A successful salesperson has to work hard and work smart — be balanced, organized, and optimized — because they’re always managing a number of critical tasks simultaneously. So how to work hard and smart at the same time? How to optimize your sales day?
There’s a lot of different skills required to be successful in sales. One of the reasons it’s such a tough job is the requirement to be good at managing many different things at the same time. And, if you are weak at any one of them — if you don’t know how to close, how to prospect, how to ask the right questions — then you’re not going to be successful.
Being a successful salesperson, according to Steve Benson, founder and CEO of Badger Maps, is someone who is capable of juggling a million balls in the air.
So how do you metaphorically keep a million balls in the air? It’s a matter of optimizing your time and day. Then knowing how to work hard and smart.
These are among the most important skills needed by every professional, but especially by salespeople because they’re always managing a number of critical tasks simultaneously. And because it’s themselves and their skills standing between a successful deal and a failure, it’s important that they prioritize and optimize their time. A successful salesperson has to work hard and work smart — be balanced, organized, and optimized. So let’s talk about and understand how to organize and optimize your sales day.
1. Structure your day
One of the biggest challenges that salespeople deal with is optimizing their sales day because there are always a million things to do, or in Benson’s words, they have a million balls in the air. He advises breaking your day into pieces.
“Some people really thrive in routine. And, if you don’t have a routine, you have to spend cycles making sure nothing is forgotten.”
So establish a routine and set things up to get done at the same time every day. Schedule time for set appointments, follow-up calls, emails, that daily team meeting… look to organize everything, so that at the end of the day you know what balls are still in the air.
If you are more of a reactionary in your role, then you have to schedule time wherever you can get it. But, Benson warns that constantly adjusting for things and trying to catch up can create extra friction.
2. Set time for prospecting
As a salesperson, the most important task you need to complete each day is prospecting. That’s the first and foremost step in any sale. The end goal is to develop a database of likely customers then systematically communicate with them in the hopes of converting them. Prospecting is your main weapon to hunt for leads and to continually build a database of potential customers. And, if you don’t have enough leads, you will never close enough deals.
So, set aside time for doing that.
Anthony Iannarino, international speaker, sales leader and author, says that, instead of opening your mails in the morning and getting distracted, it’s better to take out your call list and spend two hours on these calls first thing in the morning.
“Two uninterrupted hours of prospecting with your email unopened is equivalent to something near 463 hours of prospecting with your email open."
But one size doesn’t fit all. The first-thing-in-the morning prospecting approach may not work for all businesses or in all time zones. It’s you who knows your customers best. So, structure your schedule around their schedules to avoid wasting time on unanswered calls.
3. Time for responding to emails
You must set aside some part of your day for responding to existing clients or prospects. “It’s what I call putting out fires, because if you really are pushing hard and talking to the right amount of prospects, there are going to be some issues that crop up that you have to deal with immediately,” says George Leith, chief customer officer at Vendasta.
Salespeople need free time in their calendar because there will be customers reaching out to them over email, text, LinkedIn, Facebook or WhatsApp, throughout the day because they have questions. A successful salesperson has to be prompt with his or her responses so as not to slow down the sales cycle. It’s important to create time to do that.
However, instead of jumping to your mailbox reactively every time it pings and getting distracted from whatever else you are doing, it’s better to be proactive and set aside specific times for working on email responses. This helps you focus better on the work at hand, and also gives you time to reflect and compose your responses to email queries.
Author and thought leader Tim Ferris, or the “Oprah of audio”, as he is also known due to his famous The Tim Ferriss Show podcast, recommends creating time for your email responses. He recommends twice a day — at 11 am and 4 pm.
Of course, this doesn’t apply to prospecting emails.
4. Templatize and customize your messaging
Don’t start with a blank slate every time you write to a different prospect. Create templates for things like prospecting, follow-ups, and meetings. Similarly, create a few templates that underline the value proposition of your products.
The same thing applies to your scripts. If you are targeting a similar set of customers, instead of formulating a different script and set of questions every time, dig through your most successful deals, look for what worked in those cases, incorporate some of those details, and develop a core script.
