I always liked the saying that you cannot manage time; it already comes in cartons of 24 hours, with each containing 60 minutes

After a long career in sales, working with and for some highly successful professionals, it’s hard not to reach the conclusion that those who master sales really master two key things:

  1. Being proactive rather than reactive
  2. Taking control of activities and use of time

It can be argued that if you do not mange your activities within the time allotted, you cannot truly be proactive, because it is the luxury of time that allows you to be proactive; reactive behavior is a clear sign of someone who has run out of time to do things in a planned way, and is now trying to just get things done (in time?).

This is not about time management.

I always liked the saying that you cannot manage time; it already comes in cartons of 24 hours, with each containing 60 minutes. It is more about time allocation, rather than managing time, we need to get good at allocating time in right proportions to the right things, or better yet priorities.

Inherent in that statement is that we actually do prioritize, not just in order of importance but in time allowed (allocated) to doing it. Some do a great job at preparing their to-do lists, and actually completing the many tasks on their lists. Some do a great job in long term planning and having a road map to accomplishing their goals or objectives. Where some fail is taking these two elements and translating them to their daily diary in a way that allows them to maximize their results.

Looking at it from the long term perspective, it is important to understand how much of one’s time should be allocated to each task. This measured not on a day by day basis, but say over the length of a typical sales cycle.

For example use a sales rep with a defined territory, they are responsible for both managing and growing their existing base, we’ll call that account management; they also need to grow net new business via new logos in their territory, which means all aspects of prospecting, and selling.

Let’s simplify prospecting to developing leads, managing leads and the effort and act of reaching out to and engaging new prospects. We will simplify selling by saying it includes the point from which you are engaged with a prospect to when you close or lose the opportunity. Then there is all the other fun things you have to do if you work for a company or yourself that we will roll up into a neat little thing called admin.

As a rep you should have a sense as to what percentage of your time you should spend with each activity, for example (no really, it is an example not a recommendation):

Admin 12%
Account Management 31%
Selling 36%
Prospecting 21%

Again, some are extremely good at doing this type of planning, they have nice pie charts up at their desk to inspire and keep them on track.

This exercise should be done no more than twice a year, start and mid-year; the only reason to do it more than that would be if your numbers are not where they should be, time after time we see that a root cause of this is misallocation of time and activities.

In addition to the big picture, it is also important that sales professionals manage their daily and weekly diaries. This means cascading the same percentage of time identified in the big picture, down to daily and weekly diaries. Too many times the detailed weekly calendar does not reflect the proper time needed to hit goal.

For example, you may have established that you need to allocate 31% of your time to Account Management, but in practice it is taking up some 40% of your time. This means that one of your other must do tasks is not getting the right amount of time, and maybe suffering as a result. Unless the extra time dedicated to Account Management is delivering superior results/numbers, you are going to fall short of your goal.

One sad reality is that most often the task that ends up being short changed is the one that we either like least or are not the strongest in. Often this is prospecting, which has a direct impact on the pipeline and long term results. I often hear reps rationalize this by saying that they were doing something important like saving an account or driving a big deal. But the end result is a thin or weak pipe.

Again, if you do allocate time to saving an account or closing a big deal, and it puts you well over plan, fine, if not, then you could be in trouble not because you can’t sell well, but you misused you time. More specifically you deviated from a solid plan without a good reason.

It is important that you allocate time in proper proportion, and then manage your behavior and activities to meet those allocations. Time is difficult to manage, but managing our activities in proper proportions is a building block of sales success.

About the author

Tibor Shanto

Tibor Shanto has over 20 years of sales experience from telemarketing to leading a…

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