Why Great Time Management is Important to Small Businesses116

Guest Post – Megan Totka

Time management is a concept that many people and businesses struggle with. With that said, great time management skills are probably one of the most important skills to have when it comes to running a successful small business. While larger companies may have more of a luxury of time when it comes to selling products or closing on accounts, a small business that is just getting started can be broken by bad time management. One late delivery, and a client may decide to go with another company. While a more established company can take a loss in stride, a small business may not be able to.

Here are some ways to establish good time management practices for your small business:

  • Prioritizing – classify your day (and your employees’ day) by level of importance. Make sure you organize your day in such a way that the most critical tasks are accomplished first. While this may seem like an obvious thing to do, sometimes it is easier said than done.
  • Scheduling – schedule yourself and your employees so that there is ample coverage throughout the day. Whether your company has a physical office or just maintains phone and web coverage, be sure to have people available at all of the hours your business hopes to cover. I would even go so far as to suggest extra coverage, in case an employee is out sick, or gets tied up with another project. This way, no time goes to waste.
  • Setting Goals – having clear cut goals for your employees is critical to great time management. If your employee knows exactly what they are working towards and what the end result should be, you are setting them up for success. If your goals and timetable are unclear, time can be wasted trying to pinpoint what exactly they should be doing.
  • Motivation – encouraging your employees to be self-motivated is an important step to successful time management. It is a waste of time for management to have to keep a careful eye on each and every employee and ensure that their work is being accomplished. A self-motivated work force is much more efficient than one that needs babysitting.
  • Multi-tasking – multi-tasking can be a curse or a blessing. Employees and managers who are able to multi-task are invaluable. However, you have to be careful. If you ask too much of someone who is not a good multi-tasker, they can quickly become overwhelmed. It is great to gauge the ability of your employees and see which are able to handle several responsibilities at once, and which work better while focusing on just one task at a time.

Cultivating a culture of “no time wasted” in your small or fledgling business is extremely important. It is a necessity to get management, employees, and anyone else involved with your business on board with using your time to its fullest. Great time management coupled with a useful product or service can lead to a successful business.

Megan Totka is the Chief Editor for ChamberofCommerce.com. She specializes on the topic of small business tips and resources. ChamberofCommerce.com helps small businesses grow their business on the web and facilitates connectivity between local businesses and more than 7,000 Chambers of Commerce worldwide. She has spent time working for major media news outlets in Seattle and Portland

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Sales Calls: Success through Preparation50

Guest Post – Megan Totka

Sales people are tasked with some of the biggest challenges in the working world. Rejection comes with the territory and simply cannot be a deterrent for future attempts. Adaptation and the ability to learn quickly about a variety of topics are job requirements. A good salesperson consistently closes deals. A great sales person sells things, but also combines an air of expertise with a genuine feeling of concern for the client.

In a market that is increasingly concerned with “inbound” techniques, the traditional sales call is more powerful than ever. Whether a cold call or an arranged one, clients are more appreciative of the human connection than ever before. This does not mean that everyone will be happy to hear from you. It DOES mean that people on sales calls have an opportunity to reach clients on a personal level and close sales on the line. 

One way to prepare for success is through pre-sales call preparation. Take time to form a game plan and winning mentality before dialing the number. Follow these simple steps in preparation and then feel confident in your sales approach.

  1. Immerse yourself. If there are particular industries that you always sell to, get to know what makes them tick. Read up on industry trends, perform market research, attend trade shows and read the best blogs on the topics. You will be able to speak more naturally in your sales calls and your clients will regard you as an authority in your field.
  2. Prepare questions. There is a misconception in sales that the person making the call has to know everything upfront. In fact, most clients find it off-putting if a sales person assumes to know more about their business or industry than they do. You may already have a template of questions that you ask every client, but go ahead and add a few more specific ones. As you call back for repeat business, you may not need a “list” in front of you because the inquiries will just flow.
  3. Do not reinvent the wheel. If there are sales strategies that have worked for other businesses and company leaders in similar industries, use them again. It is not “lazy” to duplicate your tactics from one client to the next – it is smart and efficient. What you want to avoid, however, is the feeling that you are just reading from a script or “automating” your sales call. Even if you ARE reading a script – switch it up a little bit and make the words your own.

There are obviously more approaches each individual can take before a sales call, but these are some basics that every person can follow. As in any job, being successful in sales takes some trial and error. Each person will find their strengths and weaknesses through experience. Even seasoned sales veterans can learn a few new things along the way about what works, what used to work but no longer does, and what to completely avoid on all occasions. It is all part of an evolving marketplace – and one where sales calls still work if executed correctly.

Megan Totka is the Chief Editor for ChamberofCommerce.com. She specializes on the topic of small business tips and resources. ChamberofCommerce.com helps small businesses grow their business on the web and facilitates connectivity between local businesses and more than 7,000 Chambers of Commerce worldwide. Megan also specializes in marketing solutions for businesses.

