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The Dog Days of Summer Are Here!

Dog Days of Summer

We call them the dog days of summer.  The long, hot days of summer seem to have salespeople and customers alike under a listless spell.  The call of the shoreline, the lake, the golf course, and many other assorted vacations pull the focus away from the necessary tasks at hand. Sales tend to lag, profits tend to decrease, and the fourth quarter is looming on the all to near horizon.

As we head into August this year, let’s take a long hard look at the state of our sales departments.  Fear, uncertainty, and multiple changes have slowed down the typical buying cycles and more is demanded of the salespeople to create results.  Now, add in the dog days of summer where decision-makers have “checked out” on various vacations, and the salespeople really have a challenge on their hands.

In such a diverse set of circumstances in the industries in which we are coaching, there is one thing that remains constant this summer.  That is the need for the salespeople to stay focused on what’s going on in their respective marketplaces and to project themselves and their sales heading into the upcoming quarter.

Have your salespeople met their projected results thus far this year?  If so, how will they continue that trend into the close of the year?  If not, what magical events will occur for them to hit company goals for the close of the year?  As we head into August, we might want to go back and take inventory of our people, our processes, our systems, and our goals.

Remember, the holiday months are less than 120 days away.  During those months, many companies tend to have a similar experience with the results of their sales departments.  People are focused more on the holidays then they are on finishing the year strong.  Why fall victim to this phenomenon this year?  Now is the time to start planning your approach in the marketplace for the end of the year.  What can be done different internally?  How can you look to build a platform on which your people will strive for greater results?

Here is a blueprint plan of ACTION!!

1-Turn up the volume!  HUSTLE!

I often see the management and leadership elements of organizations “taking a hiatus” during the summer months. Now is the time to increase your focus on your team.  Get on the phones with them today!  Get in the field with them today!  Show them the HUSTLE and URGENCY that you need from them.  Re-engage with your teams and model the behavior that you seek!  If you are willing to do it (and do it more than once), then they have no excuse!

2-Follow the LEADER

Do you remember playing that game with your friends when you were young?  Play it with your company now!  In order for the game to be any fun, however, you need a leader!  Are you willing to jump in with both feet and LEAD?  Leaders communicate, recognize, empower, coach, direct, and win with their people!  Managers aren’t always leaders.  Besides….who ever played “follow the Manager?”

  • Start an “intensity” month with daily morning huddles defining the day’s strategy.
  • Measure everything and inspect what you expect!
  • Have an ALL-HANDS meeting and bring in an expert to re-align all the players.
  • Develop a 6-month IDP (Individual Development Plan) with each of your people.
  • Redefine what WINNING means and start driving that bus!

3-Design and Run a New Contest

What do you need more of?  What needs more attention and focus from your team?  What areas need re-energizing?

  • New products need to get into the marketplace?
  • Customer service standards need to dramatically increase?
  • New accounts need to be opened?
  • Need to penetrate, fortify, and grow your top 25 accounts?
  • Relationships need to improve with your best clients?
  • Need to get new “breath” on the team?

4-STOP Recognizing and Rewarding Mediocrity

Is it OK to fail when working for you?  Is it OK to not really try when working for you?  Is it OK to not really be ALL-IN when working for you?  Is it OK to not meet minimum expectations when working for you?  If so……you are letting your people down.  Every time we let it be “OK” to any of the above things, we actually make it OK to be mediocre!  Why, because MOST people are only mediocre.  Most people phone it in, don’t really push themselves, and don’t ever travel the extra mile!

Identify those that have either “checked out” on you or on themselves and the team and do something about it!  They may choose to “phone it in” each day ONLY because you make it OK to do so.

We have less than 4 months left in the year to accomplish our goals.  Don’t let the summer Dog Days drag you, your people, and your results down.  DO SOMETHING about it….NOW!!

Successful Time Management Strategies

importance-of-time-management

How many times have you caught yourself saying it, “I just don’t have the time?”. Think for a moment about what you might be able to accomplish if you had an extra day each week, an extra week each month, or an extra month each year? Would that help you get more of the results you are looking for?

Let’s take a look at “Time Management” and what that really means. We don’t need to learn how to manage time well. We need to learn how to manage ourselves well. Time management is personal management. Time management is life management. Each one of us has been given the same 24 hours in a day. Time management is what you do with the time you have been given.

