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6 Lessons in Efficiency

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My wife and I live in a subdivision that required a new coat of asphalt on the driveways. The paving company, which consisted of approximately 12 workers working with two dump trucks, a small driveway paver, two front-end loaders and two steam rollers, were the picture of efficiency. Watching this crew pave 50 double driveways and 24 singles in a single day taught me the following lessons in how to get things done:

1. Plan your calendar. The most productive salespeople invest time at the beginning of the quarter, month and week to fill in their calendars. This includes allotting time for meetings, sales calls, travel times, trade shows and conferences and working with clients.

OK, so you’re not a great planner or you think that selling is too dynamic to make concrete plans in advance. I’m not suggesting that you schedule every activity or block every minute of time into your calendar. However, I am a firm believer in blocking time for the most important activities. This is more effective than winging it or creating a daily to-do list.

2. Don’t waste time on social chit-chat. This is difficult for you influencer-type individuals (I fall into that category, too). But it is an effective way to improve your productivity during the course of the day. Plus, your prospects and customers will appreciate it.

3. Organize and group your calls. Make the most important calls first. This includes cold calls, calls to your most challenging or difficult customers and calls designed to address a problem.

This may sound like a no-brainer but many people procrastinate and make the easy calls first. However, this approach increases your stress level and reduces your productivity because you will actually spend more time thinking about and anticipating those more difficult calls, which will distract you from your work.

4. Prepare the evening before. At the end of each day, take a few minutes to prepare for the following day. If you are making several face-to-face sales calls, pack up all the necessary materials the evening before. This can prevent you from forgetting something and reduce your stress in the morning.

5. Limit how often you check email. In today’s wired and instantly connected world of smart phones, it is very easy to stop and read emails as they drop into your in-box. However, you can increase your productivity by limiting how often you check and respond to email.

6. Use downtime between appointments. One of the most challenging things salespeople encounter is trying to effectively manage a travel schedule, especially when they need to drive to and from appointments. It is important to schedule sufficient time to get from one appointment to the next and to consider things such as traffic delays, construction and appointments that run overtime.

It is better to allow more time than less for this, but it is equally important to make the most of your time if you arrive early for an appointment. Use that time to review your objectives, anticipate objections and perhaps run through the key points of your presentation (if you’re making one).

You can also use this time to catch up on voicemails messages and emails—just make sure you do this in a safe environment and not stuck in traffic on the freeway!

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