Time management is critical to achieving optimal sales volume

Bill Lee sales & operations

Other than selling skills, salespeople’s ability to discipline themselves to do an effective job of managing their time is highly critical to success. When it comes to time, we are all equal in that we are all given 24 hours a day, but some salespeople get a great deal more done in their 24 hours than others.

When you analyze which aspects of your job consume the most time, the list is long; but servicing your customers is usually the most time consuming of all. And have you ever noticed how frequently it takes you just as much, if not more, time to service a low-volume customer than it does a high-volume customer?

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A few weeks ago, I was given the job of analyzing one of a client’s salespeople who was not realizing his full potential. I learned that four of his customers gave him almost 100% of their purchases and his remaining 48 customers purchased an average of only 38% of their total purchases from this salesperson.

The only way to earn a larger share of his low-yielding customers’ business was to spend more time working those accounts, but the salesperson didn’t believe there were enough hours in the day to make that happen.

Here is what we learned from looking at how this salesperson was using his time: While there are 365 days in a year, no one can work all 365 days and keep their family happy, so we began to look at the number of days this salesperson had at his disposal:

172 days he could make no sales calls whatsoever
104 were weekend days
31 days were made up of company meetings, out of town travel, etc.
15 were days spent attending training classes
15 were vacation days
7 days were paid holidays

This left him 193 days out of 365 days when he could make sales calls. The problem is that this salesperson inherited all his current customers, and his company expects him to take care of all of them. But looking at the way this salesperson is managing his time, he is “fighting fire” more so than he is targeting a larger share of his low-yielding customers’ purchases.

Something has to change. The salesperson is between a rock and a hard place.

I believe time optimization is what this situation called for. He can’t seem to spread himself as thin as necessary to work this many customers, so he should consider analyzing his customer list and spin off enough of his low-yielding contractors to give him the quality time he needs to grow his customer share.

In a company the size this salesperson is representing, there are always new salespeople who would like to have a few more customers, so it’s not usually a problem reassigning some customers to other salespeople who have the time to work more accounts.

If this salesperson doesn’t possess an excellent work ethic, it might not be such a good idea to spin off some of his customers to give him more time to grow his customer share. He is an extremely hard worker who knows how to use his organizational skills and his knowledge of construction to earn a larger share of his customers’ business. His manager has failed to realize the Catch 22 this salesperson is in with respect to his time.

There is nothing that says a salesperson has to treat all customers equally; especially when there simply are not enough hours in a day to give your customers the time and attention they deserve.

Customer discrimination can sometimes be a win-win solution for both the salesperson and some of the salesperson’s customers.

Try this: Estimate what percentage of each of your customers’ purchases you are selling. Are there customers you could spin off to give yourself the time you need to increase your customer share with the customers you retain?

Bill Lee is a respected sales and business consultant in the LBM industry. For more information, contact Bill at leeresourcesinc@gmail.com

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