When I speak about time management in my workshops and seminars, I often say, as I learned from Stephen Covey, “There are only two things you work on every single day. These two things are either “priorities” and/or “urgencies”.  Let me define them simply for you in my terms:  Priorities are your goals. Urgencies are everybody else’s goals. If you don’t have your goals clearly written down, you will more than likely find yourself working towards other people’s goals and towards other people’s successes.

One of the reasons that many people are not effective managers of time is that they are not focused enough on their own goals. If you have not taken the time to define your own goals and hold yourself accountable to achieving your goals you will not know where your priorities lie. You will become slave to other people’s priorities and you will more than likely be heard to cry, “There are just not enough hours in the day!”

Here are 7 quick strategies to assist you. (Again, many of these tips were gleaned from books read and tips adapted from others—By the way, you are doing the same thing right now if you choose to ACT on these tips!)

  • Begin each day the night before. DO NOT go home until you have decided what you need to accomplish the next day AND you have written it down.  You need to get into the practice of thinking and planning on paper.  You need to start working from lists.  You will find the most effective managers of their time work from lists.  When you work from a list you tend to be very focused on what you need to accomplish.  You know what you need to accomplish because you are very focused on your goals. Start with a master list. Your master list may be (or include) your annual goals.  These might be broken down into quarterly goals. There are monthly goals, weekly goals and of course daily goals.  Some people even break it down further into partial days and into hourly goals.  Writing things down help keep you focused and focus precedes success! Learn to think on paper. Learn to plan on paper. Limit the amount of “stuff/things to do” you put on your “to do” list.  If you put too much stuff on your list you risk becoming overwhelmed—and then the list becomes a list of broken promises. Learn to say, “no” when something comes up throughout the course of the day, and something always comes up!  When things do come up, before you address it- before you start working on it-before you move on it, write it down on your daily list and stack it up against everything else.  Rank it against everything else before you take action on it because I guarantee you before you start working on somebody else’s urgency, which is somebody else’s priority, which is somebody else’s goals, you might want to have your goals come up first!

 

  • Remember the 80/20 principle.  The principle says that 80% of the results that you get every day come from 20% of the things that are on your list. That means there are 1 or 2 items that are on your list every day that severely affect the outcome of the results that you get every single day.  Therefore, be careful what you are working on.  Often, we tend come into the office and focus on getting the “little stuff” out of the way first.  How many times have you started to work on the “little stuff” and the next thing you know, its 2:00 in the afternoon? When this happens, you might start feeling like a victim because now you are not getting the things done you wanted to accomplish that day

 

  • Take your list and rank it continually. Here is a simple way to rank your list every day.  Write down a simple. alphabet:  A, B, C, D, E. Any “A” items that are on your list are “MUST DO” tasks. These are the non-negotiable items that often have serious consequences if you don’t get them done.  It might be a proposal you have to get done or a deal that’s got to get closed. It could be a part that has to be delivered etc. A word of caution here; Be careful how many “must do” items are on your list!  Next, rank your “A’s” according to priority: #1 – A, #2 – A and so forth.
    • “B” ranked items are “SHOULD DO” tasks.  These are the things that should get done but if they don’t there are only mild consequences. The important thing to keep in mind about “B” items is that you never start a “B” task until all of the “A” tasks are done.
    • The “C” items are the “NICE TO DO” tasks.  It might be lunch with a colleague or perhaps running an errand. These “nice to do’s” never ever get started until both the “A” and “B” items have been checked off.
    • The “D” items are meant to be DELEGATED to someone else.  As the sales professional, you should be the highest paid person in your organization. YOU pay you. If your desire is to earn a lot of money, you must ask yourself all the time, “Is what I am doing right now indicative of the highest paid person in this organization?” If the answer is “NO” than determine who you can delegate the item to. Remember, if you don’t have an assistant, you ARE one!
    • The “E’s” on your list are those items you need to ELIMINATE.  Often the “E” items are things like bad habits.

