People get into sales for a myriad of reasons; one of the most common is a desire to have control of their time. Many quickly learn that while sales does offer various time freedoms, it also requires good stewardship and understanding the responsibility you have inherited.
If you make too many poor choices in business and sales as to how you use your time, you will soon find yourself looking for a position where someone else will tell you exactly what to do with your time.
As sales professionals, we need to watch how we invest our time every day. The most important and valuable time we can invest is the time in front of a prospect. The times we schedule face-to-face with customers become the cornerstones of each day.
The challenge is that while we prioritize this time at the highest level, the customer typically prioritizes the appointment at the lowest level. Therefore, no matter how much we plan and prioritize our day, we are subject to constant change. The most important thing a salesperson should have is a back-up plan and secondary productive activities scheduled for the inevitable changes that occur.
One of the best pieces of advice I can give salespeople is that they need to plan their days around the typical schedule of their clients. This might be best explained by the following analogy:
Whether or not you like to fish, I’m willing to bet you know one thing about fishing: the best time to fish is during either the early morning or early evening hours. It makes little sense to fish during the middle of the day, because the fish are simply not biting then.
The other thing you’ll notice, if you ever approach a successful fisherman at a lake, is that he will always have a certain item at his feet. No, I am not talking about a cooler full of cold beer, I’m referring to a stringer of fish! A good fisherman doesn’t catch one fish and then drop everything to clean and fillet that one fish; he stores them on a stringer and saves this “administrative” work for a less productive time. In this manner, he not only chooses the best time to work, he also maximizes those available hours.
Sales professionals can take a lesson from the fisherman. Are you focusing your proactive selling efforts during the time your customer is most likely to be available?
In my business, we focus on contacting sales managers. I have learned something about sales managers: they are rarely available during the hours of 9:00 a.m. till noon on weekdays, and especially on Mondays. Why not? Because they’re in meetings! Therefore, any calling efforts I might make during those hours will usually be met with voice mail and frustration.
To get the most from my day, I will focus my outbound calling efforts during the hours of 7:00 to 9:00, 1:00 to 3:00 and 5:00 to 7:00; these are what I have found to be the best “fishing times” for catching sales managers.
And the second lesson?
Too many sales people make a sales call, generate some interest and immediately disengage from the selling role to work on sending out brochures, take a coffee break and generally be inefficient. They stop to clean their fish after only one catch!
My recommendation to you is to determine the best time to contact the clients, the time when they are most likely going to be available — and then focus all your effort during that time on the task at hand, “sprinting” through your contact efforts without stopping, and schedule all of the administrative work to a time when the fish are no biting!
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RON MARKS is a member of the Networking University faculty. He is a nationally known sales and sales management trainer based in Scottsdale, Arizona. You can contact Ron at firstname.lastname@example.org.