Here are three areas where you need to get more selfish with your time:
1. Create rules for your calendar and follow them religiously.
Your calendar isn’t just a tool for booking meetings with potential clients—it should be how you structure your overall day. And it should include anything that will help you feel physically and mentally better, which in turn improves who you are as a salesperson.
Set out rules for things you must do, whether they happen every day, three times a week or once every few hours. Popular rules are things like going to the gym, waking up by 6 a.m., and planning lunches with friends and coworkers. I also recommend taking 30 minutes each morning to plan out your day before you start any actual work. Include lunches, coffee breaks or any “sanity breaks” you anticipate needing as you build out your daily schedule.
It’s also a good idea to take time each evening to analyze the day. What went well? What did you not accomplish? Did you have any unrealistic expectations? These questions can help you in planning out subsequent days. I also like to spend some time on Fridays to review the week as a whole, and use Mondays as a day to plan my week, since those days tend to be slower from a sales perspective.
2. Disqualify irrelevant leads as early as possible.
As technology lets sales organizations scale faster, it gets easier and easier to book time with tons of leads.
Don’t be deceived. Trying to accommodate every lead you have is one of the easiest ways to waste your valuable time. You will inevitably get leads that aren’t a good fit. Maybe they don’t need your product or service, or they’re just unpleasant people. Either way, you won’t form a meaningful bond with them (or close a deal), so move on.
Or, you can avoid useless leads altogether by knowing your ideal client criteria up front. Your initial research gives you information on the would-be customer’s industry, their day-to-day duties and concerns, issues currently surrounding their industry or company and tons of other facts. (You might even know their favorite football team.)
Use this information to determine their relevance to your business. Say your company typically sells health insurance to large enterprises, but you spend most of your time chasing down small companies on shoestring budgets. At some point, both you and the prospective customer will be forced to recognize there’s little gain in the relationship. So learn how to recognize it earlier. Get honest with yourself first. Then, get honest with the other person and don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t think our company can help you right now.”
That said, don’t burn a bridge just because someone isn’t a good fit right now. They might be down the line. Or your contact might move to a company that is a good fit. Make it clear you’re open to working together in the future.
3. Measure and optimize your sales cycle.
Taking time to examine your past record on the job can tell you a lot about your sales habits—the good ones and the bad. The more data-driven you can make this process, the better.
Review your old deals. One thing I noticed while doing this is that the most lucrative deals tend to close faster, or at least more easily, than the ones you lose or waste time on.
Note the various milestones in your average sales cycle. These may be sales calls or meetings, sending a proposal or a contract, contract negotiations, or any other meaningful moment that signals a new stage in your sales process. These events, along with how fast they do or do not progress, help indicate which deals are not likely to close, allowing you to weed out dead-end leads early. Remember, your ultimate goal here is to dedicate most of your time to the most-promising prospective customers.
Measuring your sales cycle can also free up time to experiment. Are there ways to make the sales cycle faster? Can you close more deals or save time by automating processes or standardizing templates for proposals and follow-up emails? Standardize as much as possible while keeping your sales conversations thoughtful and meaningful. Process is great, but sometimes you have to evolve or think critically and make exceptions to close a big deal. Don’t be afraid to adapt your sales process if you encounter new situations that don’t 100% fit your process. You never know when a new trend in the market is unfolding before your eyes. Or you may have also discovered a lucrative new niche to sell to.
A word of caution: once you start setting various rules and practices for your life in minute detail, it’s easy to fall into a trap of thinking those things are set in stone for life. They’re not. So build in time to improve the way you approach your routine. If a task or process is a hassle, skip the next cocktail reception you’re invited to and use that time to figure out how to fix what’s broken or lagging. Your colleagues, managers, clients and, most importantly, yourself, will reap tons of benefits ultimately from that one little moment of selfishness.