The adage "Time is money" never has been more true than it is today, especially for the professional salesperson.
With the advent of technologies such as Web-enabled cellular phones and personal digital assistants that complement the growth of the Internet, the business promise of 24-hour customer service and instant communications finally is being fulfilled. We truly live in a world where salespeople must be prepared to have around-the-clock interaction with their clients.
Although the time demands made of salespeople are great, the rewards can be too. This makes it imperative for salespeople to master personal time planning and management to help ensure success. An effective method for doing so is "The Wheel of Activity."
To balance your personal and professional life in a healthy fashion, imagine your allotment of time in terms of a "wheel" -- a "Wheel of Activity."
At the hub of your wheel is planning.
Planning is the most vital aspect of every salesperson's day. By planning, I mean deciding how you're going to use each precious hour of your time -- everything from planning the objective of each sales call to what you're going to read on a particular day to enhance your professional mind.
Understanding that planning should be at the hub of all salespeople's activity, the "Wheel of Activity" has five parts, or spokes, on how to spend time effectively: prospecting, selling, service, personal and study.
Prospecting, the first spoke, isn't the most enjoyable activity for most salespeople, and I'm not going to attempt to convert you to love the process. I will tell you, however, that without many prospects, you won't have many customers.
Therefore, it's important to have a routine in place for prospecting, such as an hour set aside each morning during which you make 40 cold calls. This is precisely what I did when I began my sales career in life insurance. My hands shook every time I dialed a prospect's number; the sweetest sound was a busy signal. I even would call home every so often just to hear the sound of a friendly voice.
But what separates true sales professionals from the mediocre is they make a habit of doing the necessary things, even those they might dislike.
The second spoke is "selling." It doesn't do much good to have ample prospects if you don't follow up. That's the essence of selling: finding the people to sell and selling the people you find.
Selling relates directly to the hub of your wheel -- planning. You want to use your golden hours for selling only. Every industry has it's own prime hours, during which you're most successful at contacting and meeting with prospects. Real estate might be evening and weekends, computer software might be weekday mornings, and so on.
Whenever those times are that prospects are most willing to meet with you, spend as much of this time actually selling and shelving less productive tasks, such as writing reports, until later.
To determine when the best times are for you to make your sales calls, answer these questions:
1. How much of my day is spent actually selling?
2. When are my most productive hours to sell each day?
3. What changes can I make in my daily activities that will allow me to spend more time selling?
"Service" is the third spoke: If you don't forget your customers, they won't forget you. Plan time to give service as an ongoing activity, not only immediately after a sale. Closing a sale should be the opening of a relationship, and this requires ongoing communication and interaction.
If you don't regularly interact with your clients between sales, an effective step you can take now is to spend 10 to 15 minutes daily calling one or two prospects for the sole purpose of learning how that person is doing. These small deposits will yield tremendous future rewards.
The fourth spoke is the "personal" spoke. It puts fun and relaxation into your life. It means finding time for yourself and loved ones. You need to find time off from work to relax and recharge your batteries.
Some salespeople find it difficult to relax when they know how much has to be done and realize they have limited time to accomplish it all. They feel guilty being away from their jobs; personal interests and friends tend to play second fiddle to work.
If personal activities are sacrificed in place of business pursuits for too long, the result can be burnout, fatigue or both. When you plan your recreation time much as you do your work time, you'll have more fun and increased energy.
Consider the word "recreation" and its actual meaning. It means re-creation -- creating anew your vitality, enthusiasm and interest. It is essential for personal growth.
School's never out for the true sales professional; the more he learns, the more he realizes how little he knows. This makes "study" the fifth and final spoke in the "Wheel of Activity."
We're living in a rapidly changing world, and we're inundated with massive amounts of information. However, if the average person committed to reading only 15 minutes each day, he would read more than 18 books annually. How much more effective could you become by committing yourself to 15 minutes of educational time each day?
But it will happen only if you plan the time, which brings us back full circle to the hub in our "Wheel of Activity" -- planning.
All salespeople are given the same 24 hours in a day. What helps to separate the high producers from the low is how effectively they plan their time and when they choose to perform specific activities. Instead of working harder, why not work smarter by using the "Wheel of Activity"?
Roy Chitwood is an author, trainer and consultant in sales and sales management and is president of Max Sacks International, Seattle.