The trick, however, is to eventually customize a core script, email template or value proposition list every time for each customer.
Here it is pertinent to point out that 70 to 80 percent of an established company’s revenue comes from existing customers. Yet, most salespeople often use the same provocative messaging developed by marketing teams to attract new clients as well as in trying to renew existing customers.
Smart aggressive messaging approaches are okay only when you are the “outsider” looking to disrupt your prospect’s status quo, according to a study by DecisionLabs research. However, for an existing relationship you need to customize that message and maintain the status quo.
5. Slot some ‘office time’ in your calendar
You also need to have some time blocked off for just office stuff. This could be intra or inter department meetings. This is particularly important for field salespeople, Benson says.
For a person who is always on the field, these meetings keep them updated on happenings in office or with their teams, progress on deals or just updates in the business landscape, or for instance, a merger or policy change that could affect their sales focus.
“I feel like it often ends up being work that they do at night or in the morning before they get on the road. But either way, you need that time set aside,” Benson says.
6. Always make time for ‘the kill’
Make sure you leave time for the things that can just come up, warns Leith. You need to be ready and available to help move the deal closer to a close if a prospect looks to be suddenly ready.
“You can’t always map out your schedule thinking ‘I’m going to talk to Jim today and he’s going to move to stage number three.’ Jim is going to decide when he is ready to move to the next stage, and you need to be ready to deal with him on his terms. It’s a disservice to the people that I’m working with on a daily basis when I don’t have those little openings in my schedule where I can help them."
It’s important not to just be available, but to also treat these calls as face-to-face meetings. This means spending time doing homework on the deal, organizing the documents, putting your phone on mute, turning off your email or other social media notifications, informing your team that you are going for a call and not to be disturbed, and sitting in a closed room if possible. Stay focused on the discussions, your discovery questions and follow up questions, and be ready to push for the close, or at least to the next stage.
7. Spend time understanding your ideal customer profile
“All too often, marketers and salespeople think any customer is a qualified customer and any sale is a good sale. In reality, there is a stark difference between an ideal customer and less-than-ideal customers,” Leith says.
When you try to serve everyone, you end up serving no one. By chasing people who are not your ideal customer profile, you set yourself up for reputation damage because your solution simply may not work for everyone, as that it is, in fact, specifically intended for certain types of businesses. Not everyone can have success with it, and that can risk your reputation and brand if it's used by customers for whom it is not intended.
So who is your ideal customer profile, how do you find them, and what is the suitable pitch to make?
There is no better way than good old-fashion basic research — spend time understanding your own company’s strengths and weaknesses and offerings, then research online about the prospects, and seek to understand their business and requirements.
8. Automate as much as you can
This can free up more time and energy to devote to your main task — sales.
For instance, a messy CRM is a time killer. Every time you need to manually input client info, create deal updates and such, you waste precious time that could be spent on sales.
Marketing automation allows you to create automated workflows that are triggered by specific actions and conditions. For example, you can configure an automation to add all your customers to a drip campaign and notify your team if users open or click-through the email. This can help save time, lower your customer acquisition cost, attract more clients, and sell more effectively.
Vendasta’s easy-to-use automations let you save time by skipping manual tasks. With more flexibility in your schedule, you can focus on your clients’ needs and the growth of your business.
The bottom line
At the end of the day, it’s always a matter of reverting “back to square one” — optimize, optimize, optimize. “Optimizing the time that we have as sellers is crucial to being successful,” Leith says.
You have to do enough prospecting. You have to spend the appropriate amount of time with your different deals which are in different phases in your sales funnel. And you need to merge many deals through to close. All this needs time.
Some people that sell products with a smaller price point might have a hundred deals ongoing at a time that they’re juggling while others may be managing a few large deals with higher price points. At times, there could be people who have both — multiple small deals and a few large deals. Different deals need different aptitude and approach. And sales professionals may need to wear different hats.
Either way, as Benson says, it’s all about being efficient and keeping a million balls in the air.