Be Picky with Your Time, Otherwise Clients Will Not be Picking You
The name of the game is efficiency. How you divide your time as to which companies you pursue and prioritize, and which ones you release will be one of the single biggest ways you can control your destiny. Maximum results with minimum time is the ultimate leverage in sales. Sales people need to be efficient at winning and just as efficient at losing.
Always keep one eye on the bottom line, which is your deal and one eye on the return on investment of your time and effort. Sales people too often fall into the trap of unchecked spending binges of their time where they are operating on false hope due to "happy ears." Remember, you are not a social worker. Mainstream sales people too frequently operate as if time were an entitlement program where they can spontaneously, freely and prematurely spend with any random prospect who can fog a mirror and return their phone call.
Too often I see well intended sales people foolishly throwing good money after bad, or good time after bad time. Prudent customer cost accounting is somewhat nonexistent in these cases. Sales people have to exercise effective time discipline. If customers will not meet you halfway, will not share sensitive information, and have no problems, money or authority, you need to cut your losses.
Sales people need to rein in their unlimited appetite to squander their time on deals Moses could not close. You achieve efficient economies of scale in saving time by disqualifying customers who do not have motive, authority, means or a sense of urgency.
So often customers have paralysis of analysis. Your mutual self-serving goal should be to help both parties not waste their time. You need to help your customer avoid time traps by establishing consequences of inaction, regardless if they buy or not. Sales people who are customer advocates know that an hour spent in one area, be it for the customer or for themselves, is an hour that cannot be spent in another more high-yielding area. Customer advocates are very serious about practicing strict oversight on how they protect their own time and their customer's time.
"Time is democratic and just," says Dan Kennedy. All your customers have the same amount of time each day. When they tell you they are too busy, what they really are telling you is they are too busy for things that they do not consider critical and urgent.
Be aware that time is your enemy and it kills all deals. The small interspersed portions of time that are wasted seem irrelevant and the equivalent of chump time for most classic sales people. However, cumulatively it could conservatively eat up 20 – 40% of a sales person's time. And the most insidious part is how it is so dispiriting and how it wears on the soul.
Sales is a fight against the clock. Your biggest competition is an unnamed competitor, another problem, or another good idea from a sales person selling something totally different in another part of their business. So brainstorming to find out what their priorities are and which are the most pressing is very important, because the longer the buying cycle stretches out, the higher the likelihood your proposal will have come and gone. The meter is always running. No cabdriver turns off the meter no matter how good a time they are having, or how good the conversation is. The same is true in the sales profession. Guard your time very judiciously because it is one of your most important assets.
Sales people could dramatically impact their effectiveness by not being any more skillful in selling, but by being more efficient in spending time with only high probability opportunities. It is estimated that 70% of sales people's time is spent on dead, or soon to be dead deals. If they were able to identify them easier and sooner, imagine how much time would be freed up to pursue other qualified opportunities without ever increasing their sales skills.
"Patience is better, but its fruit is sweet," said Jeanl Jaques Rousseau. Be patient and spend time with quality opportunities and be impatient with poor quality opportunities. If you are not picky about who you spend your time with, customers will not be picking you.