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Biggest time wasters for sales people

Good time management for sales people has been an obsession of mine for more than 30 years.  In the last decade, I’ve been involved in helping tens of thousands of sales people improve their results through more effective use of their time.  Over the years, I’ve seen some regularly occurring patterns develop – tendencies on the part of sales people to do things that detract from their effective use of time.  

Here are the four most common time-wasters I’ve observed.  See if any apply to you or your sales people.

1. Allure of the urgent/trivial.

Sales people love to be busy and active.  We have visions of ourselves as people who can get things done.  No idle dreamers, we’re out there making things happen!

A big portion of our sense of worth and our personal identity is dependent on being busy.  At some level in our self-image, being busy means that we really are important.  One of the worst things that can happen to us is to have nothing to do, nowhere to go, and nothing going on.  So, we latch onto every task that comes our way, regardless of the importance. 

For example, one of our customers calls with a back order problem.  “Oh good!” we think, “Something to do!  We are needed!  We can fix it!”  So, we drop everything and spend two hours expediting the backorder. 

In retrospect, couldn’t someone in purchasing or customer service have done that?  And couldn’t they have done it better than you?  And didn’t you just allow something that was a little urgent but trivial prevent you from making some sales calls?  And wouldn’t those potential sales calls be a whole lot better use of your time?

Or, one of our customers hands us a very involved “Request for Quote.”  “Better schedule a half-day at the office,” we think.  “Need to look up specifications, calculate prices, compile literature, etc.”  We become immediately involved with this task, working on this project for our customer.  In retrospect, couldn’t we have given the project to an inside sales person or customer service rep to do the leg work?  Couldn’t we have just communicated the guidelines to someone and then reviewed the finished proposal? 

Once again, we succumbed to the lure of the present task.  That prevented us from making sales calls and siphoned our energy away from the important to the seemingly urgent.

I could go on for pages with examples, but you have the idea.  We are so enamored with being busy and feeling needed that we often grab at any task that comes our way, regardless of how unimportant.  And each time we do that, we compromise our ability to invest our sales times more effectively.

2.  The comfort of the status quo.

A lot of sales people have evolved to the point where they have a comfortable routine.  They make enough money and they have established routines and habits that are comfortable.  They really don’t want to expend the energy it takes to do things in a better way or to become more successful or effective.

This can be good.  Some of the habits and routines that we follow work well for us.  However, our rapidly changing world constantly demands new methods, techniques, habits and routines.  Just because something has been effective for a few years doesn’t mean that it continues to be so.  This problem develops when sales people are so content with the way things are, they have not changed anything in years.

If you haven’t changed or challenged some habit or routine in the last few years, chances are you are not as effective as you could be. 

For example, you could still be writing phone messages down on little slips of paper, when entering them into your contact manager would be more effective.  This is a simple example of a principle that can extend towards the most important things that we do.  Are we using the same routines for organizing our work week, for determining who to call on, for understanding our customers, for collecting information, etc.?  There is no practical end to the list.


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