 

  • Define your key result areas. What are the things you need to do in order to be a sales professional?  You have to prospect. You have to be able to negotiate. You have to be able to work well on the phone and you have to be able to work well in a group setting. You have to network and you have to generate referrals. You have to possibly cold call and send well-crafted emails. You have to learn to open by asking better questions. You have to listen to your customer, etc. etc. There are MANY things you have to be able to do to be effective as a Sales Professional.  Once you define your key result areas, next figure out the areas you lack the most confidence in or have a tendency to be the least effective at. These are the areas you tend to need the most help with and the areas that require the most focus. Buy some books and read them, takes some courses, invest in Internet training, invest in a coach and get better in these areas.  Why is this in a time management article? Very simple.  If you don’t have the time to do it correctly and effectively, how in the world will you have the time to do it over? The areas you are the most ineffective at will always hold you back from your success as a Sales Professional!  Define those key result areas you are going to focus on and devote the time to.

 

  • Take one bite at a time.  There is an old joke: Q: how do you eat an elephant?  A: One bite at a time.  Many of us have large projects in front of us with big things we must accomplish. It could be a huge “to-do” list or one overwhelming task. The feeling might be, “I will NEVER get that done!” You might procrastinate or talk about it. You may just moan and complain until you are behind the gun in time.  Try focusing on each task and THAT alone. Start it; finish it. Get it done and get it off the list. In this way, you will slowly start to move your way through.  Even the largest houses are built one brick at a time.  The most successful sales people built their book of business ONE account at a time. Practice creative procrastination.  This is done by learning what NOT to do.  In time management, it’s not just figuring out what needs to get done, it’s often figuring out what can be left undone that is critical.  Some of the best masters of their time are the ones that set things aside that don’t need to get done right now and address them later. Often times salespeople tend to work on the little stuff or we work on other people’s stuff or we work on stuff that seems easier. It’s these items that have little impact and severely decrease our productivity (although it fills us with activity) and thus take away from the management of our time.

 

  • “Eat the big frog first.”  There is an old saying that says if you’ve got to sit down and eat a bunch of frogs, don’t stare at them for too long and if you are going to get started, eat the biggest frog first.  Every day, what do we do?  We come in to the office and we say, “let me just clear this up, check these emails”, let me do this, let me do that, and the next thing you know, it is 4:00 and we have these big tasks and big jobs overwhelming us!  We’ve got all these things going on and not only are we not productive with our time; we are not getting the things done that we need to get done!  This is the time to take you’re A, B, C, D, E list out.  The first thing that you work on is the biggest frog.  You’re A-1 task is your biggest frog! Sit down and tackle it.  Start it; work your way through it and finish it.

 

  • Develop and maintain a sense or urgency.  Put an exclamation above your head, put an asterisk on either side on it and that’s what you want to be your logo for life as a sales professional. (*!*) You are in a world where everyone needs something done and they need it done now!  The people who are the most successful in the profession of sales are those who get it done better and get it done faster! Nike has built an empire around 3 words, “Just Do It”.  My 3 words are “Get It Done”.  Get it done and move on to the next thing.  That’s the hallmark of time management professionals.  Here are a few tips for doing so:
    • Tip #1: Single handle every task.  Start it; get all the way through it before you move onto the next thing. You will cut the time it takes to do everything else in half.
    • Tip #2: Join the 5 o’clock club. Get up in the morning earlier.  From 5:00 a.m. – 7:00 a.m., I have a little thing that I like to call the Golden 120 because those are my 120 minutes every day that customers do not need me, my wife does not need me, my kids do not need me and my employees do not need me. Those 120 minutes are “my time”.  I may choose to work out, read a book, or write newsletter article or a new sales training module. The one thing I am NOT going to do during this time is sleep it away! You will be amazed at how much you can get done every day with the Golden 120 in the 5 o’clock club.
    • Tip #3: Turn your inbound Email off until 10 o’clock. Don’t open your email until 10 o’clock. When you are taking emails from people, you are working on what they want you to do.  Focus on what you do from 8 to 10; you will be amazed at what happens.

 

I want to wish you the absolute best of selling and remember, there is no such thing as the management of time. Practicing self-discipline along with these 7 strategies above will set you on your way to effectively manage the time that you have been given and ensure that you are working on YOUR priorities.

The Top 10 Things That Top Sales People Do

Shot of two businessmen shaking hands

Top Sales Pros are a special breed of cat.  They engage in decidedly different activities on a regular basis.  Although they walk and talk the same at first glance, they do very unique things every day that, in and of themselves are not overly special but, when combined, these things create a vortex of success that attracts the best customers, the most referrals, the strongest relationships and the highest commissions!

