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Sales Make it Happen

Time and Management

A major sales consulting firm estimates that most salespeople spend no more than six percent (6%) of their available working hours talking to prospects and customers in person or on the phone about whether the customer or prospect wants to grow their business or fix a problem in the business. Excluding telemarketers, where then do most salespeople spend their time?

Not surprisingly, effective time management is a challenge for many salespeople and sales managers. What is surprising is how much time and money is spent by sales organizations desperate to teach their sales teams how to spend their work time wisely and efficiently. Even a cursory look at the essential activities of salespeople reveals all you need to know about time management for the sales team.

For most salespeople, there are only six essential tasks for which they are responsible - prospecting, qualifying, facilitating orders, closing business, maintaining customer relationships, and reporting activities to management. With the exception of continuing education, a salesperson can plan his or her days, weeks, months and years around these essential activities. The trick is to exclude as many activities as possible that do not impact at least one of these essential tasks.

Because all companies need revenue, and salespeople are paid to close business, closing business is the number one priority for most salespeople. It seems obvious, then, that salespeople would not let anything stand in the way of closing current business with customers.

Whether a salesperson prospects as a "hunter," or is continually on the lookout for additional opportunities to do more business with existing customers, prospecting for business is the second most important activity for all salespeople.

Why? Without a constant flow of new prospects, or new prospective business from existing customers, a sales pipeline or funnel quickly runs dry.

Once prospects are identified, salespeople must qualify the prospects as a fit for the products or services offered. There are few things in a salesperson's working life that are worse than spending gobs of time with prospects who cannot or will not do profitable business with the salesperson's company.

As business from a number of prospects and customers begins to move through the salesperson's pipeline, time must be spent facilitating activities that cause that business to move toward closing. It's here that salespeople waste most of their time. Whether the salesperson is at fault, or whether operational inefficiencies make it necessary for salespeople to baby-sit order processing, this activity robs many salespeople of precious selling time.

Salespeople must spend some time cultivating and growing their relationships with customers. This essential activity can take many forms, from regular visits to the customer's place of business, researching solutions to customer challenges, to arranging entertainment events like business lunches and dinners, sporting events and so on.

Finally, as bitter a pill as it is for salespeople to swallow, some time must be spent reporting activities and the results of activities to sales management. After all, if sales managers did not receive reports from their team, what on earth would they do with their time? But seriously, management should always require reports from the sales team, not for the purposes of micromanagement, but for the value of the intelligence to be gained from feedback reported by the sales team.

Keeping the main activities of sales in mind - prospecting, qualifying, facilitating orders, closing business, maintaining customer relationships, and reporting activities to management - should help salespeople and managers prioritize and allocate selling time. Does anyone really need a time management class to tell them to do essential selling activities and stop doing everything else during selling hours?

Next week we will examine time traps that rob salespeople of precious selling time, and we'll explore some ways to avoid them.

--- from the desk of a retired, successful leasing company president.