Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Four Biggest Time Wasters

The Four Biggest Time Wasters
by Dave Kahle
Do you make the best use of your time? Or do your bad habits cause you, like so many people, to waste time and accomplish less than you should? Getting salespeople to practice good time management has been an obsession of mine for three decades. Over the years, I've seen some patterns and tendencies in salespeople that detract from their effective use of time. Here are the four most common time wasters I’ve observed.

The Allure of the Urgent and Trivial

Salespeople love to be busy and active. We have visions of ourselves as people who get things done. No idle dreamers, we are out there making things happen. For most of us, a large part of our self-worth and personal identity depends on being busy. At some level, we believe that being busy means we must be important. One of the worst things that can happen to us is to have nowhere to go and nothing to do. So we latch onto every task that comes our way, regardless of its importance.

For example, a customer calls with a back order problem. "Oh, good!" we think, "Something to do! I’m needed! I can fix it!" So we drop everything, and spend two hours expediting the back order  In retrospect, couldn't someone in purchasing or customer service have taken care of that task? Couldn't they have done it better than we did? More importantly, did we just allow something that was somewhat urgent but trivial prevent us from making sales calls? And would those potential sales calls have been a much better use of our time?

Or suppose a customer hands us a very involved "Request for Quote." "Better schedule a half-day at the office," we think, "in order to look up specifications, calculate prices, compile literature, and all that other stuff." Immediately we become involved with working on this project for our customer. But couldn't we have asked an inside salesperson or customer service rep to do the legwork? Couldn't we have communicated the guidelines to someone else, and reviewed the finished proposal? Once again, we succumbed to the lure of the present task. And once again, it prevented us from making sales calls, and siphoned our energy from the important to the seemingly urgent.

I could offer page after page of examples, but you get the idea. We salespeople are so enamored with being busy and feeling needed that we grab at any task that comes our way, regardless of how unimportant it is. Each time we do, we compromise our ability to use our time more effectively.

The Comfort of the Status Quo

Many salespeople have established habits and routines that make them feel comfortable. They make enough money, so they don’t want to expend the energy it takes to do things in a better way, or become more successful or effective. Some of our routines work well for us. However, our rapidly changing world demands new methods, techniques, habits, and routines. Just because something has worked for us for a few years doesn't mean it will continue to do so. When we’re so content with the status quo that we haven’t changed anything in years, we’re not as effective as we could be.

For example, you still might be writing phone messages down on little slips of paper, when entering them into your contact manager would be more efficient. Perhaps you continue to keep track of vital customer information manually, when contact management software makes that task easier. These are simple examples of a principle that extends to the most important things you do. Are you using the same old routines for organizing your workweek, determining who to call on, understanding your customers, and collecting information? Or do you look for new and better ways to perform these essential activities? Contentment with the status quo almost always means you’ll never realize your full potential.

Lack of Trust

Salespeople have a natural tendency to work alone. We decide where to go and what to do, and are pretty much on our own all day long. It’s no wonder we generally prefer to do everything ourselves. In most cases, this is a positive personality trait for a salesperson to have. But when it extends to tasks that could be done better by others, it becomes negative. Instead of soliciting aid from others in the organization, many salespeople insist on "doing it themselves", no matter how redundant and time-consuming the task. The world is full of salespeople who don’t trust their own colleagues to write an order, source a product, deliver a sample or literature, research a quote, submit a proposal, et cetera. But many of these tasks can be done better or cheaper by other people in the organization. When salespeople refuse to release these tasks because they don’t trust others to do them, the result is a tremendous waste of good selling time and talent.

Lack of Tough-Minded Thoughtfulness

Ultimately, time management begins with thoughtfulness. In fact, I like to say that good time management is a result of "thinking about it before you do it." Good time managers invest in this process. They set aside time each year to create annual goals; they invest planning time every quarter and every month to create short-term action objectives; and they plan every week and every sales call. Poor time managers do not dedicate sufficient time to the "thinking about it" phase of their jobs.

Not only do good time managers invest in the planning process, they are disciplined and tough-minded about how they think. They ask themselves good questions, and answer them with as much objectivity as they can muster. For example:

  • What do I really want to accomplish in this account?
  • Why aren't they buying from me?
  • Who is the key decision-maker on this account?
  • Am I spending too much time on this account, or not enough on that one?
  • How can I change what I am doing in order to become more effective?
In addition to regularly asking these kinds of tough questions, good time managers don’t allow their emotions or comfort zones to dictate their plans. They go where it is smart to go and do what it is smart to do. They do these things because they've invested the necessary amount of quality thinking time.

There are hundreds of time-wasting habits in the sales world, but these four are the most common. Correct them, and you will be well on your way to dramatically improved results.

Dave Kahle is one of the world's leading sales educators. He's written ten books, presented in 47 states and eight countries, and has helped enrich tens of thousands of sales people and transform hundreds of sales organizations. Sign up for his free weekly E-zine, and for a limited time, receive $547 of free bonuses when you obtain a copy of his book, How to Sell Anything to Anyone Anytime.

Reprint Permission: SalesDog Newsletters may be reproduced and redistributed in any print or electronic form provided that "www.SalesDog.com" is indicated as the source. Distribution on Internet should use a live link to our site.