Michael Jordan was quoted that the only thing that changes is our focus on the fundamentals, a great lesson for those who tend to be distracted by shinny objects promising “easier” way of achieving or exceeding quota, or, to avoid doing things we don’t like. One of the core fundamentals for successful selling is how we view and utilize time, right down to the minute. It is always important to remember that time is the only non-renewable resource we have. Leads are recyclable, lost deals can be revisited and won. But once the next 60 seconds go by, we don’t get to replenish or redo.
This leads us to the importance of allocating time, not managing it; once time is allocated to specific activity, then focus on executing and managing the activity you actually designated the time to. But many sales people cherry pick time, and use it to avoid things that have to be done, like prospecting for example.
Regularly when I ask buyers why they didn’t prospect, or when they plan to prospect, I hear “I’ll get around to it when I have time”. As though some rich uncle is going to pull up with some extra time in the trunk, and give it to us. Time is something you have to commit to in advance. If you don’t commit time in advance in your calendar for important activities, like prospecting, you will not do it.
“I’ll get around to it when I have the time.” Is the very opposite of what it should be.
I understand that there a lot of demands on a sales person’s time, the importance of focusing on current customers; I understand the importance of finishing that proposal, doing a demo, and all the things we signed up for as sales professionals. As professionals, one of the key skills we are paid the big bucks for is prioritizing, be that targets, opportunities, accounts, but most importantly, our activities. While maintaining current customers is important, it’s as important to remember where the current customer base came from, and having that influence how and what we prioritize.
It is interesting to work with new sales people, when they have no distractions, no base, no proposals, nothing to do but identify and pursue pipeline opportunities. These newbies have nothing else to focus on but that. Then their success begins to chip away at not only the available time for prospecting, but their willingness to prospect.
It’s the latter that surprises me. There is no taking away from the fact that prospects have to be sold, and clients have to be serviced, but at what point does a quota carrying rep decide that they “have earned the right not to prospect”. An actual quote from a 12-year veteran has made quota in about half those years, but only twice in sequential years. When something is important, you make time for it. This is as true for business as it is personal wants. Which may lead one to conclude that they do not want to prospect.
But for those who do want, and are genuinely struggling to pack everything they need to do into a work week, the only option is to get ahead of it, and commit to it in advance by blocking it out in your calendar. Studies have shown that we are less likely to blow-off an activity that is in our calendar, than those that not, despite best intentions. Most reps only have client meetings and team meetings in their calendar, important, but no more important than prospecting. Real pros I work with, set appointments in their calendars to do research, to segment their opportunities, and time to prospect. They also build time into their calendar for legitimate distractions, this way when they do need to be sidetracked while prospecting, they have time “banked” away to make sure they can complete their task, prospecting. If the distraction or “client emergency” does not happen, then you have time in the bank for other high-value activities, like maybe prospecting.
Those who plan their prospecting times in advance, avoid the peaks and valleys that drain so many sellers. The emotional rollercoaster, the misspent energy, all avoided by setting an appointment with themselves to secure appointments with their next big client.
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