How to Improve Your Productivity When Selling Printing
"I did it! I finally caught up on all my work!” Said no one. Ever. The concept of time management fills books, seminar venues, and Printing Impressions columns every now and then. Time is finite and a big part of success in sales comes down to selling more in less time. You can be busy but not productive. You can check off tasks from a to-do list but remain inefficient. We are all given the same number of hours in a day. The goal is to make the most of those hours.
Productivity is not a coincidence. It comes from careful preparation and that’s one key to time management. Another key is to understand this important fact: You will never, ever, catch up. In fact, don’t make that your goal unless you are yearning for day-after-day of frustration. Instead, follow some simple tips for making the most of your selling day:
1. Block local distractions
You’re at your desk trying to get some calls in. A bindery worker sticks her head in for a quick question. You comment on the funny T-shirt she’s wearing and she tells you the story behind it before leaving. The head of estimating walks in requiring clarification on a quote due next week. Another sales rep needs some advice on an account and stands at the door as you silently scream.
Such distractions seem inevitable. Shutting your door does not help. People knock and come in anyway. Sure, you could work from home, but you will still need a strategy for the days when you are sitting at your desk and 100% available for interruptions.
Try this: Make a sign that reads, “Can it wait till 9:30 a.m.?” Stick the sign on your closed door or right on your desk pointed towards the direction people come at you. Make the time anything you want. The point is, people will look at the sign, look at their watch, and walk away — and here’s the best part— never to return.
You see, since you were unavailable, they either solved the problem themselves or found someone else to interrupt. Voilà! You have now cleared the deck to find more time to sell.
2. Change your outgoing voicemail
The message, “Hi, this is Bill Farquharson. You have reached my voicemail. Please leave your name and number and I will call you back” gives almost no information to the caller. Are you in today? When can I expect to hear from you? Further, there is an unspoken expectation that voicemail messages will be returned promptly, or at least in a timely manner.
While voicemail serves as an effective gatekeeper, most salespeople find it impossible not to pick up the phone. What if it’s urgent? What if the caller gives up and phones the competition?
Try this: Change your outgoing voicemail message on a daily basis to something like, “Hi, this is Bill Farquharson. Today is Wednesday, Oct. 20. I will be tied up until 10 a.m. this morning and will return your phone call then.
If it’s urgent, press ‘0’ and ask for Allison.”
Very Few ‘True’ Emergencies
Alternatively you might leave your cell phone number, but the point is you have successfully made it possible to sell without the interruption of phone calls. Plus, you can rest assured all emergencies will be handled. Trust me: 99.9% of the issues people are calling about can wait until 10 a.m. (or whatever time you set). Based on my experience, the only people not capable of waiting are related to you.
3. Make two calls at a time
This is a great workaround and it’s less of a time management tip than it is a sneaky way to make six, eight, 10 or more sales calls a day. Very few salespeople have the time or patience to make a large number of calls. Some block off time on their calendar, but most will admit to either ignoring or moving that commitment, pushing it off again and again.
If I’m speaking to a large group, I will make the bold claim, “Everyone can make eight to 10 sales calls a day.” Typically, the statement is followed by jeers and the occasional tomato being thrown my way. But I will back it up with this advice: Make two sales calls at a time. Just two. Then, go on to the next task on your list. When that is complete, make two more sales calls. Then, do the next most important thing. When that’s done, make two more calls. Before you know it, you will have made a solid number of sales calls, all because you created a gap between completed tasks and used it to your advantage.
4. Ask yourself an important question
While many of the reasons for poor time management tend to be external — distractions, interruptions, or customer calls — we also don’t help ourselves when we choose our want-to’s over our have-to’s. It’s far too easy to fall down the rabbit hole or get sidetracked by a shiny object that caught our eye.
Try this: Get in the habit of performing a self-check several times a day by asking yourself the question, “Is this really the best use of my time right now?” If you believe it is, keep going. If, however, you have caught yourself doing the wrong thing at the wrong time, stop, adjust, and get back on the rails.
5. Set a hard-fast time to end your day
This one might seem counterintuitive. After all, how can limiting the amount of time you sell help you to find more time to sell? Good question! Let me explain. Suppose you committed to leaving your office at a specific time each day (say 5 p.m.). When the clock struck five, you would have to walk away from your desk in an SAT test, pencils down, kind of way. At 4 p.m., you would look at your watch and think, “I only have an hour. What’s the best use of that time?” Theoretically, you would look at your task list and make a choice befitting your limits. Having done this for years, I’ve made good decisions almost 100% of the time. It’s when I have an unlimited amount of time that I choose poorly.
Wouldn’t it be nice if sales was a video game, one where reaching a certain volume would result in receiving an hour or two of bonus selling time? Sadly, this does not happen. We are bound by the rules of time and all of us receive the same amount. Becoming productive requires planning. You must control what you can control, check in with yourself frequently, and stop thinking that you’ll sell more if you work longer hours.
The best, most productive salespeople are reading this column from home. It’s 4 p.m. and they are in their hammock out back, having just mowed the lawn. They too, will never catch up, but that was never their goal. They seek to start each day with a plan, avoid interruptions, achieve productivity, and end the day with a plan for tomorrow.
Bill Farquharson is a respected industry expert and highly sought after speaker known for his energetic and entertaining presentations. Bill engages his audiences with wit and wisdom earned as a 40-year print sales veteran while teaching new ideas for solving classic sales challenges. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (781) 934-7036. Bill’s two books, The 25 Best Print Sales Tips Ever and Who’s Making Money at Digital/Inkjet Printing…and How? as well as information on his new subscription-based website, The Sales Vault, are available at salesvault.pro.