Sales folk, sound familiar?
9am Monday: I’ve a ton of things to do today so I’ll plan my ‘to do’ list.
11.30am: Right that’s those meetings done, on with my ‘to do’ list…
2.30pm: I’d better just help my colleague get that proposal out then I’ll crack on with my list….
5.30pm: Oh well, there’s always tomorrow. I’ll add todays list to tomorrow…
In the 2002 film ‘About a boy’ Hugh Grant played a character who divided his day into units of time to make it efficient. What he didn’t realise was that he was actually explaining how to solve a major problem that has existed in every single sales team I have worked in, with or managed.
This is because in the main, sales people (if truly honest with themselves) would admit that they are poor at time management. So, here are some simple tips on how you can run your week to make it more productive.
What follows is just advice. There’s no science behind it. All I’ll say is that these changes worked for me and have made a lot of sales people I have trained more successful in their roles.
#1 – Split your working day into units of time
Every business runs differently as will your sales day, so map out your day hour by hour. I.E 8.30-9.30 = 1 unit. 9.30-11.30 = 2 units etc…
This sounds simple but you will soon realise how many units you have in your day/week. What many people often find profound is just how much time they have each week!
#2 – Assign units of time to your tasks
On a Sunday evening take your traditional ‘to do’ list for the following week and assign units of time for each task. I.e proposal is going to take 2 units so I’ll assign 2.5 to give some flex.
Once this is done prioritise your tasks and build them into your diary. Adding flex is really important as I’ll explain shortly.
#3 – Do specific tasks when you know you are at your best
If you know you’re more focused in the morning, then build proposal writing into that time period. If you know you lose focus around 4pm them assign ‘email catch-up’ to this period etc..
#4 – Be rigorous and don’t get distracted.
The whole point of building flex into task units is to make sure that you stick to them, finish them and that you don’t let one task run into the time unit of another. During the unit of time you have assigned to do a task DON’T allow yourself to get distracted. Put some headphones on, turn off your email, go somewhere quite if you need to – whatever will make you most likely to get your task finished.
#5 – Build your tasks into your work diary
Try actually putting your tasks into your dairy with colour coding. This will:
Stop colleagues from putting other distractions into your diary as they can see you are busy
Give you a visual way of remaining vigilant with your time
Allow you to look back at the end of a month and work out what you have been spending your time on. This will show you ways of becoming more efficient
Give you accountability to your boss
The people I have seen gain the most benefit from these tips are sales managers who feel they are being constantly distracted by their teams. As an additional point to managers reading this; be up front with your team and tell them that when you are busy, you are exactly that. Problems they have can wait until later in the day when you have assigned time to spend with them. This will also, over time, train them to try and solve problems for themselves before coming straight to you.
These tips will only work if you stick to making the change habitual. It took me 3 months to make this part of how I run my day and there are days where I still struggle but the discipline gives me more time.