Five Steps to Achieving the Ideal Sales Day
It is 5:30 p.m. and your sales day is now behind you. But this one was not a typical sales day. It has been the "Ideal Sales Day." You look down at a clear desk. You look up at an empty computer screen. You look around at a well-organized office. Your inbox and outbox are empty. Your task list contains mostly checkmarks. You made sales calls, prospecting calls and, of course, sales. You sit back, take it all in, close your eyes and smile.
You sit up in bed and think to yourself, "Dang. It was just a dream."
Who do you think you're kidding? Your sales day is nowhere near that description. Sure, the day starts like a train sitting at the station, ready for you to board. But the day ends with you jumping off of that train as it hurls itself down the track at 100 mph. You dive off, aiming for the down slope of the hill, roll until you stop, dust yourself off while checking for injury and limp home to reheat your dinner—only to get up and do it all again tomorrow. Ideal Sales Day? Seriously? How do you even get close to that dream?
Step One: Start with a Plan
The single most important factor not only in achieving the Ideal Sales Day, but also good time management itself, is preparation. Knowing ahead of time what you are going to do each day, and predicting what the day might bring, are simple and essential first steps when the goal is sales efficiency.
Imagine walking into your office and sitting at your desk. Waiting for you is a calendar with today's date at the top and different time slots down the left side. Appointments are clearly marked. Time is blocked out for specific activities, such as prospecting. It's even color-coded! How much better would your day go if it started like this? Top executives have people who do this for them. They have people. You have you.
It's not a difficult task, actually, if you make it the last thing you do before leaving for the day. More on this later. The point is, start with a plan.
Step Two: Identify Top Priorities
"If I get nothing else done today, I will accomplish the following three tasks..." How you end that sentence becomes a short list of your top priorities. Know them. If you keep a task list of to-do items, you can either put a tick mark or numbers next to them. How many times do you end the day and think to yourself, "UGH! I didn't get that done again today." Knowing what your top priorities are each day is one half of what it takes to ensure the completion. The other step is…
Step Three: Make Good Choices
Several times each sales day (and perhaps several times each sales hour), you are faced with an important choice: What do I do now? That is, of all of the various items on my task list, which is the one that best fits this particular timeslot? If identifying top priorities is the first part of the answer, making good choices is the second. Sure, if you have only 15 minutes prior to the scheduled call and your top priority that day is to crank out a proposal that requires far more time, it's probably not a good fit.
Making good choices includes staying away from that mistress known as Social Media, ignoring the office water cooler talk about the American League East, and staying on task. That said, sometimes taking a mental break from the intensity of the day IS the best choice! If you know that your afternoon is going to be loaded with intensive prospecting activity, perhaps a quick walk around the block is the best choice.
Ideal Sales Days happen when you consistently choose "have to" over "want to." Your ability to get back on track, not procrastinate, and keep focused requires discipline and motivation. All the preparation and priority-identification in the world is no match for the rubber meets the road, just do it, part of sales. Those who accomplish this goal are the high performers.
Step Four: New Business Activity
No Ideal Sales Day can be complete without a healthy dose of new business activity. At best, time is set aside for significant prospecting on a regular basis. Sometimes this is a couple of hours of intense phone calling, introductory letter mailing, and appointment keeping with the accounts that will make up the sales volume of tomorrow. At minimum, it might be a handful of, "I've been trying to reach you on the phone but have not had any luck. I hope next time I call, we can connect" e-mails that take only a few minutes but at least perpetuate the process.
A good day in sales happens when you take a lot of tasks off of your to-do list. A great day in sales is when you close some orders. An Ideal Sales Day includes both of those accomplishments AND significant movement of the new business activity needle.
Step Five: End With a Plan
It takes only a few minutes to finish off the Ideal Sales Day with one last task: preparation for tomorrow. The #1 rule of time management is this: You will never catch up. Once you understand and accept that, you don't make catching up your goal. Instead, your aim is for efficiency and productivity.
Using the last 10 minutes, at most, to create the aforementioned list of tomorrow's appointments, phone calls, tasks and priorities sets you up for success. This simple action allows you to mentally close the book on the day and not bring worry and anxiety home, allowing you to be present for your personal life, friends and, most important, family.
Looking back on these five steps, there is nothing magical or particularly complicated. It's a systematic template that sets you up for success, beginning and ending with preparation and containing the same advice your mother gave you when she dropped you off at college ("Make good choices, honey").
The Ideal Sales Day is not reliant on results. It's about the activities that generate the results. Sure, it's a great feeling to slay the dragon, bag the elephant, land the whale and all of those other Glengarry Glen Ross/Wall Street sales euphemisms.
But a sales rep's life contains far more strikeouts, pop-ups and weak grounders to third than it does doubles, triples and home runs.
It's 5:30 p.m. and your sales day is now behind you. Rate it. What did you do right and what did you do wrong? How efficient were you? Did you make good choices? Another opportunity to improve comes in the morning.
Prepare for it now by thinking your day through. You will never, ever catch up. But your pursuit of the Ideal Sales Day does not need to be a dream either! PI
About the Authors
T.J. Tedesco is team leader of Grow Sales Inc., a marketing and PR services company that has served the sales growth needs of graphic arts companies since 1996. He wrote "Win Top-of-Mind Positioning" and eight other books. Contact Tedesco at (301) 294-9900 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Bill Farquharson is a vice president at NAPL. Farquharson can help drive your sales. Visit www.aspirefor.com or call him at (781) 934-7036.