what content was read. Even better, I can see what content I shared that people read AND then clicked through to my landing page or website. I try to find similar content to share like those articles in the future. If something bombed, I try to spend a minute or two thinking about why – did I miss something obvious? If nothing jumps out, I will not spend any more time on it – but will make note that it failed so I don’t repeat it exactly again.
I have mentioned a few apps here already – Trello.com is one of my all time favorites for helping me to keep track of my big goals. But I have also recently downloaded an app that I am really enjoying. It is called Win The Day (wintheday.com) and it allows me to choose a few goals for a certain period of time and every time I search the web, my browser defaults to this page and reminds me of my big goals. It also allows me to have 3 smaller goals that change each day. It is part of a larger time management process that I use called the Best Self Journal – but even if you don’t use the journal (which I happen to love), the win the day app is helpful.
Remember, the bad news is, time flies. The good news is, you are the pilot!