This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "The Ultimate Sales Machine" by Chet Holmes. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.
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What role does time management play in sales? What are some things you can do to cut back on unnecessary activities that distract you from what matters most—driving sales?
The first step to building a high-performing sales operation is effective time management. Implementing a time management system in your sales activities will enable you to extract the most productivity and value from your days.
Here are some tips on cut back on unnecessary activities so you could spend that time driving your business’s sales.
No “Open Door” Policy
One quick way to curb the requests for your time from employees—end your “open-door” policy. People at the company shouldn’t be able to just saunter into your office at any time to talk about anything they want, whether it’s work-related or not. Instead, insist on regular, scheduled meetings—no more impromptu sit-downs or sidebar chats. Your time is extremely valuable (as is theirs), and you need to take the lead in changing the culture to reflect that.
(Shortform note: But make sure that your new approach to meetings doesn’t hinder your relationship with your team. In Emotional Intelligence 2.0, Jean Greaves and Travis Bradberry argue that a key part of effective relationship management in the workplace is to have an “open-door” policy. According to Greaves and Bradberry, allowing unscheduled meetings enables people to feel comfortable approaching you when they wish to address issues, discuss projects, or seek guidance—while giving you an opportunity to learn more about the people that you work with.)
Have an Agenda
Agendas must be in place for every meeting across the company. People need to know precisely what they’re there to discuss and what is meant to be accomplished in the meeting. When a meeting has no agenda, he warns, it opens the door for wasteful, freewheeling, and unfocused discussion.
(Shortform note: Agendas should be carefully constructed, and as the team leader, you should structure the flow of the meeting. That means soliciting agenda topics from the team beforehand; allotting speaking time for each participant; laying out how decisions will be made, for example, by majority vote or by a designated decision maker; and debriefing and summarizing at the end of the meeting.)
Get Your Priorities Straight
As a sales manager, you have two key priorities:
Tactic #1: Prioritize Your Responses to Emails
Holmes says not to make the mistake of opening all the emails in your overflowing inbox as you receive them. Instead, implement a “just-in-time” rule with emails—only take the time to open an email when you’re ready to take action on it. If it’s not immediately urgent or can be delegated, put it on the back burner and focus on the more important tasks at hand.
(Shortform note: In addition to prioritizing which emails to respond to first, you can cut down on the inflow of emails hitting your inbox in the first place. Some management consultants stress that a large influx of emails is often a symptom of poor decision-making processes and absent protocols in your company, which leads to employees asking questions via email that could be better answered by reference to a centralized workflow process. Implementing clearer processes for decision making and information requests should save your inbox some space.)
Tactic #2: Prioritize With Lists
Holmes further writes that you’ll have a better understanding of what is and isn’t important if you prioritize by making lists. Each day, according to Holmes, you should create a to-do list of activities, ranked by importance, with time allocated for each. You should then focus your energy on accomplishing the most important tasks first. Holmes argues that lists enable you to take charge of your time by being proactive instead of reactive. Rather than just responding to the daily swarm of calls and emails (letting events dictate your time), you’re separating the signal from the noise and carving out allotted time for what you need to do. And don’t just limit it to yourself—Holmes says you should make this system of time management a mandatory company-wide time management practice.
(Shortform note: Holmes recommends having every employee in the company submit an hour-by-hour sales time management plan to be approved by their superiors every day. Some employees, however, may chafe at such an approach and find it oppressive and micromanagerial. Not to mention the fact that simply having to approve and review these time management plans would itself take up a great deal of managerial time that might well cancel out any potential productivity gains.)
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Here's what you'll find in our full The Ultimate Sales Machine summary:
- How to build a first-rate sales operation
- Why it's better to be an expert at a few things instead of adequate at a lot
- Why you should get rid of your "open door" policy