The first thing salespeople do when they come in every morning is check their email. Then they may make a few calls, or do a bit of prospecting, and generally get through the day until it’s time to go. Your motivation decreases as the day goes by, and you get more and more moments of either feeling overwhelmed or being at a loss for what to do next. The best salespeople, however, somehow manage to keep going without those moments. Here’s how to take a page from their book and start your day to maximize sales.
1. Plan your day.
When you come in, go grab a coffee, sit down, and plan your day. Don’t open your mail, don’t pick up the phone. Instead, look at what you need to do, and assign times those things that can be planned. Ideally you’ll do this the evening before, and come in with a plan already in mind. If you’re just starting out or you didn’t have time, then do this before you do anything else.
Planning your day is a means to give yourself direction, and will help you avoid moments of feeling overwhelmed or at a loss. Your day will fly by, and you’ll be able to focus much more effectively. Open up your calendar, see what you already have scheduled, and begin to build around it.
Here are a few things I always include in my daily plans, and which I encourage you to consider as well:
- A break or two. The first thing I like to plan is my break. These are especially needed after cold calling or after handling difficult clients.
- Some overflow time. This is important for flexibility during the day. Conversations or tasks can take longer than expected, and you may have impromptu meetings. This time is to balance out those occasions. I find an hour usually suffices. Make sure to include a fallback activity if the overflow time isn’t needed. Prospecting’s usually a good one.
- Email time. If you’re like every other salesperson on the planet, your inbox is permanently stuffed. Plan for a quick scan for critical items (more on that later) second thing in the morning, and or some time to handle the rest. I find the hour before lunch is good for this, as it’s not great calling time (you don’t want to deal with people who are hungry), and sets up your afternoon nicely.
- Prospecting time. This is vital, and should be structured and planned well. Even if you’re in key accounts, you need to be building contacts and relationships. I highly recommend splitting this into calling time and email time, with the latter outside of your best call times.
- Administrative time. Admin time is a catch-all for all of those other things you need to do. It’s there for paperwork, writing emails thanking people, reporting, and so on.
2. Email handling.
Most salespeople spend an inordinate amount of time in email. This is understandable, since email is the most widely-used business communications medium, but it should be reduced to what you really need. You want to be on the phone and in front of prospects as much as possible, since that’s when you’ll sell.
One of the best tricks I learned is to set up two email times during the day. The first is there to scan for critical items in your inbox, and should come right after planning and critical calls. Schedule and handle those emails immediately, and leave the rest for later in the day.
Do not spend your day in your inbox. It’s a habit to check it between every call. Instead, I encourage you to get to know your email tool well. In most cases, you can set it up to flag important messages (for example, deals you’re working on) and pop up a notification for those.
I’d recommend turning all other notifications off, and checking your mail once an hour or so. If you follow this advice, remember to prune those notifications periodically to eliminate false positives. Spend the rest of your time calling or on the road.
3. Calls and visits.
Calls and visits are the best way to win business, and should be the absolute focus of your day. Try to plan them into your peak calling times, and don’t be afraid to push internal meetings out of those times. You’re there to win clients and close deals, and you won’t do that in a meeting room.
After you plan your day, make your priority calls. Only after you’ve done that should you look at your emails. This is to prevent you from slipping into another email-only day, and to get you winning business.
After you’ve done your critical tasks, you should focus on maximizing your time on the phone or in front of prospects. Your calling should be split into two distinct categories:
- Follow up calls
- Prospecting calls
Always make sure to plan time for both during your day. In this context prospecting refers to talking to people you have not spoken with before, also sometimes referred to as new-new prospects. You need to spend time (at least an hour if you’re calling) getting the word out there and opening fresh doors.
The rest of the calling time, you’ll be working on your deals or following up with people you’ve already spoken to at least once. Simplifying your call categorizations in this way (and then sub-categorizing both groups) is an easy way to make sure you’re hitting all of your priorities every day.
4. Keep it simple.
The single most useful tool to help you plan your day is a simple piece of paper and a writing implement. You don’t want to fill your calendar with five and ten minute segments. It’s demotivating and will only hopelessly confuse you. Instead, block out large chunks of time, and have a to do list at hand.
For administrative tasks like sending emails after calls, preparing documents, or reporting, there’s nothing better than a simple list on paper. There’s also something deeply satisfying in crossing out items you’ve completed, and watching a potentially very long list shrink and shrink.
A final piece of advice here: always stay flexible. I know it sounds obvious, but I also know some people will set up their plan and stick to it slavishly. Remember that you’re in an environment that’s volatile and fast paced. Be prepared to deviate from your plan if necessary (that’s also what the overflow time is for).
I always do my planning last thing, so that I can come in and power into the morning. You may do it differently; this is all down to personal preference. The important thing is to plan, not when you do it.
Remember to have fun as well. If that means deviating from your plan in a manner that’s recoverable then go for it! You may also want to include something fun on Friday afternoons. Just a thought.
I hope this has been useful to you, and, as ever, I wish you all the best!
Do you agree with what I wrote here? Disagree? Did I miss something? Could I have done something better? Please let me know in the comments!