Use Time Well

By Samuel Whitaker
A woman juggles five items while standing on a clock.

When was the last time you computed the worth of your selling time? Traveling to prospects, waiting for customers, dealing with piles of paperwork – these are all necessary activities that eat away at your productive day. To minimize time lost and maximize the time you have for selling, try getting rid of these productivity thieves by using the suggestions outlined below.

Thief #1: Travel

Two calls on customers that are three hours traveling time apart consume as much time as six calls on customers that are closer to one another. Simple arithmetic, maybe, but many salespeople don’t realize that traveling time takes away valuable selling time.

To get more sales mileage out of your wheel spinning, plan each day to spend a minimum amount of time on travel between calls. If your territory is in the city, spend the day in the same neighborhood or suburb. If your territory covers the countryside, spend the day in neighboring towns.

When you must meet with two very important customers whose offices are far apart, and you are taking a plane or the subway, use the time to catch up on your paperwork or reading. If you are driving, use the travel time to listen to sales and motivational recordings. This way, you’ll arrive at your sales call ready to sell.

Thief #2: Unpreparedness

The salesperson who knows little about the product or customer will take the longest to make a presentation. The salesperson who is most thoroughly prepared will always need the shortest time to present the product and its benefits.

Since compressing an idea into a brief but adequate presentation can be far more successful for you than floundering around for an hour or more, prepare your presentations. Know what you are going to say. Don’t waste your own and your prospect’s time searching for just the right words to close the sale. Try to anticipate your prospect’s questions and objections and have the answers and counters ready. You can’t win a war by firing your closing salvo from back at the bivouac.

Thief #3: Erratic Scheduling

To get the most out of your day, learn to run an internal time clock. Be on the job at eight o’clock sharp and stay on the job until five or six o’clock. And, to be truly productive, avoid burnout.

If you break your schedule on one day, you may find it easier to break it again in the future. Waiting until nine today will make it easier to postpone work until 10 tomorrow. Be tough with yourself. You chose to be a salesperson because you wanted more out of life than limited pay for limited hours.

Thief #4: Waiting

One of a salesperson’s most baffling problems is being forced to wait to see a customer even though the salesperson was on time. Here’s how to handle this:

Find out ahead of time which hours your customer finds most convenient, and schedule your call between them. You will save time and your customer will appreciate your willingness to adjust to his or her schedule.

Don’t turn the wait into an endurance contest. Give your customer 15 minutes as a courtesy, but no more. Leave a message with the secretary that you understand that the customer is busy and that you will call later to arrange a better time for an appointment.

If the call is important and you must wait, use this time to get caught up on professional reading, paperwork, or returning messages.

Thief #5: Excessive Talk

When you go on sales calls, you encounter all types of personalities. Some like to shake hands and get right down to business; others like to chitchat first and then ease into business talk; others will combine a bit of both.

Although you may want to stop the chatty customer in mid-sentence, that may not be the best course. Let your customer talk for a little while, but try not to get too involved in the conversation. Keep your attention on your presentation and the reason you are there: to make a sale. At a tactful moment, steer the conversation back toward your presentation. As you gain experience, the chatters will use up less and less of your selling time.

Thief #6: Lunch Alone

When busy salespeople lunch alone, they are likely to order carelessly and eat too fast. Don’t do it. A lump of fast food in your stomach can spoil your whole afternoon. Hunger is healthy; indigestion is not.

Instead, have lunch with a customer. This gives you a pleasant setting away from the beehive of the customer’s office. It’s also one of the best ways to turn a prospect into a customer or to keep an existing customer satisfied. Besides, more business has been cemented over salad than stuffed between interrupting phone calls at the office.

Thief #7: Paperwork

If you use your cluttered desk as an excuse to not make sales calls, then this thief of time is lurking around every corner. If you have to start your day an hour to a half-hour earlier to take care of paperwork, do it! Don’t use valuable selling hours to fill out forms or enter computer data.

Never let any excuse keep you from selling for at least eight hours a day. Never start your professional reading until you have updated your daily records.

Start today with a more organized approach to your precious selling hours and watch those hours lead to more closed business.