I recently read a book by Laura Vanderkam called ‘168 hours’. It was the first book I read related to time management. This book was a revelation to me. It changed the way I perceived time management and work. I realised that as a B2B salesperson the one skill I need to internalise to be successful and efficient in my craft is managing time efficiently.
However, for many of us, time management is a challenge. This is why I decided to write a blog that will help you get some perspective on how to manage your time so that you can live the kind of life you always wanted.
If you are reading this, chances are you are a B2B salesperson. I would like to tell you that by choosing sales as a profession you have made a very wise decision. Out of all the professions out there, sales is one such field where the reward to time ratio is very high.
Sales is a goal-oriented profession. The more targets you achieve, the more you get paid. And when you have spent a considerable amount of time in this profession, working on sales opportunities and closing them becomes second nature. So at later stages of your career, you work less and are paid more. This is the reason why choosing sales as a career is a great economic decision.
As salespersons, the only currency we trade is our time. We give our time and expect money in return.
How much you are going to earn and how much you succeed in this profession is completely dependent on how well you utilise your time. So time management is one skill you need to internalise to be a seasoned salesperson.
And My definition of time management is…
Time management is a process of spending your time in the most efficient way which helps you advance in your life goals.
A Salesperson’s day has these 7 major tasks:
- Follow-ups with customers
- Working on customer proposal
- Customer meetings and interactions related to it
- Preparing for customer interaction; it could be customer presentation, customer call, etc.
- Coordination and facilitation of internal and external resources
- Self Enablement
- Internal operations- Task like cadence, funnel update, claim reimbursement
The above points mostly cover everything that a salesperson usually does in a day.
You have chosen this profession because you love to spend time doing most of the above-mentioned tasks and these tasks give you a great high.
How well we do these activities and how we prioritise these eventually decides our fate in in sales.
Here are the 5 steps to help you better manage your time
In the book, ‘168 hours’, Laura Vanderkam has said that…
“We never manage time, we manage our priorities, And that is why we have to choose our priorities efficiently.’
I believe the same.
One of the basic fundamentals of Time management is prioritising things that advance you to the goals you have set for yourself in life
Our priorities are what we spend most of our time on. Our priorities shape our future. And that is why prioritising what is important and giving them enough time becomes essential.
Think about it. Jeff Bezos, the Chairman of Amazon and the world’s richest person’s earnings or you can also call it rewards per hour is far far higher than most of the people on the planet. However, the amount of time every single person on this planet has is exactly the same. It isn’t as if Jeff Bezos gets 40 hours in a day while the rest of us are stuck with 24.
The difference is in the priorities.
The things that Jeff Bezos prioritises has the maximum rewards in the current economy and that’s why he continues to be the richest person in the world.
We are always doing something. We are always spending time. However, what we choose to spend time on creates our future
If you work for an hour, or if you remain idle for an hour, the amount of time you have spent is the same. But the value you have created in that single hour is massively different.
Time is the most important resource, once it is gone, it does not come back. It is the one resource that everyone has in equal amount; 24 hours. How we use it completely depends on us.
There is a famous quote from John C Maxwell …
Your life is the result of choices you make and every choice you make makes you. So choose wisely
So, having extreme clarity on what activities will give us maximum returns on our time and prioritising them is a sure-shot way of improving our time management.
One way you can make time management easier for you is to keep ‘To-do lists’ handy.
I, personally start my day with three to-do lists.
One is my for my work, the second concerns my personal life and the third is for my side-hustle.
I always prioritise my work to-do list until and unless there is some medical emergency that requires me to shift from it. There have been rare instances where my work to-do list has spilt over to the next day/next week.
Once I am done with my work priorities I can think about the other things that aren’t as important as my work goals.
I also use a tool called the Trello board which helps me list down my priorities and organise them in a way that helps me complete my tasks one by one.
We always have time for things we consider a priority, even if we do it unintentionally. We naturally have enough time to eat, sleep and shower, because as humans these are our basic priorities.
