How Much Selling Do You Really Do?
There’s a statistic floating around the internet that says the average inside sales rep only spends 33% of their time actively selling. That equates to just 13.2 hours per week. I’m not sure if I agree with that figure but time management is an undervalued skill among sales reps. In this article we will outline how sales reps can improve their time management skills and increase their sales efficiency. For even the busiest sales reps these practical time management skills will add hours to your week and control of your schedule.
Prioritize The Priorities
Have you ever noticed how some people can get a massive amount of work done in a day, while others look busy all day but produce very little? They both have 24 hours a day and the clock keeps ticking in one-second increments. In sales, it’s easy to “look busy” and even easier to “pretend” we are doing work. But the difference is in how we prioritize our actions. Let me explain.
The best sales reps have done the math and have calculated what their time is worth. The old-school phrase, “sales is a numbers game,” is true because we all have 1,440 minutes to spend or invest every day. Engineering your day to maximize your performance requires priority management, not just time management. In other words, you can organize your day on your calendar, but without prioritizing you could end up working hard but avoiding the hard things.
In the 2006 movie, The Pursuit of Happyness, Will Smith plays a homeless salesperson. In the movie he’s required to make 100s of cold calls daily to prospective clients. He realized that drinking water caused him to use the bathroom, so he avoided drinking water at work to maximize his call volume. This is an extreme scenario, but it exemplifies how to prioritize actions. Charles Duhigg, the author of “The Power of Habit,” shares that 40% of the actions we perform every day are not due to deliberate decision making but habits. For example, viewing social media posts, following news or sports updates, or reading random newsletters. The list could be endless. The opportunity cost as a sales rep of doing things that add no value to our performance can be an expensive luxury.
Addition by Subtraction
When a sales rep informs their sales manager that it is now twice as hard to connect with prospects, the average sales manager will think, “We need to work twice as hard.” I don’t know about you, but there’s very little bandwidth to work harder. The solution for most of us is not adding more activities to our daily routine but subtracting those that are not adding value to our lives and our clients.
As a new machine is built, engineers know that more moving parts mean the likelihood of failure increases. Engineers know that quality improvement comes from simplifying and eliminating everything that is unnecessary. As sales reps, we have complicated lives; we think we are getting a lot done. Still, as Daniel Levitin points out, multi-tasking makes us extremely less efficient. As sales reps we are very good at deluding ourselves that we are great at juggling many different activities at once. In reality, we aren’t.
If multi-tasking isn’t good for performance, why do we do it? Because it feels good. That’s right, the neurotransmitter dopamine is released when we shift from task to task. Who would have guessed that scrolling through your inbox, searching and deleting emails would trigger a dopamine release that causes us to check and re-check our email? According to a McKinsey Global Institute analysis, people check their email 11 times per hour. As sales reps, that number is likely low. Just track how many times you check your email for new leads or a big deal you are expecting to close. That is one of those habitual sales behaviors all sales reps perform without a deliberate decision.
Touch it Once
John Wooden, the famous UCLA basketball coach told his team, “If you don’t have time to do it right the first time, when will you have time to do it over?” That’s the concept behind touching it once. As sales reps, we end up doing the same task two or three times before we complete it. For example, we read an email, say to ourselves, “I’ll get to this later.” Then we come back to the email, re-read it and then work on a response. Over the course of weeks, months, and years, this re-touching of what should essentially be the same task adds up. If you apply the “touch-it-once” rule to just email and voicemail, you can save yourself hours every month.
The “touch-it-once” rule requires you to put deliberate thought into what you are doing. Without it, you are free to randomly check emails or voicemails whenever you like. Hoping it’s that big deal or a hot lead. But 99% of the time it’s a non-urgent and unimportant email that leads you down a rabbit hole of mindless time wasting. Why? Because it feels good. Sure, we can call it working, or industry research or learning, but in reality, we are losing more of the precious 1,440 minutes we started our day with.
Implement the Hawthorne Effect
The Hawthorne Effect states that what gets measured, gets improved. This is a principle many sales managers have known but one which sales reps have largely ignored, despite that it could help improve their sales performance. For example, as sales reps we know our manager is tracking our closing rate, our deal size, and revenue generated. But what activities can you track that are not found in your CRM? For example, how is your sleeping schedule affecting your performance? Top athletes keep track of their sleep hours, maintain a regular schedule and practice quality sleep hygiene. Sales is all about performance and tracking. Your sleep patterns may alert you to things that you could subtract, such as binging Netflix till midnight, to add value to your sales performance.
Sleep is just one metric sales reps can measure to implement the Hawthorne Effect. Other metrics that will affect performance and that are often ignored include nutrition. Sure, most sales reps will discount this area, but if you have ever eaten a carb loaded lunch and need two cups of coffee to re-start your afternoon, you should realize such a lunch didn’t add value to your performance. We do it because it feels good and it has become a mindless habit. These seemingly innocuous activities are actually the little details that separate the high performers sales superstars from the average, barely meeting quota reps.
In sales, our choices are at the center of sales success and sales failure. It is when we make deliberate decisions to do the things that are priorities we make the biggest difference to our sales performance. There is not enough time in the day to sleepwalk through our choices. In our default mode, acting on habits without thinking is when we can lose those valuable minutes every day.
If you break down sales success, it is not about doing a million things, but doing about a half dozen things really, really well. At Janek, we call them Critical Selling Skills. Critical Selling Skills is a proven sales methodology that teaches sales professionals how to stimulate interest, quickly build trust, create value in their offerings, close with confidence, and dramatically improve their effectiveness with modern customers.
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