If you’ve spent any length of time in sales, you can surely identify with the sentiment that there are days when it feels like a battle.
Usually when we discuss “the battle,” we’re referring to all the forces at work that combine to make sales challenging: marketplace conditions, vendors, competitors, difficult customers, etc.
I’m here to tell you there is another battle; a far more important battle:
The battle for your time.
So, I have some good news and bad news.
Unfortunately for this post, we have to start with the bad news.
The bad news is the battle may already be over. You may have already lost.
So then what is the good news?
The good news is you can choose to restart the battle RIGHT NOW and immediately gain the upper hand.
The travesty is that most salesepeople never even knew the battle was raging to begin with.
So how can you make sure you’re winning the battle?
By the end of this post you will know how to do it. Let’s get to it.
In your sales work day, every single thing you do can be placed into one of two categories:
1.) Income producing activity – Cold calling, setting new buyer appointments, conducting needs analysis meetings with new prospects, and anything else that will generate a new order and add another satisfied customer to your account base.
2.) Income servicing activity – Anything done in the SERVICE of an existing account. This includes routine scheduled sales calls, order taking, firefighting of any kind, etc.
That’s it! No matter what you’re doing. You are either creating opportunity to increase your income, or you are spending time servicing that which you already have.
So how is the battle lost? Most of the sales population gets so caught up in income servicing, that they reduce, or in many cases COMPLETELY ELIMINATE, their income producing activity.
Somewhere along the line, something happens that transforms a hungry rookie into a complacent veteran.
They begin to sell themselves on the idea that servicing their existing sources of income is the highest and best use of their time.
They get comfortable spending time servicing.
They feel important and needed by servicing.
They need to create/involve themselves in drama to justify the large income they earn…
…so they actively seek out more ways to service rather than produce.
They allow their servicing activities to expand to the point where they fill the entire day.
You’ve heard the sales maxim that it’s better to be “productive” than “busy” right?
The definition of “productive” is “producing or able to produce…”
If you don’t consistently spend a portion of your time producing, then you aren’t being productive.
Let your brain chew on that sentence for a while.
Let me be clear here. I am not saying you need to give up servicing. Servicing is a crucial aspect of retaining and organically growing the account base you have now.
That said, high value salespeople spend some portion of their time doing at least SOME income producing activity. All stars do some producing every day. We call that building the empire.
On the flipside, terrible salespeople can go for weeks, months, or even YEARS without a concerted effort to increase their income. They’re content to ride the wave that is their existing account base…because it “just keeps them so busy!” — Which is usually a lie.
We can all agree it is much easier to service an existing customer than it is to find a new one. That’s the simple explanation for why this phenomenon happens. A terrible salesperson sells himself on the idea that he has “enough” accounts, business, income, whatever…so he cuts back on his prospecting.
Ironically, a large portion of his day is filled with non essential activities that have expanded to fill up the daylight hours. This is the most dangerous course of action a salesperson can choose. Oh yes. It is a choice.
By choosing to take his foot off the gas, he shifts his “sales vehicle” into neutral. He is lying to himself by assuming his business has enough momentum built up that its ok to coast. By doing this…he’ll be fine right up until the moment that he is NOT.
Listen to me:
If your goal is to become a “monster,” a “machine,” or just simply, “#1”
You must keep your foot on the gas.
You must never coast.
Sales pros agree and understand what I just said. You guys can stop reading. 😉
On the other hand, terrible salespeople will cry, “BUT! BUT! How will I handle the business I create by prospecting??? I have too many accounts now as it is! I couldn’t handle any more! I’m so busy!”
I guarantee one of two things is happening here:
1.) A (significant) percentage of this person’s account base is not worth the hourly wage yielded for the effort required to service it. They lie to themselves again and claim they don’t have to spend much time on it…one breath after claiming they’re insanely busy.
2.) This person actually doesn’t have nearly enough accounts. They’ve let the income servicing activities expand and take over far too early. Or they actually just work part time.
So how can you win your personal battle of time management?
I’m pretty sure the remedy to #2 is self explanatory, so let’s look at #1.
If you have “enough” accounts, you need to get rid of the accounts that don’t pay you what you say your ($ per hour) goal is. You transfer these accounts to a lower income(newer) salesperson or maybe your inside sales department.
You do whatever you have to do…you need to get rid of them, as quickly as possible. They are draining your time…which is WAY more important than money you earn from them. Don’t lie to yourself and claim that you don’t have to service them…they email, they call, they place unprofitable orders that take up your time and mental energy.
When you drop these accounts, the random phone calls, emails, and all the other “busyness” that used to keep you cozy in the warm blanket of complacency will be stripped away. Now you no longer have “enough” accounts, and you need to go find more 🙂
“But I’ll make less money if I get rid of any accounts!” I’ll concede this is true. You’ll lose about 5-10% of your income if you do nothing with your newfound free time.
The full picture is that in the process of dropping that small percentage of income, you will free up as much as 20-30% of your TIME and mental energy. This allows you to devote that “found” energy back into income producing activity…yielding gains FAR greater than the income you “lost.”
Could you grow your income by more than 10% if you gained 20% more time?
So how much income producing activity do YOU need to do? I don’t know. You would know better than I. It depends on all the factors unique to your business.
Start by asking yourself this: If you haven’t cold called in a while, would it harm your business to make at least 1 cold call per day?
You’re either growing, or you’re dying. Pick one.