Sales is a high-pressure industry that’s driven by results. That means keeping your productivity high and making every second count is essential if you’re to be successful.
Some sales managers just seem to take this in their stride. They will sail through their day, no matter what is thrown at them and relishing the challenge and ‘buzz’ of chasing their next deal.
So, what’s their secret?
The answer is likely to be two-fold. Firstly, they will be super organized and make the most of clever tools and software that can help them manage their time more effectively, so they’re always on top of things.
Secondly, they are likely to have strong self-understanding that means they recognize their own strengths and weaknesses and take these into account.
Because we all know, when you’re busy trying to keep lots of balls up in the air, it can be easy to start feeling overwhelmed. You may even drop one of those balls and find yourself constantly running to try and catch up. Which is why burn out can be a real problem.
Being super productive is about concentration and prioritizing. Cutting out any time-wasting and freeing up your brain so you can focus fully on the task at hand.
To help you start streamlining your own working practices, here are some ideas and techniques you can try.
Time management tips for improving productivity and focus
Have a plan – Being organized is going to be your greatest weapon against a busy workload. Stop trying to hold it all in your brain, or on scraps of paper here and there. Have an up-to-date ‘to do‘ list in whatever form works best for you and plan your time. Schedule time slots for different things throughout your day, giving consideration to when you may be most effective (calling prospects at lunchtime is never a good idea). Plan ahead, then stick to it.
Be realistic – If you try and cram too much into your day, you’ll probably crash and burn, which will throw you off course completely. You also risk your quality level dropping, if you go for quantity and that will make anything you’re doing less effective. Some tasks naturally require more time and thought. There’s no point rushing in and derailing your chances of success. When planning, make sure you include some overrun time between tasks, to give yourself some leeway in case you need it.
Do the worst things first – We all have things we would prefer to be doing and things we’d rather leave at the bottom of the to do list forever. But these tasks are the ones that will sit silently in your brain, niggling away at you until they are done. You will never be fully concentrating on the task at hand while you have these niggles in the background, so bite the bullet and get them done.
Batch process calls and emails – Rather than dealing with one lead at a time, instead split your tasks up by type, then do them in batches. It can take time to get everything in front of you that you might need to make a call. It can also take time to get into the swing of things and to find your rhythm. Get yourself settled and just crack on. You may be surprised how fast you can plow through your calls that way. For emails use the 2-minute rule – if you can do it in 2-minutes, action it. Otherwise, add the task to your to do list and prioritize it along with everything else.
Get into good habits – When things become a habit, they are much easier to continue with, but it takes time to make them so. Try to get into good habits, especially with your admin (something most salespeople dislike). For example, when you’ve spoken to a potential lead, what do you do next? Get into the habit of automatically updating your CRM the minute you get off the phone, or return from a meeting. Your notes won’t only be more accurate, as the conversation will be fresh in your mind, but you’ll be sharing information that is important.
Set clear expectations from the start – If you’re asked to do something, make sure you agree a realistic deadline and are clear on what is expected of you before you get started. This will reduce the likelihood of your time being wasted due to miscommunication. It’s better to over-question at the beginning, than end up redoing tasks that weren’t quite right.
Physically shut out distractions – Set aside time to physically shut yourself away, when you need to complete important or complex tasks. Getting away from ringing phones, other people and distractions will help you concentrate. This will not only have a physical benefit but a mental one too, helping you focus. Remember to turn off your phone and to close your emails, so you’re not interrupted that way either.
Make the most of technology – There are now loads of tools out there can help you to manage your time better. From the basics – your calendar and reminders – to apps such as Basecamp and Teamwork. Explore some tools that could help you stay on top of your day-to-day tasks and time planning. No need to go crazy, just try out a few and find the ones that suit you best.
Equally, know when to escape technology – Nothing can break your concentration and lower your productivity like emails and notifications. Be strict with yourself. Turn off notifications (such as on social media) and instead look at your profiles at a set time. If you’re jumping in and out of the task at hand every time you get a new email, then you’re wasting time and brain power. Unless there is an urgent reason for you to be checking them every minute, put them aside so you can concentrate fully. Here are our top tips and helpful hacks on how to make the most of social media when you have limited time:
Avoid time-sappers – Advances in technology have made the sales process a whole lot more efficient. However, they have also created many more distractions. You need to be honest with yourself here. What are the major time-wasters for you – yes, LinkedIn can be a great tool for lead generation, but are you always using it with that in mind. If you’re not spending your time wisely, even the most beneficial of social media sites can quickly turn into a productivity saboteur. Check out our daily LinkedIn cheat sheet for busy sales professionals for some tips on spending your time on LinkedIn wisely.
Recognize your own productivity patterns – No-one will ever understand your personal working patterns as well as you do. Think about when you are at your most productive. Some people are naturally morning people, while others just aren’t. The key here is to make sure you’re tackling your most important or difficult tasks when you’re at your most effective. You’ll get them done quicker that way.
Take time out to refresh and reboot – Everyone needs some respite time if they are to keep up momentum and the concentration that’s needed to be super successful. Exercising is great for both body as mind, as are wellness techniques. Finding some quiet time among the noise will aid your results.
Bonus productivity tips from across the web
- Create templates – spend time creating templates so when you need them they are ready to go.
- Start earlier – don’t be too rigid with the 9-5 working day, prospects will often be open to calls and meetings earlier in the day.
- Don’t forget about existing customers – you may want to do more prospecting, but it’s important to keep in touch with existing clients regularly. They will be your greatest potential source of referrals and quality leads that are far more effective than starting from scratch on a new relationship.
- Learn to say no – if you genuinely can’t take another thing on, then ask which task they wish you to drop to make way for the new one you’re being given, or see what deadlines can be extended to compensate.
- If the words just aren’t flowing, don’t try and force them – if you’re sat wasting time, staring at your screen trying to a write a letter or email and the words just won’t come, then do something else and return to it later. Everyone gets writers’ block from time to time. You may find that if you have a break and it just flows.
- Know that multitasking is a myth – you can only concentrate fully on one task at a time. Switching your brain between tasks will only slow you down.
- Be prepared – the unexpected can happen. Plan for it and this will help you recover quickly.
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