After an early start in sales management, signing on to manage seminars for the legendary Tom Hopkins at the age of 18, Ron Marks went on to found Results Seminars in 1984. Over the last two decades he has conducted seminars for hundreds of companies and trained more than a million sales professionals and sales managers, and is on the faculty of Networking University. — JDM


What made you choose sales as a profession?

My mom encouraged me to get into real estate sales, and I went to work for Tom Hopkins because I thought I could get free training. I ended up traveling all over the country, managing his seminars, and eventually started my own company. For the past few years I’ve been doing a program called “It’s About Time” in conjunction with Tom.


What’s at the core of the program?

We help people understand how to keep their day on track by using systems for recording appointments and keeping a database.

People who get into sales tend to be extroverted, “Type A,” people-people—and not to be very analytical or detailed-oriented. We help them learn some simple systems and tools to become more efficient with how they use time and keep track of relationships. We encourage people towards technology—Outlook®, ACT®, PDAs, that sort of thing.

However, technology won’t solve people’s problems or improve their time management ability. If you’re a bad time manager, using those tools is not going to save you. In fact, if you’re bad at keeping track of appointments and contacts and managing your schedule, using technology will just accelerate everything and make it worse!


Is the converse true? If you’ve honed your organizing skills on paper pretty well, will embracing technology then make you even better?

Yes, I believe it will. In my case, I used a paper planning system for years. Not long ago I was diagnosed with ADD—here I am, 43, and I’d never known this was an issue for me! But I absolutely needed to find ways to organize myself and keep from being distracted.

I admire Hyrum Smith and Stephen Covey tremendously and used the FranklinCovey system. Now I’ve let go of the paper. On my laptop and Blackberry®, I now use Outlook and a Franklin-Covey product called Plan Plus that works with Outlook and allows you to integrate your goals, mission and values into your time management system. It’s taken the skills I had already developed and made them far more powerful in organizing and supporting my life.


What are some of the keys you teach around time?

We teach people how to organize their day around what’s important. I like what Stephen Covey teaches about quadrants. There are four kinds of activities: those that are both important and urgent; urgent but not important; important but not urgent; and neither important nor urgent. A lot of people get caught up in the urgent, but really miss the important.

Taking a cue from Covey, we teach you to start by looking at what’s important to you, and then focus on what things you’re doing every day that are getting you closer to the goals and purpose you have in your life.


And database management?

Database management is absolutely critical for anyone in sales, including network marketers. Today more than ever, especially with all the Do Not Call legislation, you need to focus on establishing relationships. Good database management is key to keeping all those details about people organized and accessible.


The great majority of our readers work out of home offices, which is a great freedom but can also be a recipe for distraction.

For tons of distractions! Home-based business people often start out the day with their terry-cloth robe or pajamas on and sort of amble over to their desk to check their e-mail…and they never really put themselves in a clear mental work space. There’s no distinction.

We used to tell people in our seminars, you should get up in the morning, take a shower, get dressed, get in your car, drive around the block, then come back and pretend it’s a real office.

We meant this more or less as a joke, but one client heard us say this and actually did it—and she told us it made a huge difference. When she got back to her house, she was mentally ready to go to work.


What are some of the challenges you help people overcome?

Distractions. The biggest challenge to an effective day is letting distractions take you away from what’s important.

If we design our day with the idea of “first things first,” another precept from Covey, then our plan is to dedicate ourselves first thing to the most important task of the day—not the most urgent, the most important. But it’s easy to get drawn into multi-tasking. And one of the most common distractions these days is incoming e-mail.

People often think they’re powerless over e-mail, that they have to answer it when it comes in. I have them take their e-mail program off automatic Send/Receive and set it to manual. Then I have them commit to dedicating at least the first 60 minutes of the day to their outbound work—in other words, work that you are initiating, that you have decided is the most important, not simply responding to the demands other people put on you—and not hit that Send/Receive button for that first hour of work. It’s amazing how many important things you start getting done!