The Binary Sales Syndrome – Sales eXchange 16087

I have written about my friend who owns a gym, and his love of January, the month where everyone makes resolutions, a high number of which include “getting in shape”.  They sign up for a year, they give up in month; retailers make their year in January, gyms in January. 

He also tells me about people’s approach to the whole physical training thing, which in great measure the reason for them giving up and their ultimate failure.  They go from doing nothing for years, not even minimal walking or cycling, straight to “Green Beret meets Navy Seal” program, or any of the infomercial touted programs that promise to give you a whole new you in 90 days.  And the fact is that they do given two things, you were in some shape to begin with, a shape other than a potato on a lounge chair; second is that you do it the way you are told to do it.  According to my friend most who give up fail on both counts, they go from doing nothing for years to fool blown Insanity.  Others, decide to mess with the formula, and do things their way, still expecting the results they see on TV.

Having dealt with the second issue a couple of weeks back in a piece called Why So Picky?   Let’s look at the former, the feast and famine phenomenon, people either doing (or not doing) the same thing year in and year out, to sudden turbulent change.

I recently met a rep Jill, again a “70 percenter”, in her territory for years, but she was different than most reps in one respect, she loves to read sales books.  Unlike most reps who refuse to read a book even when they get one free.  I remember reading a frightening stat that stated that only one in ten full time sales reps read a sales book in a given year.   Jill’s problem is that she reads a book, puts a few things into action, and unlike the cup-of-soup she has for lunch, there is no instant result in minutes.  So she logs on to her favourite e-retailer and downloads the next audio or e-book, touting the latest and till now the most insane approach to B2B selling.  She consumes it with force, and puts some recommendations into action, and gives it till the end of the day to see results. 

BTW, her sales cycle is about 90 days, I always tell sellers that any change in results when trying a new (hopefully proven technique) should be minimum a cycle and a half after putting things into practice Properly.  So while I commend Jill for striving to learn and improve, she suffers from the same issue my friend’s gym clients do, they expect instant miracles from incomplete efforts.  Assuming they don’t change the formula or recipe, they need to give it proper time to take effect. 

What’s worse for Jill is that in hoping from one technique to another, she is limiting her success because she not spending enough time really engaging and selling to specific buyers, but instead experimenting with her most crucial resource, prospects.

The binary approach does not work for B2B sellers.  While doing or changing nothing, Ø, is clearly not a good approach; implementing massive change and expecting instantaneous results is as ineffective.  There is a third option, not available in a binary environment, allowing you to avoid the negative side of the syndrome.  Decide which methodology or practices really address your sales situations, yes read a number of things that apply.  Then develop a plan that allows you to implement them, making sure you can logically assimilate them without negatively disrupting current opportunities.  Measure and adjust so you can perfect the technique.  It’s not black or white, you can make money in the grey.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Sales Time Termites75

As a reader of this blog you know the importance I place on time and its allocation to consistent sales success.  You know that I believe the concept of “time management” is an empty promise that has caused many a sales people to miss quota; just watch this video or better yet grab our e-book Sales Happen In Time.

While these will give you clear executable strategies and tactics for better utilizing your time, they tend to focus on bigger things, important things that have to be committed to and mastered before you can go to the next level.

As with most things, the bigger the change required, the longer it will take.  Now don’t take this as permission to not embark on that journey of change, but more as the need to be realistic in the effort and time involved, and the need to also deal with smaller things that add up in increments over time, the time it takes to change bigger elements. This requires that you adopt a “balanced” approach to rethinking how you allocate and utilize time, much like the concept of a “balanced pipeline”, a pipeline that includes small and big prospects, those that will close soon, and some will take longer.

One immediate step you can take is eradicate “Sales Time Termites”, yes termites.  Termites are often called the “silent destroyer” in the home repair circles, and are economically significant as they can cause serious structural damage to buildings, crops or plantation forests.  In sales Time termites are the little almost unnoticed activities that can be easily avoided, but left unaddressed can erode the quality of your sales time, activities and results.

Here are a few examples:

Friends and Colleagues – A few minutes here, a quick conversation there, a “come with me to grab a coffee”, a whole list of unnecessary things we do with colleagues that over the course of a week or month add up to a significant chunk of time that can be used more profitably and productively.  While I am not suggesting an anti-social stance, if you work to eliminate these time munchers, you will gain advantage.

