We’ve all had those days where you start out knowing what you want to accomplish but suddenly, it’s 5:00pm and you feel like you didn’t get anything done. You might have the best of intentions as you begin your day, but you get a phone call or two, or you see an interesting article that you just have to read, and before you know it, a whole hour has disappeared. I’ve certainly been there.
It’s difficult to master time management in any profession. Time management for salespeople in the merchant services business is especially tricky. You are your own boss and that freedom can be a blessing and a curse. That’s why the most successful sales agents employ a simple solution. It’s all about breaking your most important work into two categories: prospecting and selling. Often, agents get these terms confused, but knowing the difference and assigning time specifically for one or the other is key to managing your time.
Prospecting: when sales agents make outbound calls or send outbound emails to leads in hopes of creating opportunities. Prospecting can involve both cold-calling/door pulling as well as contacting existing leads that may have turned cold.
Selling: working with an established connection to give specific product information, offer details, and reach a deal. Typically, selling differs from prospecting in that, an agent is building upon opportunities created while prospecting to actually make a sale.
Take Inventory of Your Time
If you’re looking to improve your time management, you have to start by identifying how much time you’re spending on each of these activities. You can take inventory of your time by writing down your schedule for a few days. Then, ask yourself:
- Does your schedule feel balanced to you?
- Do you find yourself avoiding prospecting or selling and therefore spending more time on one than the other?
- Do you invest a lot of time in each opportunity that once you close the deal your pipeline of prospects is nearly empty?
Time Management for Salespeople – 5 Techniques
Once you understand the kinds of prospecting and selling goals you should be setting, there are plenty of things you can do to incorporate these time management strategies into your daily routine.
- Downsize your to-do list. By “downsize” I don’t mean that you should set out to accomplish less. You will likely be able to accomplish MORE by focusing on 2-4 tasks a day rather than focusing on 6 tasks a day and making only 20% progress on each.
- Block your calendar for your selling and prospecting time. Sometimes, it’s easy to just assume you’ll have time later to make some quick selling and prospecting calls, or to shoot off a couple emails. But often, you can get to the end of the day and realize that you never got that quality time. To combat this, you can block off your calendar for specific prospecting and specific selling times. That way, when you wake up each morning, you’ll have a reminder of what your priorities are and won’t have to face that icky feeling of defeat at the end of the day.
- Stick to the same schedule every day, if possible. One of an agent’s biggest enemies can be the unpredictability of a business dependent on others’ schedules. But you’ll probably be surprised to find out how much of your time you can actually control. Sure, if an opportunity comes up, you’ll have to do a little schedule juggling. But by laying out the same time of day for the same things, you’ll be more likely to accomplish both selling and prospecting goals every single day.
- Turn off or silence your phone and STOP LOOKING AT IT during certain times of the day. It’s the easiest thing in the world to just quickly pick up your phone while working on an email, or answer some texts while waiting for a prospect to meet with you. But sometimes, even if you’re just looking down at your phone for a minute, you could be missing out on something meaningful. Maybe you won’t notice a sign in the prospect’s office that could be a potential conversation starter for you. Or maybe a great idea would have surfaced if you would have let your mind wander a bit. Start small by turning off your phone for 20 minutes at a time. Seems scary, but believe me, your productivity and overall satisfaction with your day will drastically improve!
- Lastly, set up your voicemail to let callers know when they can expect a response from you. Little assurances such as a voicemail can mean a lot more to your contacts. By setting up your voicemail detailing your hours or availability, you accomplish two things: 1) you show your contacts that you take their call seriously and 2) you hold yourself accountable to a consistent schedule by letting them know in the voicemail when they can expect to hear back from you.Inevitably, there will be times when your schedule blows up and you end up only prospecting and not selling or vice versa. Or coffee with a friend turns into lunch which turns into a happy hour. That’s OK. What’s important is what you do most days, not what you do every once in a while. Building time management strategies for prospecting and selling into your daily routine is going to take practice and commitment. Time management is all about knowing yourself and your habits, and choosing whichever of these tips will set you up for success.
Time management is the 4th habit of successful independent sales agents. See all 8 habits here.