I have been fortunate to be a sales professional for many years that others have placed in the “Top Sales Pro” category.  In addition, I have the pleasure of working with many top sales pros (and many more on the other end of the spectrum) every year in my business as a speaker and sales coach.  In doing so, I have witnessed some of the best practices that are consistent among only the best.  The 10 things that I have compiled below are not the only things that these Heavy Hitters do, but they are, in my opinion, the most important:

1. They Take Full Responsibility

The Best of the Best never place blame on others for their failure or misfires.  They realize that the only one responsible for their success or failure is the person that they stare at in the mirror every morning.  By accepting responsibility for everything, they NEVER become the victim of competition, market circumstances, pricing, or any other issues that are attacking their competition that whine, complain, and sit around waiting for the next big bad wolf.

2. They Guard Their Attitudes with Their Lives

The Top Producers understand that their Attitude is their most important asset to their success and they do everything they can to make sure they bolster it and protect it.  They never hang around with those who choose to place blame, point fingers, complain, and bellyache.  They go out of their way to associate with winners and successful people.  Although they may get invitations to the pity parties, they never choose to attend. In addition, these cats NEVER feel that they know it all.  In fact, they always seek other’s opinions, knowledge, and experience.  They believe anything is possible and you know what…most of the time, they are right!

3. They Feed Their Brains-Every Day

The Best of the Best did not just wake up one day on the top of the heap.  They actually worked hard to feed their brains the things that it needs to grow.  They realize that the marketplace never stands still.  They realize that customers needs will always change and they choose to stay ahead of the curve.  Consequently, they read books, articles, and reports in the areas that demand their attention.  They constantly “sharpen their axes” in the areas of salesmanship, customer service, empathy, and differentiation. They seek to become an expert in their field by increasing their knowledge every day on purpose.

4. Plan-Prepare-Practice

The Top Producers always seem to have a plan.  It all starts with major clarity on their goals.  They are very clear on the WHY so the WHAT and the HOW become their focus.  The Heavy Hitters go into every call with a purpose and a higher level of preparation.  They have run through all the “what-if” scenarios.  They have thought through, written down, and practiced the questions that they will ask.  They have mentally run through everything from the customer’s prospective.  They are prepared to “open” the customer more effectively and practiced at transitioning to the “close” of the sale.  They know the solid IMPACT statements and questions at the right time because they plan them, prepare them, and practice them ALL the time.

5. They Brand Themselves in Their Marketplace 

The Cream of the Selling Crop make sure that they are “known-for” something in the marketplace.  They create a buzz about who they are and what they know or do by becoming visible to those who may use their product or service.  They realize that being a vendor is a tough gig because vendors are a dime a dozen, unless the customer only wants to pay a nickel.  The Best of the Best want to be known as the EXPERT. They do the things necessary to position themselves in the marketplace as THE CHOICE rather than A CHOICE.  They take the time to write articles and have them published in magazines and newsletters that their customers read.  They get out of their comfort zones and look to speak at industry events that their customers attend.  They constantly and consistently “touch” their prospects, customers, and clients in a variety of creative and value-add ways to ensure top of consciousness in the minds of the buyers.  Top Pros always seek to create “Only Me” value to the sale.

6. They are Willing to Lose

All too often, most salespeople don’t take the risk of asking for the YES because they are afraid to hear the NO.  The Top Sales Pros understand that they are in the NO taking business.  They also understand that their success is highly dependant upon their willingness to “crash and burn” in failure.  Jeffery Gitomer once sated that “Most people won’t risk because they think they fear the unknown.  The real reason that they won’t risk is because they lack the preparation and education that breeds the self confidence (self-belief) to take a chance.”  The great Wayne Gretzky once said that “You miss 100% of the shots that you never take.”  And so it is with the best salespeople:  They get out in front and risk it all for themselves, for the customer, and for their career because they know that most of their competition will STOP when the pressure of the potential loss gets too high.

7. They Recognize Opportunity and Take ACTION Faster

Top Sales Professionals do not get more opportunities than all the rest.  It just seems that way because they are always on “high receive” looking for it.  They put themselves in situations where opportunity tends to be present.  They understand that opportunity at first can look like problems, challenges, or adversity.  They further understand that CHANGE is often at the base of opportunity.  They realize that this is true from their perspective and from the customers-and thus, their lies the opportunity. They don’t hesitate. They don’t sit around strategizing.  They take action!  When most people are wondering if it will work, the Top Sales Professionals are getting the awards for getting it done!  Events get attended with different purposes.  Articles get read with different eyes.  Conversations get heard with different ears.