Clients and Bosses – Yes, I said clients and bosses, they are important, they need to be heeded, but in the right time context.  For the right reasons, sales people feel the need to respond to these two groups immediately, no doubt a form of survival instinct.  But not do you not have to jump and say how high, you are also probably not doing either a favour by providing an unthought-out response, while abandoning whatever you were doing when the call comes in.  Yes it is important to respond to both these groups, but do it in a timeframe that makes sense to all, not just one party.  In cases of real emergencies, certainly drop what you are doing and deal with it, but make sure it is a REAL emergency, not a convenient excuse to stop prospecting, because that will cost you more than time.

Lack of To-Do List – A simple list, hand written or on your smartphone takes little effort or time to do, but it can make a significant difference.  Not only will you have captured all the things you feel you need to get done, but you are in a much better position to prioritize based on what you need to accomplish in a day.  More importantly, you will be able to move from task to task based on your objectives, rather than trying to figure out what you need to do next before the end of the day or before your are forced to multitask.

Again, not big things, but key things that will help you avoid losing precious time, even if it is a little at a time.  Remember, most sales people who miss quota do not run out of skills, but rather, run out of time.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Time – The Currency of Sales75

Some things I have all the time in the world for, others are not worth a second.  But sales is all about time, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.  The most talented sales people have been heard to say they just ran out of time, while someone with average selling skills who uses their time wisely will always prosper.

The beauty of time is that you can only do two things with time, waste it or profit from it, which one will you choose?

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Time, Sales Cycles and Prospecting18

In this last of the series of Grab-N-Go content, we look at time, sales cycle and the importance of consistent prospecting in order to ensue that you have a sales cycle, and that you have the luxury of discarding prospect that lose lustre or promise.  Knowing the length of you cycle is key to managing your pipeline and know when to give up on something that is not going to happen, at least for know.  So download the snippet, take it with you to shop, you’ll have plenty of time to watch, review and plan as you wait at the check out counter.  Tomorrow, we’ll have a video of a different sort.

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_XU4QAFwlZg

Don’t forget you can watch the whole interview (while still in line) on our youtube.com Sellbetter channel.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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Don't Beat Yourself Up – Deal with it!17

Today’s Grab-N-Go slice of time looks at how to deal with missing a plan or the pressures of time.  Some who do practice time in a disciplined way, at times miss, or do not get the plan/desired results.  The key is to examine and understand what went wrong, why it went wrong, and how to incorporate it in to your actions moving forward.  As mentioned in Monday’s snippet, it is important that we don’t let time manage us, by understanding if this is a recurring factor, an anomaly, or something we should have known in advance, it allows us to deal with it confidently and properly in the future.

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W4HU3Lepa_w&feature=related

Again, if you want to see the whole interview, you can see it here on youtube.com.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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Multi-Tasking?!?21

Continuing our Grab-N-Go content for the holidays, today we look at the follies of multi-tasking.  While computers seem to benefit from continuous improvements in multi-tasking capabilities, does the same ring true for sales people?  Can sales professionals be more productive in terms of driving revenues; can they do a better job of answering clients’ needs; or does it just merley increase the speed of the treadmill they are on?

Take a look at my response during a recent interview about time and the impact on sales professionals.

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hcuTg54xZoE

You can see the entire interview on youtube.com.

What’s in Your Pipeline?

Tibor Shanto

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The 8% Solution10

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Coming up to the New Year there are a couple of things you can count on as sales people, one of which is that you quota will rise.  That’s not bad, it is just a fact, so the question becomes what can you do, now, to ensure that you can deliver.  The question comes down to how you can become more effective in what you do in the process of becoming more productive.

To help you and your team achieve this we have brought together three sales specialists to share specific things you can do going into 2010 to get and stay ahead of the curve.  Over the next three days we will present three posts focused on things that impact how you sell, and how sales managers can help their teams succeed.

In addition to my post, you will also have the opportunity to get input from:

Trish Bertuzzi – Founder, President and Lead Strategist, of The Bridge Group, Inc. – Inside Sales Consulting.

Steven Rosen, MBA – Founder of STAR Results

 ______________________________________________________

A few years back, in a piece in the Harvard Business Review, it was stated that an 8% improvement in the productivity of your existing sales team will result in the same sales growth as if you were to add 27% more reps.  I am sure the numbers may have changed in the three years since it was published, the underlying reality has not.  In fact what has changed is the ability of organizations and managers to add headcount, in the post-Lehman Brothers-era, cost restraint is the overriding mantra.  So with the added stress and demands on the average sales rep and team, the question becomes how to achieve this productivity without distracting the team or breaking the camel’s back.

To me if you have to focus on only thing it would be time allocation to improve sales velocity.  If you can focus your resources on better opportunities, you will not only move them through the process quicker, but create a way to not deal with opportunities that either will never happen or whose time has yet to come.  If you can allocate your time to those activities that have the highest RPA Return Per Activity, while developing the discipline to only execute those activities that move a sale forward, than you will increase productivity and sales closed.

