Pareto is very busy in the sales world. You know the 80-20 rule. In this case, it means that only 20% of salespeople spend 80% of their time on selling activities. Are you in this group? See if you recognize yourself. If not, here’s how you can join the group.
Put your fingers on it fast. Laura Stack is a professional speaker and author of Leave the Office Earlier® and Find More Time. She sees several time wasters that cost salespeople valuable selling time. One of the biggest time wasters is lacking a system to track client history. The system should include notes on conversations that took place, with whom, and when they took place. Stack says, “To be truly organized you should be able to have a prospect call you out of the blue and you should be able to immediately refer back to a conversation that took place years ago.” Without the system, you can’t be effective. You may even frustrate clients who have to repeat themselves and might have to rely on facts that aren’t correct. Stack uses ACT! to take notes while talking with clients on the phone. Many salespeople are unaware that Outlook can be used to track history. The journal feature allows you to take notes and attach those notes to the contact. Stack adds that you can use a manual folder system if you prefer. What is essential is to have a system to aggregate and retrieve client history.
There’s an unexpected time waster—the BlackBerry. It’s hard to use one for taking notes because you can’t type that fast. Stack sees salespeople taking notes on scraps of paper, place mats and even their hands. That haphazard system makes them more disorganized. She suggests, “Understand the features and benefits and decide if it’s for you.” It’s important once you do take notes to enter them into your system as soon as possible so they don’t pile up.
Get to work fast. Another time waster is when salespeople lack a plan or poorly plan their daily activities. It starts by having a system to schedule follow up tasks like telephone calls. If you tell a customer you will call in two weeks, you must follow through. Some salespeople think they can remember everything they promise. That’s far too taxing. Instead, a technology supplied or manual system works well to keep your promises. She says, “People will work with someone who is reliable more than someone they like.” Some inefficient salespeople begin each day thinking, “Who am I supposed to call today?” Stack says that when you come to work each day you should already know whom you’re supposed to call and what you’re supposed to do. If you work in inside sales, your planning can be the last task of the previous day. If you do a lot of driving, a week out is sufficient and more time is required for air travelers. In addition, at the beginning of each month Stack recommends reviewing activities for the coming month.
Work on selling. Stack sees many salespeople wasting time on activities that take them away from selling. One activity is constant email checking which she suggests reducing to once per day. She sees salespeople who take notes on spiral notebooks only to waste time flipping back through the notebooks to locate a particular piece of customer information. She often hears complaints about completing reports that are time wasters. Yet when she asks, “What have you done about it?” she often gets the response, “Nothing.” Stack reports, “If leadership knew, they would care as it’s directly impacting the profitability of the sales force.”
You may think you don’t have time to plan your selling. You really do. Stack says, “Organization is an enabler. Once it’s in place, it allows you to make more sales. It’s a launching pad to reach more sales revenue.” Sounds like it’s time to take the leap and join the 20% that are selling more effectively.