From the November 2002 issue of Entrepreneur

When you talk about selling smarter, people always think (or wish) you're going to explain how they can work less and get the same result. But that's not what selling smarter means. It means getting from point A to point B without wasting your time--or your customers' time. There are many ways entrepreneurs sabotage their own efficiency. Here are three of the biggest time-wasters to steer clear of:

1. Dealing with people who can't make the buying decision. All too often, we try making our pitch to anybody who'll listen-without finding out if we're speaking to the right person.

Don't be afraid to call to the highest levels--even if that means the president of your target company. He or she may not get involved directly, but will refer you to the appropriate contact. Then, you've opened the door to building a relationship at the highest level.

2. Working without a priority list. The best use of your time is focusing on the people who already generate the most income for you, as well as those with the most potential for generating more income. Make a top 20 list naming your 10 biggest accounts and top 10 prospects. Look at the list every day and ask yourself "What do I need to do today to get more business from this person?" or "What do I have to do today to move this sale to the next step?" Your top 20 list will keep you focused so you can spend your energy on getting the best return on investment. Always keep the list handy, whether it's on your Palm Pilot or in your wallet.

3. Relying on technology rather than on relationships. We all use technology. It's a great tool--but while it can help you with your business, it doesn't close the sale for you. Sales are made from relationships, and it's difficult to establish relationships on a computer screen. Keep your e-mails short. They're great for passing information, but they'll never take the place of the face-to-face (or even voice-to-voice) communication.

The biggest time-waster of all is trying to sell fast without selling smart. Never trade speed for knowledge. Don't go through the motions of what you're "supposed" to do--asking all the right questions, giving your pitch and going for the close--without taking time to get to the know your customers. Let them tell you what to do next. Say "Now that I've learned about your goals and challenges, and you've heard how we can help you meet those goals, what would you recommend we do next?"

To really sell smarter and faster, you have to qualify and sell to the right people, focus on your specific goals, and use technology to enhance--not replace--face-to-face relationships.