8. They are a Resource

Top Producers are the go-to people for their customers.  They have the answers to their customers’ questions and the solutions to their problems.  They realize that the world is full of “Takers” that will come in and “take” the customer’s time, “take” the customer’s order, and “take” the customer’s money, but rarely, if ever, add anything of value to the relationship.  Top Producers realize that, in order to continually be valuable to the customer, they need to become more than a vendor.  They need to know the customer’s world as well or better than they know theirs. The Best of the Best always “bring something to the table” that changes the outlook of the customer and makes them think or perform in different ways.  The Top Pros are there for more than the order; they are there through thick and thin, providing the value of their expertise and knowledge to those whom he cares about the most-his/her customer.

9. They Take Time to Re-Charge

The Heavy Hitters do a lot of things that most salespeople will not do.  This takes time, energy, passion, commitment, and focus.  All of the results that they get come from hard-work and dedication to the job.  The Best of the Best not only know when to do these things, they also know when to “shut it down” and re-fuel.  Even the fastest cars (the ones that are winning) in Nascar races have to make their occasional pit-stop to re-fuel and get ready for the next leg of the race.  They cannot continue to win the race unless they do.  So it is with Top Salespeople.  In order to keep winning the race of professional sales, they need to have a quality of life outside the selling marketplace.  The Best of the Best know that the only reason to be in this game (sales) is to have a better life and more of it!  We find that these cats take longer/better vacations, schedule more time with their families, dig deeper into “outside work” passions/hobbies, and overall get more out of life than those who “work the grind.”  They realize that enjoyment and passion are synonymous with Success and if too much WORK goes into one area over another, the enjoyment and the passion start to fade.

10. They Take What They Do Very Seriously Without Taking Themselves Too Serious

The Best of the Best in sales realize that they are in a profession. Just like all professionals, there are expectations that customers hold them to.  A doctor has expectations that not only will she have a good bedside manner, but that she will know her area of expertise to such a degree that human lives may be placed in her care.  A lawyer has expectations to know not only the law (today’s law) but to also know everything else about his area of expertise such that success or failure at the hands of a jury is entrusted to him.  And so it is with sales professionals:  The Top Pros know that The Profession of Sales is for Sales Professionals.  As professionals, they know that the 9 areas that I have listed above require their constant attention.  They realize that the solutions that they can and do provide for their customers can change lives and affect so many.  And yet, with all of that in mind, they go into the battle each day with a light heart and a sound attitude knowing that they will hear no.  They realize that having FUN is a vital part of the game and that most people would rather do business with a friend than with a salesperson.  And so, they strive to be light hearted and heavily focused to gain the trust of the people with whom they choose to engage.

It has been said that Success Leaves Clues. Hopefully these success strategies of the Top Sales pros will give you some clue as to where you can get back on track to superstardom in the profession of selling.

It’s Thanksgiving…What Have We To Be Thankful For?

 

i-am-thankful

Each year I find myself adding up the many good fortunes that I have been able to leverage and also, like most, listing some of the challenges that I faced in accomplishing everything that I wanted to.  I have listed the Top 5 Things for Which I am Thankful every year:

  1. I am thankful for being given the blind faith and enthusiasm to believe that I can achieve most things to which I set my mind.  I have read many books on self-belief and attitude to the point where I guess I am just dumb enough to believe that it is me that, in fact, decides.
  2. I am thankful for having a healthy sense of paranoia that forces me to be better prepared so that I am rarely caught by surprise on most types of business matters.
  3. I am thankful for having the desire to rise early each day and to attack the day for 2 hours before most out of bed.  I honestly feel that this gives me an advantage that any could take, but few do!
  4. I am thankful for being introduced, early in my professional life, to the importance of goals and creating a blueprint for success each year.  The ability to write a plan and follow that plan has led to increased results every year.
  5. I am thankful for getting re-introduced to “The Strangest Secret” by Earl Nightengale which states quite simply; “You become what you think about most!”  This book and recording keeps reminding me to keep my thoughts focused on the right thingsso that my results will follow.

