By Christopher Thompson
Published Sunday March 22nd, 2009 – Union Leader NH Sunday News
Have you ever noticed how often people cite “time management” as a challenge that impacts their performance? I don’t know about you, but it is one of the most common struggles I hear, not just from sales professionals but also from managers and executives. Based on the feedback I am hearing, I supposed I should listen up and acknowledge that it is a serious challenge many people face.
So what exactly do people mean when they refer to time management challenges? Is it the inability to prioritize? Is it the challenge associated with allocating the necessary time for tasks to be completed? Could it be organization? Perhaps it’s lack of planning and identifying goal oriented tasks. Whatever it is, when it comes to time management problems in sales, I have found the root cause to be very basic. Let me explain.
In every sales position, there is a process one must follow to actually sell. And in most cases, the process involves numerous tasks that a sales professional must complete in order to move prospects and customers through the sales process. Each of the steps and tasks are critical and without the appropriate focus and execution, some can be overlooked or even skipped over intentionally.
To put it more simply, if you sell, you know what you need to do in order to drive business. You know what you have to do and you know how often you have to do it. Now come the big questions. Are you doing everything you should be doing and spending every possible moment driving sales? Or are you finding other tasks to do that have nothing to do with your performance?
One thing I do want to point out before I go any further is the reality for many sales professionals who are required to do more than just sell. They are over burdened with administrative tasks on top of the expectations to sell and hit their numbers. This of course, is one of the biggest challenges sales people and businesses face in today’s business climate; doing more with less. Rarely does a sales person have 100% of their time solely dedicated to selling. Let’s acknowledge and accept that fact and move on to talking about the actual selling time you do have available.
I always love to tell the story about the sales executive who constantly claimed he needed help with time management. During every review, it would come up. Despite numerous workshops, coaching sessions and constant one on one feedback, he still claimed to struggle with time management and to the naked eye, his sales performance would support his claim. What I found interesting was how this person would often be observed surfing non-work related Internet sites during prime selling time. He participated in frequent smoking and joking sessions and socialized heavily with coworkers. On top of that, he was never willing to go the extra mile and do extra work before hours, after hours or outside of the office. I quickly learned he wasn’t struggling with time management; he was struggling with time mismanagement. As it turns out, the two are very different.
A common story I’m sure, but I use this example to illustrate three important points related to time mismanagement. First and most importantly, we spend a lot of time throughout the day doing things that have nothing to do with selling. Secondly, we can always do more. And finally, if we expect to succeed without maximizing every waking minute of selling time, we are hoping for success. And we all know hope is not a sales strategy.
For all the time management experts reading this, trust me, I know there are real issues and many challenges associated with developing effective time management skills. However, in my experience when it comes to time management in sales, I have found the biggest problem to be time mismanagement and not the time management we are used to hearing about.
Christopher Thompson founded Catch 22 Solutions and hosts the Business Advantage Show on WKXL 1450AM (wkxl150.com). For more information visit www.catch22solutions.com.