By Fred Diamond
Executive Director and Co-Founder
Institute for Excellence in Sales
Are you making the best use of your “white space” to optimize your sales efforts? I recently sat with a productivity consultant to develop a strategy to best use my limited selling time. In the course of doing so, I realized that I wasn’t optimizing the white space, the time I wasn’t meeting with a member or sponsor prospect or actively working on developing a program for the sales professionals who are members of the IES. Made me wonder how well other sales professionals are using their time to sell more effectively.
It’s an exciting time for the selling professionals served by the Institute for Excellence in Sales (IES). We completely revamped our membership model earlier this year, which included a tremendously well-received sales mentor program, and the response has been great. New individuals and corporations are joining every week. We’ve also soft launched our Women in Sales program, which will be formally launched at the Women in Sales Selling Edge 2016 Conference on October 6.
All of these new initiatives have pushed me to look deeper into my activities to ensure that I’m optimizing sales time, energy, and efforts. I was startled when I looked deeper at my schedule and saw more “white space” than I expected when I truly thought my time was being fully optimized.
So I engaged the services of a productivity consultant. I was surprised to see that I spend less time on prospecting and new client outreach than I thought. It was clear that the white space, those times not devoted to sales, was filled with less impactful activities. My mis-use of the white space was stopping me from reaching my main objectives, which is to spend time with sales leaders and our selling professional members.
THIS WAS STARTLING FOR A FEW REASONS
Many people describe me as being very productive, and I agree. Yet here was proof that I was not optimizing my time. It led me to think about strategies our IES sales leaders should be engaging to best utilize their white space. I wasn’t just looking for tips to be more productive, such as make two more calls a day or get up an hour earlier, but specific ways to make the best use of the limited time I have in the day and how I could become a more effective selling professional by doing so.
I noticed also by doing this analysis of my time that I was spending way too much of the 9am-5pm time with “friends,” meaning people who were already customers or partners. I find these relationships very valuable but my time with them could be better spent over breakfast, perhaps lunch, after work or on weekends. True, many of these “friends” are referral sources, but we’re already engaged in strong and active support of each other’s businesses. A well-timed phone call or simple email request is often enough to keep these relationships going.
I was surprised to see that I was spending too much time doing actions in my comfort zone such as drafting and sending emails and marketing activities.
I needed to make some changes fast. So I reached out to some supporters and friends of the IES to get some feedback and how to eliminate the “white space.” I wanted to implement three new habits to make a shift and eliminate some of the white space that was wasting my time.
ALEX BARTHOLOMAUS ADVICE TO GET OUT OF MY COMFORT ZONE
Alex Bartholomaus, author of Endurance Executive: A CEO’s Perspective on the Marathon of Elite Business Performance and president of sales consulting firm People Stretch Solutions. His new book uses the analogy of running a marathon to strategies for growing a business. Alex sold a very successful wine distribution business a number of years ago and has been providing sales consulting to successful professional services and tech firms. I devoured his book a few Sundays ago and immediately saw some items I could put into play.
Alex had been a sponsor of the IES in the past and had frequently sent his clients and staff to our programs. I had also worked as a consultant on some of his client engagements.
“You’re clearly spending too much time in your comfort zone,” he observed. “You need to focus on scheduling meetings with the sales leaders at the mid-market organizations that would benefit most from the services the IES provides.”
He then offered some additional thoughts on the sizes of companies which helped me take a look at my pipeline of the companies I was targeting and eliminated some that clearly were not good targets for the IES.
THE SALES HUNTER TWEAKED MY PLANNING
Mark Hunter has spoken at the IES twice and will be our headliner at our second Customer Acquisition Symposium in November in Northern Virginia. Known as The Sales Hunter, Mark’s new book, High-Profit Prospecting was just published. He also publishes a Monday morning video that I watch to get one or two good ideas for the week.
After discussing my epiphany, he said I need to ensure that my time is scheduled out way in advance. “Tomorrow begins today,” he said. “Before I end the day, I always make sure I know what I’m doing the next day; both the big projects, and the prospects I need to call.” These are all documented clearly in my scheduler (Outlook for me) so I can go right to the activity on time.
PUT DOWN THE BABY, PICK UP THE PHONE…MORE
I remember back to an aunt, who raised four kids, who always said “put down the book, pick up the baby.” That expression become a mantra to me and is applicable in many other senses as well. I think here it could be, “Turn off the Internet, pick up the phone and call a prospect.”
We’ve had nearly 100 world-class speakers come on our stages to help sales professionals get better at their trade. People often ask me what are the key things I’ve learned over the past 5 years we’ve been operating the IES. Of course, there are tons of great lessons we’ve taught from how to build your referral network, to using social media to position yourself, to how to understand more effectively what’s going on inside your customer’s head. However, the biggest thing I’ve learned is that picking up the phone is still the number one sales tactic in play today.
Steve Richard, president of ExecVision, and one of the strongest experts on prospecting once shared that young sales professionals who succeed most do so because they pound the phone without fear. I made a commitment to blocking off time and calling more people three times weekly.
I referred to Jeb Blount’s instant classic Fanatical Prospecting for some suggestions on how and when to best reach prospects and began blocking off calling time to do so.
I’ve got my phone in my hand and am ready to pound the phone. It will be fun to see who is on the other end. I don’t want to waste any more white space.
I truly was sick to my stomach when I saw how much white space was on my calendar. Had I been filling up this time with more effective and important tasks, our pipeline would be richer and our customer base stronger. I owe it to my members to keep IES booming and valuable through a steady inflow of sales professionals. I look forward to getting more powerful results from these simple actions.
What do you do fill in the white space on your calendar? Tell us some of the tactics you’ve employed to be more effective in your time usage.