    ~~~~~~
    From all of us here at Sales Coach International we wish you a Thanksgiving full of family, love and many reasons to be thankful for!!
    ~~~~~

The BEST Management Tool…

deadline
As you head into a new year, the time has come to re-visit your goals of 2015 and see how you did.  What was it that you wanted to accomplish?  Where was it that you wanted to go?  What was it that you wanted to do?  How much was it that you were going to make?  What changes did you commit to implementing in 2015?

Often, when working with some of our “coach clients” we tend to see similar goals set every year.  Some of these goals NEVER actually get hit, but continue to get set every year nonetheless.  I suggest that this year, we do something different!  I suggest that this year, we look at goal setting for 2016 as a new chance to accomplish things that we never have!

“The best management tool is a deadline!”

One of the most overlooked areas in goal setting is attaching a time by which your goals go from paper to reality.  By first writing down your goals and then by attaching a date which they will be accomplished, you set a deadline for your success and thus necessitate that a plan of action be created in order for you to hit not only the goal, but also to hit the deadline!

If you truly want to make a difference this year in your career and/or your personal life, attach dates to all of your desired accomplishments.  Make sure that your goals are written down with a deadline and a game plan.  Get “a win or two” every month versus trying to accomplish them all by the end of 2016.

An amazing thing happens to you when you set a goal, plan your attack, attack your plan, and accomplish what it is that you wanted.  It will change your life forever.  In my opinion though, it all starts by giving yourself a deadline to your dreams. 

 

Focus Precedes Success (Part 2)

There are a handful of common things on which top salespeople put their focus regularly. I have picked out three of these areas for this article so that my readers can get started (or continue) putting their constant attention where they need to:

This is Part II in a three part series about FOCUS for Salespeople

II—Begin with the End in Mind
Stephen Covey introduced us to this habit in his book entitled “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.” It is my belief that when a salesperson focuses on what the end result looks and feels like in any sales cycle, he/she will navigate the seas with a stronger purpose.

Note: Beginning with the end in mind is about the results that the customer gets with the use of your product or service and NOT about simply making a sale!!

This area of focus backs up what I wrote about Pre Call Preparation in my last post but it also requires that you start with a vision and a goal. So, if we are to take a look at three areas of dialogue on which top sellers focus their sales process, they would be:

1-A Look Back over Your Shoulder-(What got us to this point?)
2-A Current Overview (What is the “State of affairs?”)
3-What do you Want to be When you Grow Up? (What is the vision of the ideal future?)

This format allows us to “frame up” the things that got the prospective buyer to where they are and to define the things that are necessary to get them where they want to go. Again, it starts with understanding the past and current situation and then defining the path (with the customer) to the previously defined (and mutually desired) result.

As a salesperson, I often looked at the entire sales cycle as a series of gates that needed to be entered and closed before we could move to the next. Once a gate was closed, then we could proceed to the next step. I believed, as I still do (and teach), that every step of the sales cycle must have two clear things:

1-A clear PURPOSE for the call (as mentioned in my previous post) and
2-A clear

—you can’t always CLOSE the sale, but you have to always close the next step.

The difference that I have found between top producers and most other salespeople is that they define the END of their sales cycle differently. Most salespeople think that the final stage is when the contract is CLOSED. Top Salespeople feel that the sales cycle is not complete until they have received their TENTH referral from the client. This is based upon results! This one difference changes the strategy on most of the sales calls and changes the preparation and value-add initiatives on every interaction of the sales cycle!

Next blog post on FOCUS addresses the need for Constant Forward Motion—don’t miss it!

How to save time on every sales call

We’ve been looking at time management, and a big part of your day is the sales call, so let’s take a closer look at how to prepare for a more time-efficient sales call.

I’ve asked the question before: “What’s the purpose of this call?”

If you don’t have that question answered, in writing, the chances are, your call is not going to get the desired results — because you don’t know what they are. If you’re clear on your purpose, you’re going to be more focused on your sales call.

More focused on your sales call is better for you and your customer, because he wants this time-management stuff too. Because sales people take up his time. Asking yourself about the purpose of this call helps you design better questions.

To design better questions, you write them down.

You write them down, you practice them.

You practice them, then you are better at them.

You ask them better, they get answers.

They get the right answers, and they get the right answers the first time.

The right answers the first time give you more knowledge.

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Want to change your life? Rock your to-do list!

Can you really change your life with your to-do list?

Yes, you can. And here’s how: Prepare the night before. Think on paper. Put your to do list together and write everything down. And be ready to limit the amount of things that are on that list.

