Time Management for Sales Pros Think you're not spending enough time selling? Learn to reorganize your time without increasing your workload.

By Ray Silverstein

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

If you want to make more money, you have to spend more time selling, right? Yes, but there are only 24 hours in a day, and who wants to spend them all working? The key is to work smarter--not harder.

For busy salespeople, working smarter means spending more time focusing on your No. 1 skill--selling--by giving up less important tasks. You may be the company rainmaker, but if you're running a small company, chances are you're also its CEO, custodian and everything in between.

Yes, all that needs to get done, too. Undoubtedly, every time you walk into your office, half a dozen projects clamor for your time. But the big question is: At the end of the day, how many hours have you actually devoted to selling? If you're not satisfied with your sales revenue, the answer is: not enough.

My, How Time Flies!
To get a handle on how you really spend your time, document it. Time management is the key to success. For one week, keep an hour-by-hour activity log. Sound like a pain? It is. But it can also be very enlightening. By the end of the week, you may be stunned by your findings.

Here's another way to do it: Give yourself daily points for sales activities. You might want to set a goal of 15 points a day based on a point system like this:

  • Making a phone call to set up a meeting: 1 point
  • Asking for a referral: 1 point
  • Setting an appointment: 2 points
  • Getting a solid referral: 2 points
  • Attending a networking event: 3 points
  • Meeting with an existing client: 3 points
  • Meeting with a prospect: 4 points
  • Making a sales presentation: 4 points
  • Closing the sale: 5 points

Tally your points each day, and you'll have a pretty good idea if you're dedicating enough of your time to essential sales activities. Going forward, you can use the points system--or your own customized version of it--to keep yourself on task.

OK, Now What?
If you conclude that you need more hands-on sales time, there's just one thing to do--get rid of the tasks that get in your way. One of my favorite mottos is: Don't do well what you shouldn't do at all. Here are some easy ways you can delegate some of your sales work.

  • Lead generation: Cold-calling probably isn't the most effective use of your time. Why not outsource it? There are plenty of telemarketing firms, direct-mail experts and internet marketing pros to do the legwork for you. Yes, you have to invest some time upfront to choose one that will best represent you. And once you've made your pick, you'll have to work with them to develop compelling materials. But once they're up and running, they'll be able to produce a steady stream of leads, allowing you to concentrate on what you do best.
  • Administrative work: If you're spending too much time in the office shuffling papers, get some part-time office help. Surely there are tasks you can hand off. Many entrepreneurs I've worked with have an initial reluctance to delegate. If you're one of them, well, get over it. You'll never be able to grow beyond a certain point by flying solo.
  • Customer service: Go beyond administrative help and get some serious backup. Good customer service is essential to ongoing sales, but you don't have to answer every phone call yourself. In fact, your customers might be relieved to know you have real support in place.

Protect Your Time
When you're selling, your time is your most valuable asset. Protect it vigilantly, even if it means learning to do business differently.

Do you jump every time someone requests a meeting? Do you allow yourself to be at your clients' beck and call? Slow down. Put your own schedule first. Will the customer drop you if you ask to meet on Friday instead of Thursday? Probably not. At the very least, ask.

Selling requires unwavering focus. If you want to make more money, create an operation that allows you to keep your focus squarely where it should be--on sales.

Wavy Line

Ray Silverstein is the president of PRO: President's Resource Organization , a network of peer advisory boards for small business owners. He is author of two books: The Best Secrets of Great Small Businesses and the new Small Business Survival Guide: How to Survive (and Thrive) in Tough Times . He can be reached at 1-800-818-0150 or ray@propres.com .

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