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Four ways to make better use of your sales time


No one has enough time. Yet, everyone has all the time that there is.

Every salesperson hits a point when he or she seemingly can’t take on even one more customer or one more dollar of sales without some help. If they’re selling primarily to custom builders, the point usually begins at around $3 million for highly meticulous salespeople who are not inclined to delegate. But for those who make good use of an inside sales coordinator, it can perhaps reach $4 million.

I often ask salespeople this question: If you were given your choice of one resource you could have more of that would enable you to increase your sales productivity, what would it be? The most frequent answer I hear is more time. If there’s one way that salespeople are all equal it’s that they all have the same amount of time—24 hours a day. Yet some get a great deal more done in those 24 hours than others. So, what’s the secret?

There’s no single answer, but I do have four suggestions that will enable salespeople to get a lot more work done in less time.

1: Stop using takeoffs for prospecting
Too many salespeople approach prospects with an offer to take off a set of plans to produce a bid. In most cases this approach is a waste of time. Remember, doing takeoffs is not selling. Quoting is not selling, either. Selling is earning trust and building relationships.

The objective on prospect calls should not be to gain an opportunity to quote, but to get permission to get to know the prospects and find out if there’s any way you can improve on the service prospective builders are receiving from their current supplier. When a salesperson quotes builders who are “in bed with the competition,” the odds are extremely high that they will merely shop the price right back to the supplier to which they’re loyal. Resist doing a takeoff or quoting until you believe you have earned the right.

2: Prioritize to-do lists
Just about every salesperson I have ever met uses a to-do list to keep up with commitments. The problem with most to-do lists is that salespeople frequently don’t take time to prioritize the items on the list; they are maintained in the order they were originally listed. This practice makes it tempting to tackle the easiest items first. After all, it’s a great feeling of accomplishment to cross items off the list.

  • Great idea: Before you go home at night, prioritize your to-do list. Put #1 beside the item that is most important, #2 beside the item that’s the second most important, etc. Then the next day, make sure that you follow Stephen Covey’s advice and do First Things First. If anything on the list doesn’t get done, make sure that it’s #14, which is not as critical as #5.
  • Another great idea: For names on your to-do list that you must call, discipline yourself to write the telephone number beside each name before you go home each evening. This will save valuable time the following day looking up phone numbers during the hectic workday.

3: Don’t allow your mobile phone to set your priorities
When your cellphone goes off, don’t automatically drop what you’re doing and deal with the call, or email, or text, or push notification, etc. Focus on the priorities that will yield the highest return.

4: Save your old notebooks
Most successful outside salespeople keep a notebook with them at all times. The notebook is used to make notes on builder calls, to record commitments, etc. Think about how many times builders ask you to send them the same color of shingles as they used on a house they built several years ago. To save time, you can refer to the old notebook.