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Frazzled? Try time-blocking

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Bert is a salesperson who’s tasked with account management and prospecting for new business. 

Each day he plans to call new prospects to secure appointments. However, he is constantly interrupted by calls from customers who have questions, are experiencing problems or want to meet with him. 

Add to that the distractions and interruptions from staff and colleagues and demands from his boss. By the end of the day, Bert realizes he has not made any prospecting calls or scheduled any appointments with new prospects. He sighs and vows to do better the next day. In fact, he writes “make 10 prospecting calls” at the top of the next day’s to-do list.

Do you ever feel like Bert? Many salespeople do. There just doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day to get everything done. Once I attended a time-management workshop, where the presenter told the audience, “You will never get caught up.” And that workshop was in 1998!

Unfortunately, not much has changed in the last 17 years. Everyone in business has more work on their desks than they can possibly get done — including salespeople. However, there is a way to improve your productivity, get more done and improve your sales results.

Time-block your priorities

Rather than make a simple to-do list, block time in your calendar to work on specific tasks. You see, the problem with to-do lists is that people focus on the easy tasks first. They scan their lists and cherry-pick the items they want to do rather than the tasks that are most important to their businesses.

There are two critical factors to keep in mind when using this strategy. First, schedule the most important tasks and activities early in the week and at the time of day when your mental energy is highest. The second is to treat each time-blocked task as a sales appointment. You wouldn’t cancel an appointment with a new prospect, so don’t allow interruptions to distract you from your important tasks. 

It’s easy to allow busy work to get in the way. My good friend Mike Weinberg says “No one ever defaults to prospecting.” However, with rare exceptions, customer calls (and emails) can wait an hour or two. Very few people expect an immediate response. That’s an expectation we set for ourselves.

It’s a simple concept — at least in theory. The actual application can be a lot more challenging because it requires us to do the hard work (aka important tasks) before less important but sometimes more urgent tasks.

I can tell you from personal experience that time-blocking your priorities is one of the most effective strategies for improving your sales productivity. If you’re struggling with your priorities, ask yourself this question from the time-management presenter I mentioned earlier: “What is the best use of my time right now?”

Responding to an internal email — regardless of the urgency — is seldom more important to your business than finding a new client. Focus on achieving the tasks that are most critical to your business, and I guarantee your sales results will improve.

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