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by Kelly Riggs
What is the single most valuable asset you possess as a salesperson?
I’m sure we could develop a list of things you simply could not live without as a salesperson: passion, or drive, or the desire to learn, or a list of high-value prospects (YES!), or highly developed selling skills.
Which are all good answers, I suppose. But there is one thing that no salesperson can do without. It is absolutely non-negotiable – a complete deal-breaker. Your most valuable asset, far and away, is your time. The sales value of time is simply incalculable.
Give it a moment’s thought, and then consider this. You could be the most talented salesperson ever; you could have an incredible product, you could have an “A” list of potential customers, you could have enough drive to clock a couple of marathons a week, but if you have NO time whatsoever, you CANNOT be successful.
With that in mind – stay with me – why is it that most salespeople are so incredibly cavalier about how they use their time?
Oh, yes, I understand. You’re saying you could have all the time in the world, but if you don’t have drive and skills and good prospects, you’re not going to be very successful either. Perhaps, but consider this: If you have enough time, you can do ALL of those things, but it DOES NOT work the other way around. Without time to sell, you have nothing, but:
You can use time to build a list.
You can use time to improve your skills.
You can use time to learn your product.
You can use time to practice your presentation.
You can use time to develop an effective sales plan.
You can do all of those things if you have time, but you CANNOT create time.
Or can you?
Clearly, time is a perishable commodity. If you waste it, you lose it. And what is scary is most salespeople flat give time away large chunks of time. I believe that the average salesperson routinely gives away 5-8 hours of time – OR MORE – each and every week.
So, from a different perspective, perhaps it actually is possible to create more time – by not wasting what you’re given.
With over two decades of observation, I have found that the average B2B salesperson has only about 2.6 hours per day that he/she can be in front of a potential customer (see graphic). After you deduct the time in the day you use for administrative work, phone calls, email, meetings, and drive time, that’s about what you’re left with – two-and-a-half hours per day. And, trust me, it can be a LOT WORSE than that!
That is the time you are left with for prospecting, discovery, presentations, follow-up, negotiating, and solution implementation.
In the big picture, that’s a very small window to identify, qualify, develop, and convert opportunities – especially if you’re a veteran salesperson with a huge list of customers who require a lot of maintenance, support, troubleshooting, or follow-up.
But, what if you could recapture 5-8 hours every single week? What if you were better prepared? Didn’t spend as much time in a car? Spent less time with email or trolling social media?
What if you jealously guarded your time and used it as a competitive advantage?
So what is the sales value of time? First, ponder on what an extra 5-8 hours per week would mean to your performance – assuming you used those hours productively.
Do you realize that if you could create an extra ONE hour per day, you would increase your available face-time with prospects and customers by 40 PERCENT! That’s more time to prospect, more time to create sales conversations, more time for effective follow-up.
“Find one extra hour every sales day and you will spend 40% more time in front of prospects.” via @kellyriggs #sales #leadershipClick to tweet
More time = More opportunities = More sales = More income.
So, which of these classic time-wasters are you guilty of?
1. Lack of planning or preparation
As I have written about extensively, the average salesperson is a very poor planner (read “Planning Is So Boring, Said the Broke Salesperson”). No plan, or a poor plan, is a guaranteed way to waste time.
Think about a project at home. You wake up on Saturday morning and spend a while figuring out what you’re going to do. You go to Lowe’s and pick up several things you need, but after about an hour on the project, you discover you need something else you didn’t consider (if this sounds like a personal story, it’s because it is). Get the idea?
The way to build something efficiently is to have a set of plans (blueprints), a materials list (one trip), and the necessary tools (resources) to get the job done. If you’re missing any of those things, you waste time.
2. Too much windshield time
It’s an off-shoot of poor planning, but it deserves its own recognition. People who cover a territory are so vulnerable to wasting time in a car, it’s amazing. Remedy this problem and you can easily recover 2-5 hours every single week. When you travel, plan your calls carefully to maximize the return on the trip.
3. Confusing “customer service” with pandering
I can’t believe how often this problem arises: One of your customers calls. IT’S A CRISIS!! They need something IMMEDIATELY! They ask, “Can you bring ___________ right away?”
And of course you do – because you “take good care” of your customers. You’re all about customer service. You jump in a car and drive 40 miles to deliver, for example, a $90 part. You make 40% margin. So, you take two hours, trash your entire day, for a whopping $36.00 profit.
Oh, but you took good care of a customer, didn’t you?? But let’s talk about that customer. What are the odds that customer is about No. 56 on your list? Isn’t that the type of customer that always needs you to help?
I came across a great article by Don Mulhern last week entitled, “When ‘Sell the Way Your Customer Wants to Buy’ is Bad Advice” that vividly illustrates this all-too-common problem. I highly recommend you read it. In the article, he talks about salespeople who “abdicate all power to the customer.”
Here’s an excerpt from his article:
“Now, there’s nothing inherently wrong with being responsive. We certainly don’t want to ignore our customers or dismiss their requests as unimportant. But too many salespeople go overboard at the expense of true selling. I call them “puppy dog” salespeople. They stay busy trying to satisfy every command issued by the customer.”
He is exactly right. Is it “good customer service” to blow up your day to rush over and solve some minor problem for a customer – just because they want what they want RIGHT NOW?
ALMOST NEVER. Are there exceptions? Sure, but they are called exceptions for a reason.
It’s time for a reality check. Think very carefully about these three questions:
Is your solution valuable?
Are you a professional who adds value to the customer?
Is your time important?
If the answer is yes to all three, then START ACTING LIKE A PROFESSIONAL!
Here is a very valuable piece of selling advice: When a customer calls needing something done immediately, respond this way: “We can get this take care of, but I cannot make this happen right this second. However, I could be their first thing in the morning (or tomorrow afternoon, or Thursday, or some other option). Would that work out?”
Guess what, most of the time, on the very first try, the answer will be, “Sure!”
Customer service is important.
SO IS YOUR TIME!
For your time’s sake, don’t confuse customer pandering with customer service.
Of course, there are many other ways you can waste your most valuable asset. You could spend less time at lunch, stay away from social media, get to the office on time in the morning, avoid the break room arguments about politics or sports teams…I think you get the idea.
But I want to be clear – this is not just about saving time; it’s about what you do with the time you find once you manage it more effectively.
If that extra 5-8 hours per week doesn’t turn into more prospecting, and more customer conversations, and more opportunities…
…well, you’re just wasting your time.
Kelly Riggs is a business performance coach and founder of the Business LockerRoom. A former national Salesperson of the Year and serial entrepreneur, Kelly is a recognized thought leader in the areas of sales, management leadership, and strategic planning. He serves clients ranging from small, privately held companies to Fortune 500 firms.
Kelly has written two books: “1-on-1 Management™: What Every Great Manager Knows That You Don’t” and “Quit Whining and Start SELLING! A Step-by-Step Guide to a Hall of Fame Career in Sales.”