In my 30 years of sales and sales management experience, the biggest hurdle I faced was learning the importance of keeping appointments — with myself. Learning this lesson enabled me to become a reliable month-in-month-out quota buster with a reputation for integrity, straight talk and consistency.
Sales professionals fight the same battles of managing complaints, learning new products, working internally to form alliances that go to bat for you when deadlines approach, mastering paperwork and administrative tasks, meeting and exceeding quotas that seem to always be increasing, and finding new and innovative ways to position yourself, your product and your company. It’s what we do. And key to thriving in this culture is by learning to manage the most finite of resources — time.
In my coaching practice, the number one thing professionals want to work on with me is time management — and that’s usually where we start. There are 168 hours in a week. And, believe it or not, of those hours, only about 20 are prime selling hours (in the chart there are actually only 19). This means that what you do with the other time is critical to make those 20 count. Last November I wrote about time management, in an article appropriately titled “Spend Your Time Where It Matters.”1 Here, I summarized the importance of consistency and planning, and also offered a free “Sales Time Tracker” to managers and reps
to evaluate how their time was being spent.2 Further discussion on time management is warranted because this skill is critical to the success of your business.
Solid time management starts with a plan — and, for me it was a visual plan kept at my desk (with a copy in my appointment book). My very best, most productive weeks, months, and years were the ones in which I never wavered from this plan. Perfecting this plan took a few months, and yours may look slightly different. But regardless of these variations, the idea is the same: if you look at the time of day and match it with your plan, you should be doing the task you’ve allotted on your chart.
Prospecting requires discipline to ensure you don’t waver or deviate from your plan. For example, let’s say it’s Tuesday afternoon. You’re working the phones and a prospect you’ve been trying to get an appointment with agrees to meet with you. The catch? She wants to meet on Thursday at 2 pm. Here’s the $1 million question: do you take the meeting? The correct answer is no; keep your appointment with yourself. That’s because, as you can see on the chart, you have an appointment to prospect at that time. What will propel you into true sales greatness is the willingness to say, even to a prospect: “Actually, I’ve already got an appointment at that time; would 10 am work instead?” We would never dismiss an appointment with another client, would we? It was enlightening to realize that I was always quick to give up my prospecting time. The moment I discovered that I was not honoring my commitments to myself was the moment I realized that doing so was just selling myself short of achieving personal and professional success.
Keeping appointments with yourself also enables skillful management of your calendar and other various commitments. By having all of the tasks associated with running a successful territory listed in your plan, you’re guaranteeing you’ll have the administrative work handled and have accounted for the hardest part of your job — prospecting and getting new clients.
Take time to create a plan. Tweak it again and again so that it works for you. Practice the conversation you’ll have with prospects in which you ask if there is another time to meet so that you can keep your most important appointments — those with yourself. Not only is this effective, but it is super empowering to know that your time is as valuable as anyone’s.
- Copelin K. Selling strategies: spend your time where it matters. Mentor. 2016;7(11):10–11.
- Sales Time Tracker. Challenger Coaching. Available at:http://challengercoaching.com/time-tracker/. Accessed June 27, 2017.
From MENTOR. August 2017;8(8):10-11.