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A bit of a ramble on some time management and calendar management techniques. This post reflects on the sales process. Future posts will dive into Engineering and Product Management.
How do you spend your time? 10 hours to increased productivity
Most of us have had multiple jobs and performed many different job functions over the course of our careers. But no matter what your current position is, how you manage your time is always a hot topic. Most importantly because time is a bit of an intangible that is difficult to wrap our brains around. Calendars and calendar management can be a bit of an art form. At the end of the day, it is really all about discipline. Unfortunately, understanding the need to control your time/calendar and actually doing it are two entirely different things. So here are some straight-forward practices that I find very helpful.
Let's take a look at sales. Sales can be super frenetic. It can be reactionary, and that is stressful. The full spectrum of emotions can be experienced in a single day working in sales and young sales professionals are vulnerable to the emotional roller-coaster that is the sales process. To be perfectly honest, even seasoned sales professionals (what the young folks call 'old people') are not immune to this in any way. But the aware, seasoned pros have learned how to manage this and use it as a tool. That is what brings the discussion back to the calendar.
Some tips that I have found helpful when I am trying to focus on sales.
1) Schedule time to research (2 - 1 hour blocks)
This can be a few sessions a week, but needs to be scheduled on the calendar and likely in one hour sessions. Turn off the phone, Outlook, remove distractions, open your CRM and start thinking. Open OneNote or whatever tool you use, and take notes. Pick the 10 accounts/prospects etc. you want to make progress on and start researching. Go to LinkedIn, Google, Bing, whatever tools you have in your arsenal, Hoovers. Know your targets, if you are selling software to IT folks, search Spiceworks forums, TechNet Forums, if you are selling into .gov, know your tools. During this time resist the urge to react, just take notes and think about how you will contact your list. Remember, their time is valuable, they are busy, they don't like you already so if you respect their time and come prepared your chances for good discussions rise.
2) Schedule time to contact via email (2 - 1 hour blocks)
There are many on your list you will contact with email. These are follow-ups, responding to requests for information, sending information that you want/need a trail on. Whatever the reason there are people you will connect with, at times, via email. Put the email response time in your calendar. Only use it for the intended purpose. Go to your list and check stuff off. Don't answer incoming emails, don't use this time to pick up the phone and call someone, just email.
3) Schedule time to contact via phone (2 - 1 hour blocks)
Who on your list needs a phone call? Do you have a call list you are working off of? Are the people on this list ones that you have done some research on? You are well prepared? Use this time to call down the list. You won't get everyone, but when you do you'll have a good prepared discussion and that will impress them.
4) Schedule time for your task list (2 - 1 hour blocks)
Just get stuff done. What falls out? What emails take more than a few seconds/minutes to address? It is important to do this and have it in your calendar. So many things just fall off the radar. There are important tasks that are not of the highest priority that still need to get done, and worse off if they don't get done they become a monkey on your back.
Clearly this block will go far beyond the 2 hours a week, but keeping with the theme. Keep these tasks based on the above lists and research.
5) Schedule time to reflect (2 - 1 hour blocks)
Trying to assess, take inventory, and think about what can go better and what is going well... and why, is important. Taking time for thoughtful contemplation is so important and I find that most people I speak with don't. The whole week, 40, 50, 60 or more hours is react. It is stressful, and it can be like a riptide you can't pull out of. Carve out time, turn off outlook, turn off phone, turn off computer, take a notepad and pen and go to a quiet place. Think, spend the time just thinking and reflecting on your goals, your progress, your ideals, your efforts. If you have some epiphany, write it down. There is no need here to react or respond. The thoughts and process of reflection is often a benefit itself. Use that notepad to jot down those things that you feel really need to get into your routine and use that during one of your 'task list' hours during the week.
I've focused most of my career on working with people in Sales, as a Sales Engineer, Technical Sales, Product Management, Program Management, Trainer - well let us just say I've done a lot of stuff. How to manage time is only different between those disciplines because the tasks are different. The core process is the same. There are things that do not get done and you need to build a process to ensure success. Carving out and committing to time in your calendar is a big part of that.
Years ago a peer mentor of mine, while I was working at Microsoft, recommended a great book by David Allen called "Getting Things Done". It has helped me quite a bit over the years. I can't say I'm great at time management and some years/months I feel like I'm not very good at all. But I often go back to fundamentals and re-assess, re-group and get back on track. You can check out his methodology at
Every little bit helps. Gaining control of your week and carving out some of that week to be purposeful and focused on specific tasks and a great way to start! It may not need to be 10 hours in your calendar but enough to get things complete. Start small, see how committed you can be and how your efficiency can improve.
Kevints, if you are selling software to IT folks, search Spiceworks forums, TechNet Forums, if you are selling into .gov, know your tools. During this time resist the urge to react, just take notes and think about how you will contact your list. Remember, their time is valuable, they are busy, they don't like you already so if you respect their time and come prepared your chances for good discussions rise.
Trying to assess, take inventory, and think about what can go better and what is going well... and why, is important. Taking time for thoughtful contemplation is so important and I find that most people I speak with don't. The whole week, 40, 50, 60 or more hours is react. It is stressful, and it can be like a riptide you can't pull out of. Carve out time,