To achieve this you will need to understand two key things:

1. What activities you should allocate time for and in what proportion?
2. What does the right prospect look like?

While number one is the more important, you really can’t deal with it until you answer number two.  The good news is that it is not as hard as it may first sound; it is laborious and dry work at times, but once you have the basic template, it is easy to update and will pay ongoing dividends. Go back and look at all the deals you have won over the last 18 months, and see what are the most common attributes shared by these.  Don’t just do it on an account basis, that is what these companies have in common, but also on a deal basis.  How did the deal unfold, number of meetings, people involved, roadblocks, accelerators, language, bet right down to cellular level.  Why did they engage with you in the first place, did they engage right away, or did you have to nurture them for a while; if yes then how long, what did they respond to, what were they hoping to accomplish, why did they not engage right away.  As a rule, if you are not the number one sales person in your company, you want to spend time looking at the above factors for the best rep at your company, really park your ego and make some money.

Do the same for deals you lost or did not happen, look at the ones you lost early, half way through your predictable cycle (you’ll know what your cycle is from doing the above), at the end of the cycle.  Again, how did you engage, were they in your lead pipe (different than your prospect pipe which active opportunities) too long or not long enough? 

Once you have done this, you will have two profiles, ones that you want to pursue vigorously, and those you want to avoid like Tiger does the media.  In some ways the economic climate over the last 12 – 18 months provides a good time to do this exercise, as you can truly see who clearly fits in to each group.

Now you can focus on who and how to best engage with the type opportunities that will help you work with people who will act like your successful deals.  When you engage with these people they will move more predictably, not always faster.  Remember that velocity involves both speed and direction.  There is an optimal speed, and when you reach it, it is not a good use of resources to keep pushing.  Where you can add to velocity and results is by fine tuning your direction, and when involved with the “right” prospect, their direction, after all you have the advantage of knowing because you did your work and went after them for a reason.

While it may be obvious, it is worth pointing out that the biggest impediment to productivity is time and resources spent on prospects that will not close NOW, this is why we raised nurturing leads.  Some are not ready NOW, so let’s manage them, put them in the “leads funnel”, which should have rules and attribute like your sales funnel. 

Once you know who (specifically), and how, and how long, you can now allocate time to those activities that are necessary to consistently execute, and not allocate time to things that don’t lead to sales.

Eliminate waste; accentuate the right activities, easy 8% right there.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

A Random Walk Up Sales Street – 1912

sales exchange

Your Timing Is Great

There is a lot of talk in sales about timing, some write about how to improve it, some talk about how you can be a victim of it, others will tell you how to manage it.  If you are a regular reader of this blog you know that we too believe that time is one of the key elements of success in sales. What we don’t believe in is the notion of “time management”.  In many ways it is a hollow and worn out concept that at best distracts sales professional, and at worst frustrates them. After all isn’t time already managed for us, nicely organized across borders and languages is units of 60, assembled in cartons of 24, stacked in piles of 7, those then placed in crates of 52, loaded into 12 trailers. Sound pretty organized and well managed to me, a German logistics company couldn’t improve on it, so don’t waste time on time management.

With time, the focus needs to be on usage;  if you want to manage something, manage your activities, manage the urge to multi task, and instead focus on managing to get something done, multi tasking will only help you not get a number of things done at the same time. Now that’s not to say that you can’t use systems, processes and tools (applications) to help you get things done even as you are doing something else, or to keep you on track when you need to do that “one thing” at the right time.

Case in point is the time allocated and spent on managing your leads funnels.  Next to active prospects, leads in your leads funnel are probably the most important thing for many sales people. I’d much rather spend energy managing my leads than trying to manage time, and to do that I use Renbor’s Contact Strategy: Touch > Contact > Engage . A simple process for Touching, Tracking, Contacting leads and converting them to prospects on a consistent basis.  Doing this consistently and properly will not only help you reduce the need to constantly cold call by having a funnel full of people brewing to become prospects, but as they move down the lead funnel, you will have an easier time converting them.

As an example, I have been pursuing a company for some time, I first called the VP of Sales back in April of 2007, and after a good conversation it was clear to both of us that it was not the right time to engage.  We have stayed in touch regularly, met at industry events, and he has always been open and forthright about their situation.  Needless to say he has been reading our monthly newsletter.  Their industry has been hit severely by the economy and the rising Canadian dollar, and we have had a few discussions specifically about that impact.  When we spoke in September he indicated that there was an initiative looking at training across the company and suggested I get in touch with the person spearheading the initiative.

When I called that person the conversation went something like this:

TS: Hi John, Max Sales suggested we speak, as he is aware of the work, we do with B2B sales forces in helping them attain their goals.

John: Well Tibor, I must say your timing is great,….

TS: Actually John, timing had little to do with it…

Indeed it didn’t, it had much more to do with the process, the execution, and allocating time to getting it done.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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