Similarly, as salespersons too, we have a list of priorities. We just have to identify them.
Planning is the process of acquiring clarity on the steps you need to do to achieve your desired goals.
Planning precedes prioritising or we could set prioritising as a subset of planning.
There is a famous quote by Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1940 to 1945,
He who fails to plan plans to fail.
Salespeople are normally known to be hustlers. They are always hustling, always in action.
This is a good thing, as a salesperson you need to be biased towards action. However, action without planning results in inaction.
Planning your actions and then doing it, results in a higher chance of you getting the desired outcomes. As a salesperson, most of the time, planning and strategizing is assigned to the sales leader. Salespeople are expected to execute these strategies laid out for them. But, the plan of executing these strategies completely rests upon the salesperson. This is why planning your activities is far more essential to get the desired results in sales. If you don’t think it through, you might feel that you are getting work done by keeping yourself busy. However, your customers don’t pay you to simply be busy, they pay you to solve problems for them and you can solve problems only if you have a clear plan of how to go about it.
Just for a moment, think about the startup scenes in the country. Every other day you come across news that some startup has become a unicorn, some start-up has raised a round of funding from a few investors. On what basis do these investors fund these startups?
One is the market potential. The second thing that they look for is the business plan which the founders of the management team have presented in front of these investors. The investors bet on that business plan and the team that will be executing that plan.
So, planning is a very advanced skill and as a salesperson, if you want to get the maximum ROI on your time, you need to learn this skill.
People at times have the notion that planning is a waste of time and so they directly get into action. However, they are missing the point that planning is a hack to save a lot of their time as it allows them to prepare for the hurdles and the unforeseen changes that they may encounter.
Planning helps you bring predictability to your sales activities and it helps you assign appropriate time for each activity.
Getting into the habit of Planning my day has helped me de-stress myself. Due to planning ahead of time, I don’t always need to think about what I have to do next during the day. My mind is relaxed and completely focused on executing the task at hand.
Tonny Robbins (American author, coach, speaker, and philanthropist) says
“ Where Focus goes, Energy flows”
We all live in an always-on economy. As a salesperson, we believe we are expected to be available all the time for everybody.
However, this mindset drains productivity. This attitude makes you susceptible to distractions and reduces your focus on the task at hand.
Mobile phones and social media apps are considered to be the best innovation of all time in the history of mankind. But, this innovation also has its own drawbacks. For sales professionals, mobile phones and sales apps on mobile phones are part of our daily tool kit. Like how a doctor has a stethoscope, thermometer and a first-aid kit in his bag, the salesperson has a mobile phone with him loaded with all the sales tools.
We are expected to adopt these sales tools and to be in complete control of these tools to be productive. But, most of the time the reverse happens. Tools and apps control us and make us highly unproductive.
Every time we are working or are in a meeting with a client, an app notification or a call distracts us from the present moment. This distracts us from the task at hand, worsening our focus. We keep switching our attention between two things simultaneously.
If we don’t control technology, it by default controls us and makes us unproductive.
You can avoid this from happening by:
- Turning off all the notifications on your mobile phone and desktop
- Working in an area devoid of distractions.
- Anticipating what could distract you and avoiding them
- Installing chrome extension-block site to block unwanted pop-up advertisements on your computer.
Avoid Multitasking while working on important projects.
“You can do two things at once, but you can’t focus effectively on two things at once.”
― Gary Keller
My thoughts on the topic of multitasking are exactly the same as of Gary Keller, (American entrepreneur and best selling author)
Multitasking is something which I too am guilty of. There are many authors who in their books have talked about the drawbacks of multitasking.
However, I believe that you can’t entirely avoid multitasking. There are specific use cases of multitasking, for example, I listen to music while jogging.
However, whenever I take up a task that needs all of my focus and attention, which is one of the seven mentioned tasks, I try avoiding multitasking as much as I can.
