Salespeople will do what they like to do, not what they need to do. If it’s uncomfortable to make cold calls, they’ll find a way to justify doing something else — like sending an email or writing up a proposal. But when you’re focusing on sales activities, you need to dedicate time to the activities that matter — even if you don’t like them.
Real, Severe Commitment
There’s a difference in scheduling time and severely committing to something. I’m working with my assistant on an issue right now. I told him, “I want you to spend one hour a day on this. You can pick the hour. But during that hour, do not stop. Short of a life safety issue, commit for the whole hour. If a customer shows up and is banging on the door, ignore them. If our biggest client calls and threatens to cancel their service, so what? I’ll deal with the fall-out — you do this task for one hour.”
The next day, I asked if he did it. Nope. “Life safety issue?” I asked. “Imminent death of everyone on earth?!” No. He just bailed. See, scheduling is easy, but we avoid actually doing the tasks we hate — even if they’re important tasks. It happens all the time. And the more uncomfortable it is, the more adamantly you need to commit to the activity.
So what do we do instead of the activities we hate? Anything else. And if it seems productive, we gravitate towards it. Here are just a few ways we occupy our time with deceitfully unproductive tasks.
Research is one of the main activities that snowballs into unproductiveness. Of course, it’s good to an extent — you need to know the basics of a company before you call, but we tend to keep searching. We get interested in a topic and over-inform ourselves. Plus, we take rabbit trails and end up learning all sorts of info we don’t need.
Let’s say you’re about to make a cold call, so you start researching the company. For three hours, you read and figure out everything there is to know about them. You know their story, who founded it, where they’re located, and anything else you’d want to know. Then you call them and they say, “My brother-in-law handles this for us. We’ll never switch.” You just spent three hours researching to get a “no” in two minutes. You wasted 180 minutes on one dead-end client.
Instead, focus your research so you know what to look for before you start. Then set time limits to keep you on track. If you set a seven-minute time limit on your research for each prospect, then call them in two minutes, you contact 20 prospects in those 180 minutes instead of just one.
The more qualified the prospect, the more time you can spend on research. Maybe you spend 14 minutes researching someone who called you or a person you’re meeting for an appointment. Still, research doesn’t consume your day. Time spent researching dead-end prospects is wasted.
Here are some other ways we waste time:
- Calling only your current customers
- Not being organized
- Not finishing to-do lists
- Not putting to-dos on your calendar
We have to direct our time — we can’t let our disorganization and procrastination derail us. The more intentional we become in our work day, the more sales we make.
Maximizing Your Time
Don’t let fruitless work fill your day. Instead, surround yourself with high-payoff people and do high-payoff activities. Meetings, calls, customer contacts, and prospect interactions all lead to sales. So spend your time doing those things — not the little stuff. It also pays off to figure out your process.
These activities fit into two categories — strategic and tactical. Give time to each. There can be high-payoff tactical activities and high-payoff strategic activities. There can also be low-payoff strategic and tactical activities. The goal is to be both strategic and tactical in your choice of high-payoff activities.
I do this with my phone calls — for every two customers I call, I call one prospect. Then I hold myself accountable to reaching out to new people and maintaining current relationships — both with high payoffs.
Be strategic about who is refilling your funnel and tactical about how you approach your current prospects. You’re only as good as your last sale so focus on the activities that help you to close.