If you just put down everything you think of, you end up with an enormous list – and you know what happens then. You start your day and you find the smallest thing on this list and just get that knocked out. telling yourself: “Let me just clear up the little stuff first.”

And you keep going like that. Here’s the danger in that: That little stuff will suck you into a time vortex that takes you away from your priorities.

If you are going to write things down on a list, make sure they are your priorities, or your manager’s priorities, or your customer’s priorities.

Work on the biggest ones first, until they’re done. Leave the little stuff until the end of the day. The most important thing to think about when you are working on this is: What’s the purpose of this activity?
Is it taking me closer to my goals, or further away?

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How to use your to-do list to be more successful

The to-do list is more than just a good idea. It’s a necessity.

So how do you make a list that will accommodate all the stuff that gets thrown at you, and still enable you to stay on track?

At the end of the day, you plan for the next day. You prioritize and get your A items listed out. Those are the must-do items.

Your B items are your should-do items.

Your C items are your nice-to-do items. Now this is where most sales people fall into a trap, and  focus too much time on their nice-to-do’s .

The nice-to-do’s might be lunch with a colleague, running an errand. Let’s face it. When you’re doing this stuff, you’re not working on the clock. You’re not necessarily punching a clock You don’t have a manager looking over your shoulder, asking “Where are you? What are you doing?”

And you’re in the field. So you can run those errands. You can stop home. Pick up the dry cleaning. Things like that. Nice-to-do’s. But the nice-to-do’s can eat up your day. Be careful with the nice-to-do’s. I’m not saying always avoid them. Nice-to-do’s can also be disguised as “Well this is important,” like visiting an existing customer.

If you don’t have a purpose for your call, visiting the existing customer is just visiting. And visiting is nice to do. Visiting with a plan takes it up a notch, and it’s more efficient use of your time. So your C items, be careful with what you’re doing.

You move to your D items, the ones that should be delegated to somebody else.

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Want to get more done? Add two hours to your day

It turns out you can’t really manage time, after all.

But it is possible to accomplish more things during a certain amount of time, if you have a plan.

Let’s take it down to the micro-view: When you have a to-do list, every day, then chances are you’ve got a road map on which to run.

Now, we all know that more stuff comes up during the day. A customer calls with their hair on fire, and you’ve got to take care of something. Something got left out the truck, and you’ve got to run a two-hour round trip out to their place of business.

How do we prepare to accomplish the things that we want to accomplish each day, even as all these other things are coming up?

Say I need to accomplish two ½ days worth of work on Tuesday. It’s going to be sales-related, administrative-related, strategic as well as tactical. On top of that, I’ve got a two-year old at home who I want to spend some time with. And I’d still like to get that workout in the morning. And walk my daughter to school.

There are things that are going to have to get accomplished, so I need to prepare by making a list.

The best and most efficient time managers are those people who plan every day the night before. Every day, you need to have a list of everything that you got to accomplish the next day. And it needs to be ranked in order of importance: A, B, C, D and E.

The A items are the must-do’s. They are of heavy importance and there will be major consequences if you don’t get them accomplished. Those are the things with serious deadlines. They have heavy priorities attached, your priorities or your manager’s priorities.

But there are several of them, too often, during the day that we have to accomplish. Now those are the first things that we work on, the most important things. Now, typically if they’re big, nasty, hairy projects that are going to take a couple of hours of our time we have a tendency to kind of put those off and say, “OK, I’m going to schedule some time in the day, my quiet time…”

No. First thing every day you need to attack those. Now, you’ve got the Golden 120 in the morning, from 5 a.m. until 7 a.m.

You want to get more done? Get up early. From seven, eight o’clock in the morning until five, six o’clock at night you’re at the mercy of everybody else’s priorities. Everybody else’s screaming and jumping up and down complaining. You’re at the mercy of your manager. You’re at the mercy of your family. You’re at the mercy of your customers and so forth.

You want to be a winner? If you want to get more done with your time, give yourself more time. Get up early. Get in the five o’clock club and stop complaining that you never have any time for yourself because from 5 a.m. to 7 a.m. is your time — 120 minutes of uninterrupted  time to advance your most critical priorities and goals. Just do it.

Next week we’ll look closer at how to create a prioritized list that will keep you on track.

Photo by dicktay2000, via Creative Commons 2.o.