I am guilty of multitasking during virtual meetings. Even though I was a part of the meeting, I did go through my emails and pending messages that needed a response.
This actually brings down my actual productivity. As I am not listening to the call, I can’t contribute to it. Through my own experiences, I have realised that multitasking is something we should avoid especially when we are engaged in a specific sales-related task.
Multitasking has its place. It can be put to good use. However, when you are engaged in highly advanced skills, multitasking will actually backfire. Multitasking will affect your performance in both tasks and you won’t be able to do either task to your full potential.
4. Being organised eases time management.
Being Organised in sales parlance is sorting things or information in a way that it is easily accessible and searchable whenever you need it.
For example, as a salesperson, we most of the time, organize our data and client-related data. This information usually resides either in our email inbox or our laptop or cloud storage or on our mobile device.
If we do not organize the data, we end up spending a lot of my time searching for it and stressing ourselves in the process.
Being organized is a hack to save a lot of time.
Organizing can also be done with respect to some of the repeatable tasks.
As a salesperson, you need to send introductory emails, LinkedIn messages, product details or sales presentations to customers very often. Organising these email templates and information in one single place saves a lot of time that might be spent in drafting or rewriting these emails.
One of the tools that help me organize is Google Drive, which I mostly use to store my personal data. I use BOX for my official data, these two tools help to organise data and collaborate it with others with lease efforts and time.
5. Outsource for better time management.
There is this insightful blog written by James Clear, the author of ‘Atomic Habits’ on how much your time is really worth. In this blog, he has explained why it is important for everyone to know how much money they make per hour through their work.
When I read the title of the blog for the first time, I was really judgemental. I wondered, do we really need to find out how much we make in an hour. After reading the blog, however, and doing this exercise myself, I realised that finding out your hourly salary gives you a great perspective in understanding where you should spend your time.
Time is the only thing we can have. All the other things can be easily taken away from us, our wealth, our belongings, our relationships, but no one can take our time away from us.
We are always swamped with different priorities. This world is full of activities that require our attention. To be efficient at time management, we should spend our time on priorities that move us towards our goals,
When I did this exercise I realized how much my time is worth. It helped me understand that if at all there are other priorities that can be outsourced at a lesser cost than what my time is worth, I would love to do that.
For e.g During Diwali, we usually spend a lot of time cleaning our houses. However, there are so many service providers who can do that for us at a fraction of the cost. After reading the blog I realised that there are so many personal activities of mine that I need not do because it is something that I don’t enjoy doing or something that does not need my specialisation.
So, instead of doing these activities myself, if I could outsource them to others, I will be saving so much of my time that I can devote to other things that will really help me build more skills.
This is where I realised that outsourcing is a great time management tool. In fact, outsourcing is also used by large corporations where they have outsourced jobs to other countries where they can get it done at a lesser cost.
Outsourcing is a key to time management and it is mentioned by many authors, for example by Laura Vanderkam in 168 hours and by Tim Ferris, in the ‘4 hours work week’
You don’t have to do the tasks that don’t advance you to your goals, especially if doing so does not benefit you in terms of rejuvenation or rewards earned.
If you are a person who has a very high reward on his time for his work, by spending time on tasks that are not related to work which can be outsourced you are reducing your rewards.
However, if you are someone with a knack for doing menial jobs, if you really love doing it, then go ahead and do it. Because a wise man called Bertrand Russel once said ….
The time you enjoy wasting was not wasted time.
The reason I wrote this blog is that I believe time is the biggest leveller universe has created for us and the life we aspire to live depends on how well we manage our time.
As B2B sales professionals we have the opportunity to achieve our goals with very less investment of time compared to other professions. However, to do that you need to work on the above-mentioned steps.
Hope this blog has given you clarity on managing your time well
If you found this article helpful, share it with others who might find this interesting. Do not forget to subscribe and if you have any queries, ask in the comments section. I am always ready to help.
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