From a practical standpoint, you don’t have 24 selling hours in a day. You don’t even have eight. I estimate that most salespeople can count on no more than five hours and 30 minutes daily when they can expect to make face-to-face presentations. This is due mainly to the availability of your prospects and customers. Even if you work an 8 AM to 6 PM ten-hour day, you’ll probably not be able to get more than five and a half hours in front of prospects.
Occasionally, of course, you’ll have breakfast and lunch meetings with customers, squeeze in one last call at 4:45 PM, etc. But for the most part, you’ll find it difficult to consistently make appointments with anyone before 9:30 AM because your prospects are busy organizing their own day (which does not revolve around you). Much the same holds true for lunch, which seldom starts at noon or lasts exactly an hour for most decision makers and influencers.
Here’s what a typical sales day looks like:
8 – 9:30 AM Arrive at office, attend meetings, organize day, leave for first call
9:30 AM – 12 PM Prime Sales time
12 – 1:30 PM Lunch, return phone calls, paperwork, leave for calls
1:30 – 4:30 PM Prime Sales time
4:30 – 6 PM Return to office, return phone calls, attend meetings, paperwork
As you can see, you have five hours and 30 minutes of prime selling time in the day. How do you maximize it? Using the priority system you’ve set up, you have to plan your activities.
“Plan your work and work your plan” is yet another “golden oldie” sales adage. And it’s a good one because it describes the essence of sound time management. It’s not enough to lay out a plan, you have to execute it to get any benefit from it. In fact, if you don’t “work your plan,” you’ve wasted the time it took to draw it up.
You can spend a lot of time planning. You can also invest hundreds of dollars in account management software and cross-indexed leather-bound time management systems. Or you can make up a “to do” list on a napkin at the coffee shop where you start your day. These are all planning systems that can work. I suggest trying something in between.
You need both long-term and short-term plans. Or call them strategic and tactical plans, if you have a military frame of mind. Which one is more important? Neither. They serve two distinct but equally important purposes.
Dave Donelson distills the experiences of hundreds of entrepreneurs into practical advice for small business owners and managers in the Dynamic Manager's Guides, a series of how-to books about marketing and advertising, sales techniques, hiring, firing, and motivating personnel, financial management, and business strategy.