Essential Tools and Tips for Time Management in Sales
We may all be guilty at times of procrastinating, giving in to distractions or otherwise being inefficient at times. However, the results of XANT’s latest research on sales time management were shocking. What struck me most was how few sales reps (only 22 percent) were using a time management philosophy to guide them in their day.
The XANT study stresses that time management is an essential skill for sales reps – and for anyone else in the professional environment.
Being able to properly prioritize tasks and manage your day shouldn’t be a ‘nice to have’, but it seems it is being overlooked in many organizations.
And the results speak volumes, as far as effectiveness is concerned.
Over seventy percent (77.1%) of sales reps do not follow a time management philosophy. The 22.9% of reps who do report spending 19.0% more time selling than those who do not have a time management philosophy.
Now, I do realize 19% might not seem like a lot – but to the fast-paced world of sales, it can make a stark difference to a company’s bottom line.
Time Management Philosophies
I’ll admit this research does not deal with the ‘why’ of things – it makes no sense that so many sales reps would fail to use a time management philosophy. However, I’ll wager some replies might be of the type: “Time management? Ha! I don’t have time for that!”
The truth is, there are many time management philosophies out there, and while you’ll have no trouble understanding some of them, they do take some time to master – and to get that foundation of good habits built needed to succeed at executing them.
Let’s look at some of the more popular time management systems, and see why they are popular.
Most time management philosophies will advocate having a to-do list for your daily, weekly or monthly/quarterly tasks. How you prioritize your tasks will be dependent on your goals and vision for the outcomes.
The ABC method became popular in the 70, thanks to author Alan Lakein.
He advocates splitting all of your tasks into three major buckets
A – Tasks that are urgent and important,
B – Tasks that are important but not urgent,
C – Tasks that are unimportant. (whether urgent or not)
Another way to effectively use the ABC time management method is to assign daily tasks to the A group, weekly tasks to the B group and monthly tasks to the C group.
The Pareto principle is a foundational concept of effectiveness, named after economist Vilfredo Pareto. It states that 20% of actions lead to 80% of results, therefore you should:
Prioritize the 20% of your activities that are likely to lead to the most fruitful results
Make a conscious effort to find the most effective and simple ways to accomplish your tasks
Time Management Systems
Philosophy is a good starting point when looking at the theory of time management. If you’re looking for practical ways to build your time management skills, having a system is probably where you should start.
I’m going to start with the Pomodoro technique, just because it’s an incredibly simple method and I’ve used it effectively in the past. The Pomodoro technique was invented by Francesco Cirillo in the 1980s, and it’s the namesake of a tomato-shaped timer (pomodoro is ‘tomato’ in italian) he would use at his university courses.
One pomodoro = a unit of time of 25 minutes work, with a 5 minute break time. Take longer breaks of 15 minutes every four pomodoros.
What I love about this time management technique is that it accounts for our notoriously fickle (and ever-declining) attention span, and allows short breaks between bouts of work.
Getting Things Done
The “Getting Things Done” time management system was invented by David Allen, author of “Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity.” Here are the very simple principles of this system:
Get your most important tasks done immediately in short bouts of work.
Anything that takes less than 2 minutes of your attention should be completed immediately
Anything that can’t be completed quickly should be divided into smaller tasks.
Level Five Time Management
In his recount of time management seminars in Forbes Magazine, Ken Krogue lists the five levels of time management. He’s basing his theory on the “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen R. Covey, and goes beyond that, stressing the importance of recurring tasks that build good habits.
Time Management Tools for Sales Reps
If you were to work on
The Tomato Timer has got me through some very – very boring courses at one point in my life. It will send you an alert when your Pomodoro unit of time is over and you can take a short break, with custom alarm sounds and custom time units.
Wunderlist is a great to-do list app, and while there are many of these around, I prefer it due to ease of use and amazing sync and sharing abilities.
Evernote is one of Ken Krogue’s favorite productivity tools, as he admits he uses it to embed meeting notes and audio files to each note.
RescueTime is a little tool recommended by Gabe Larsen that shows you exactly how bad you are at time management. It will show you exact time spent on productive activities, and time spent on distractions.
You’d expect a plug here in this article, so I won’t disappoint. The XANT platform offers amazing features for sales reps that can significantly increase productivity:
- Lead response management and lead prioritization with AI-recommended scores
- Customer behavior and preference predictions integrated into sales rep’s workflow
- Immediate notifications on lead engagement (email tracking, web downloads) leads to faster response times
- Notifications of external events that are likely to affect deal close (company events, social media updates)
More Resources About Time Management
If you’re looking for more learning resources about time management, I’ve compiled a list below. You’ll find all these acclaimed authors have more useful tips and tricks to plan your day.
First Things First – Stephen R. Covey
7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey
Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity – David Allen
How to Get Control of Your Time and Your Life – Alan Lakein
Time Management (The Brian Tracy Success Library) – Brian Tracy
You will never have enough time – but the time you do have, use wisely.
Science shows it takes about 21 days to build a good habit, so pick your preferred time management method, and stick with it.
You’ll be sure to land in the group of sales reps with a higher percentage of time spent selling.
Download the “Time Management for Sales” study to learn more about how 700+ sales reps manage their time.