Like most salespeople, you begin each day with the best intentions. Making time to connect with prospects and build meaningful relationships are important to you. But by the time you leave the office, you’ve spent hours shuffling between routine tasks that sapped your time and energy.
At the end of the workday, you’re exhausted and frustrated. It’s a common scenario facing many sales professionals.
This study found improving productivity was the top challenge for sales professionals. Mastering your time management is the key to taking control of your days - and your career.
We’ve investigated the top sales time management techniques. Here are proven tactics from experts and successful sales reps to help you devote your time to the tasks that matter most.
Structure your Day Around your Buyer
It’s no secret: focussing on your customer will supercharge your sales strategy.
International sales coach Brian Tracy said meetings with prospects and customers should be your top priority.
“If you are in sales today, 100 percent of your sales and your income are generated by the number of minutes that you spend face-to-face with prospects and customers. If you want to increase the number of sales or the amount of money you make, you must increase the number of minutes that you spend in actual selling activity, face-to-face with people who can, and will, buy from you.”
Most salespeople realize this - 50% of salespeople said relationship building is their favorite deal-related activity, according to this survey by Salesforce.
To get this right, you need to structure your day around your target buyer.
There are a few ways to achieve this.
Identify patterns in your target buyer’s niche. Studies found Wednesdays was the best day to make business calls. It’s no surprise that Friday afternoons fared the worst. On the other hand, salespeople told Salesforce Tuesdays was the top day to connect.
While the data may guide your plans, it comes down to understanding your customer and their line of work. Ideally, you want to reach out when they have downtime in their schedule, instead of during peak periods.
On top of finding the right time to connect, consider how you’re reaching out, too.
Here’s an example from a case study in the Harvard Business Review.
A company was struggling with poor sales growth and decided to get to the root of the problem. Most of the sales team consisted of field reps, with a much smaller group of inside reps.
“From customer surveys, the supplier learned that 60% of customers prefer to interact with sales reps by email, 30% by phone, and fewer than 10% by in-person meetings. Field reps had naturally sensed customers’ preferences for email, yet data from Workplace Analytics revealed that the bulk of their time was consumed on purely internal communications... Based on the new time data, the company shifted to a predominantly inside sales model... while increasing coverage and time spent with customers.”
Once you concentrate your efforts on uncovering the best ways to reach your customer, you’re less likely to call when they’re too busy. And that’s an immediate time-savings.
2. 80/20 Rule for Sales
Do you ever get the feeling that all leads are not created equal?
Now, you might have heard about the Pareto principle, also called the 80/20 rule. It’s named after economist Vilfredo Pareto, who observed that 80% of Italy’s wealth belonged to 20% of the population.
Since then, the anxiom has been applied to everything from time management to marketing.
And it’s particularly relevant for sales time management. What you want to be doing is focussing on those high-value leads.
Sales and traffic expert Perry Marshall takes the 80/20 sales discussion even further in his book, 80/20 Sales & Marketing.
“We're all tempted to waste our time trying to please all of our customers instead of the most lucrative ones...Your goal should be to zero in on those 20 percent of customers who are essential for your business' prosperity.”
Marshall provides the following tips:
Analyze customer lists
This could be email lists or social media followers. He suggests the R-F-M rule, so check which customers have bought recently (R), buy more frequently (F) and spend the most money (M).
Examine where your best customers are based
Study where you biggest customers live. This helps narrow your advertising efforts.Discover the demographics of your most popular customers.
You might find they share a lot more than a love for your product. Perhaps there are common life experiences or stages. It’s information you can use to better connect with the top 20%.
Let go of problem customers
Rid yourself of difficult customers. Of course, that might be a tough call to make. Marshall suggest being professional but firm if you need to end a client relationship.
Identify high volume buyers
This one is fairly common in B2B. It’s those customers that make a massive purchase every two months or so. Invest more time in these clients.
3. Batch Similar Tasks
The average salesperson has a lot going on during a typical day. You’re researching, managing your pipeline, and meeting prospects.
But if you’re trying to divide your attention between several tasks throughout the day, your performance will suffer. Research shows you’re usually still thinking about the previous task when you switch abruptly to the next one.
That means your mind may be stuck on that forecasting meeting while you’re giving a demo to a customer.
So, how do you stop switching tasks while still getting to your most important duties each day? After all, in a fast-paced sales environment, it’s not as simple as devoting entire days or weeks to single tasks.
One answer is to batch similar activities.
This might mean allocating an hour or two for prospecting and another slot for returning calls. You could, for example, arrange all your customer appointments on the same day.
HubSpot’s Ultimate Guide to Sales Prospecting provides an example:
“Batch prospecting sessions for 2-3 hours at a time and take a quick five minute break between each hour. Get an egg timer, and set the timer on a countdown for 20 minutes, 30 minutes, or 45 minutes, depending on how much time we scheduled for the call. End the call on the timer’s beep, use 5 minutes for following up, 5 minutes for updating notes and administrative tasks in Salesforce, and then use 5 minutes to prep for the next call.”
4. Automate Routine Admin Tasks
If you’ve ever felt like you spend way more time on admin than selling, you’re probably right.
A time tracking study of sales reps found they spent 23% of their time on admin each week. And on sales? Turns out, 22% of a sales rep’s week was dedicated to selling.
Consider that the number one priority for most sales reps is to close deals. The crux is that many sales people aren’t devoting enough time to that top priority.
That’s why high-performing sales reps are automating routine tasks.
Salespeople use at least 11 tech tools, according to this report by SugarCRM and CITE Research.
A Bridge Group survey analyzed the most popular services:
“Email automation and tracking, contact data and account intelligence, and contract e-signature tools are the furthest along on the adoption lifecycle. These classes of technologies are the only three to have crossed into the late majority stage.”
You can, for example, make calls within your CRM. Rather than having to log the communication, the CRM handles that. Now you - or anyone else on your team - can easily access the data later.
Another way to save time is automate your paperwork. Digitize your paper processes and send proposals, contracts and other agreements to be signed online, via a tool like eversign.
5. Save Time with Templates
Chances are there are a few emails and texts you keep sending over and over again.
An easy way to save time is to create templates for your most frequent responses. Perhaps it’s follow-ups or answers to customer questions?
Relying on templates can even help boost sales, suggests the team at Close:
“Rather than stressing out over what to say to and reaching a dead end with prospects, your sales team will be able to confidently keep the conversation going. And close more deals, of course.”
HubSpot recommends using short, clear templates to pitch your services to new clients. The upside of this approach is you’re not scratching your head, trying to find the right words for hours. Of course, personalize your communication so it’s relevant to each potential customer.
Start Using Sales Time Management Skills to Improve Productivity Today
Your daily actions dictate your future success or failure. Every day is a new opportunity to connect with customers, nurture meaningful relationships, and build an extraordinary sales career.
Which sales time management tactics can you put into place right now to achieve your vision?