Most sellers understand the importance of time management in sales. In fact, our research shows that over half of sales reps say that the ability to manage time well is absolutely necessary for success. "In sales, time is literally money!" Denise Gibson, director of AdMall sales, points out. "Anything that you can do to be more efficient with your time will pay off dividends."
Challenges to time management in sales are common
But many still find themselves struggling to efficiently use their time, often due to common challenges. But with some concentrated effort, sellers can avoid these hurdles or face them expertly and move on.
Forbes.com contributor Pat Brans discusses common setbacks that can negatively affect time management in sales. By being aware of these challenges, sellers can prepare plans to be proactive to avoid, or deal with, them when they arise.
One of the most common time management issues is feeling overwhelmed. “This feeling is usually caused by one of two things,” Brans explains. “The first is that people think they must do everything, assuming that more is better. The best way to solve this problem is to focus on achieving just a few things. Prioritize and learn to say no to anything that is not on your short list.”
One way to help with this issue is to create, and stick to, a process. Start small: Set up steps to closely follow for a single task, like making a sales call or researching a prospect. Stick to this program until it becomes routine and the specific task is efficiently streamlined. Then, create a program for another task, and so on. This strategy can create an efficient step-by-step process that helps you feel prepared instead of overwhelmed.
Being comfortable with saying no will also take some practice. For guidance on determining which situations warrant a no, and how to professionally decline, check out this past SalesFuel article, as well as this one.
Continuing efforts that aren’t worth it
Effective time management in sales requires walking away from situations that won’t serve you in the long run. Be it a prospect who just won’t commit or an annual event that isn’t proving valuable anymore, letting things go is difficult but vital. While it may seem counterintuitive for a seller to walk away from a potential deal or opportunity, not doing so can cost time that won’t be recouped in value.
One way to cut down on wasted time is to improve how you qualify prospects, which needs to be done early and done well. “Yes, it’s hard to let go of a sale, but think about this: what’s better: Nurturing a viable lead or following a prospect that appears to have little or no chance,” writes Vartika Kashyap for Salesflare.com. “Learn how to spot a dud lead, disqualifying leads as quickly as possible, and get to NO faster so that you can make good use of your time.”
And research backs up the importance of qualifying for time management in sales. “High-performing sales reps consistently qualify opportunities…In fact, top sales performers score a 7.3 compared with a 4.5 for the rest of the reps in building a high-caliber pipeline, according to new research,” explains Julie Thomas.
For advice on effectively qualifying leads, read our helpful guidance for expert tips:
- Sales Qualification: How to Qualify and What to Do Next
- Qualifying Questions Every Salesperson Should Ask
- BANT Sales Process: What It Is and How To Use It
Procrastination can completely derail time management in sales. And typically, it stems from not feeling inspired by tasks at hand. This can be a tricky habit to tackle, but it must be done to improve productivity and how you use your time.
“We’re all guilty of procrastination,” writes SalesFuel’s Kathy Crosett. “And, we all have, we think, perfectly valid excuses for why we haven’t finished certain tasks on our lists. The only way to change our behavior, and our sales outcomes, is to address the issue.”
Sellers can proactively avoid procrastination by first being aware of why they're procrastinating. Is it lack of inspiration? Is it fear of not performing the task well? Whatever the reason may be, you must first identify it in order to fix it. Then, reframe how you look at the task. If inspiration is the issue, focus instead on what benefits you’ll reap from completing it. Visualize the good things that will come from putting in the work. If it’s worry over succeeding, put a more positive spin on your outlook. Sure, the prospect could say no, but they could also say yes. And if they do say no, how can you use your talents to sway them and overcome the challenge?
Simply identifying and then reframing the issue can be enough to boost motivation. If not, consider setting up an action plan to help break the task into step-by-step items to check off. With each small completion, you’ll be inspired to keep accomplishing more.
Time management in sales requires thoughtful action
Salespeople can easily fall into productivity traps. By being aware of time management challenges, sellers can prepare themselves and not stumble. "You want to try anything and everything to see what works for your selling style with time management," Gibson notes. "Anything that you can do to reduce paperwork, meetings, or anything else that doesn’t lead to the bottom line of sales will help you close more deals."
Photo by Gustavo Fring