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Using time management to become a high-performing salesperson

What percentage of what you plan to do each day actually gets done? If you’re like most salespeople, the answer is less than 30%. In my experience in working with salespeople, there are two culprits that prevent salespeople from getting as much done as they would like:

  1. Many people fail to plan; that is, they let their day manage them rather than them managing their day.
  2. Interruptions occur so fast and furiously that many salespeople lose control of their day, and what they planned to do flies out the window.

Research I have done on time management, or what some people call activity management, has taught me this: salespeople who plan at the end of the day get more work done and make more sales than salespeople who wait until the next day to plan.

If salespeople will make a list of who they want to see and what they want to do before they go home at night, the odds of them actually executing their plan increase dramatically. How about you? How well do you do at planning ahead?

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Let’s face it—some of us are natural planners while others of us are naturally disorganized. Research tells us that we cannot take much of the credit when we are natural at planning or when we are unnatural at planning. Which category you fall into is largely a result of the genes you inherited at birth. Highly organized people are usually born that way and highly disorganized people are usually born with unstructured personalities.

Now this doesn’t mean that just because you were born disorganized that you need to stay disorganized, but it does, however, mean that to be successful at sales you have to use a lot of personal discipline to stay focused, plan your work, and work your plan.

Great salespeople are rarely “natural born” salespeople.
They have to work at their profession until they develop the skills and disciplines to become great. A pleasing personality will take a salesperson just so far. At some point, the superstars must work on their game hard enough and diligently enough to win the battle for what business there is out there in the marketplace. Current conditions call for making every minute of every day productive. No longer can we “just show up” and the phone will begin ringing.

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In my opinion, the disciplined use of a to-do list is the best time management tool ever conceived of. The important point to remember, however, is that your to-do list must be kept on paper and not in your mind. Writing it down and reviewing your notes is about 90% of what is necessary to improve your ability to manage your time. Your to-do list must be kept on paper and not in your mind.

These three ideas will help improve the use of your to-do list:

  1. Before you go home at night, prioritize your to-do list. If you’re like me, you have far more items on your to-do list than you can humanly get done tomorrow, so it just makes sense to prioritize the first 12 to 13 items and discipline yourself to do first things first.
  2. Next, if there’s anyone on your to-do list that you must telephone (who is not already listed on your telephone)—before you go home at night—jot down the person’s number beside their name.
  3. Finally, I suggest that you ask yourself the same question I ask myself each afternoon when I hang it up for the day: What have I done today to make my telephone ring?

Your answer will tell you a lot about how proactive you are performing as a salesperson.

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