Guest post by Gregg Schwartz.
We are all given the same 24 hours in a day, but the most successful people manage to make more efficient use of these hours—they waste less time, they get more done, they focus on the right activities at the right time to maximize efficiency. Small businesses can often develop a competitive advantage not by price or selection, but by being more efficient and focused than the big companies.
- Waste not, want not: Pay rigorous attention to how much time is being wasted every day on non-essential activities. Are you having too many meetings, or too many conference calls? Are you losing too many hours to disorganization or uncertainty or indecision about what to do next? Figure out the root of the problem and then correct it.
- Make it a habit. Set aside a block of time every single day for making sales calls, prospecting, or doing the unglamorous work of drumming up new business opportunities. If you don’t put it on your calendar, it won’t get done. Make sales a daily ritual. Treat it like a client meeting and schedule it in—after all, your business’s most important client, ultimately, is YOUR business! No one is going to step in and force you to do what needs to be done to get bigger sales results; you have to do it yourself. Whether it’s a simple pen-and-paper to do list or a customized spreadsheet or a more sophisticated CRM system or project management system, you need to find a way to systematically map out your sales prospects and keep updated notes on where each prospect stands in your sales process.
- Do the right things. Try to minimize the amount of time that you spend on activities that really do not drive your sales success. Of course, this is easier said than done! Lots of sales teams fall into a comfortable rut where they’re used to spending time updating their CRM or checking in with existing accounts, rather than going after new business. Do you really know what are the most important drivers of your success? Make a list of your top five priorities, whether it’s going after certain new accounts or updating your sales presentation or re-evaluating your list of stakeholders who need to be contacted at a prospective client organization. Sometimes the simple process of writing down your top priorities will help you feel calmer and better organized and will help you use your time more effectively.
- Stop procrastinating. Again, this is easier said than done! But procrastination is ultimately an expression of fear—fear of success, fear of failure, fear of wasting time. Ironically, by being afraid to make the wrong move, by being afraid to fail, by being afraid to waste time on a sales call that doesn’t pan out, we actually leave ourselves WORSE off by procrastinating—because we end up wasting time and feeling anxious and frustrated with nothing to show for it!
- Don’t get bogged down in “urgency.” One of the best ideas from the “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” is that business leaders need to get better at distinguishing between truly important tasks and merely “urgent” tasks that seem important because they are right in front of you today. Instead of spending your whole day fighting fires and responding to emergencies, make sure you are making time each day for long-term planning, developing long-range sales leads, investing in your employees’ skills, and otherwise building the strengths of your business for the long term.
- Plan your day – and your week – in advance! Do you know what your goals are for each day this week? What about the week or the month as a whole? Lots of business owners are good at big picture thinking and strategic visionary planning, but they falter at the day-to-day routine of getting things done in an orderly fashion. To make sure you don’t wind up in the weeds, take some time at the start of each week—such as Sunday night—to write down some detailed plans for the week. What is most important to you? What do you want to get accomplished? What needs to happen when? By giving yourself some daily goals, you will create structure for how to use your time throughout the week—and this is priceless.
Some people might say that this is a chicken-and-egg problem, right? You might feel like, “Sure, I’d love to do a better job of managing my time, but I’m too busy dealing with all the challenges at my business.” It’s understandable to feel that way. But the truth is, proper time management is not just a reflection of a well-run business; it enables you to run your business well. Good time management is not a “result” or prize that you get to enjoy “once your business gets to a certain point;” it’s something you have to focus on every day so you can build your business.
Small business owners who cannot manage their time tend to not stay in business for long! Or even if they do, their companies never reach their potential. Focus on managing your time, and all of your other management challenges are likely to get a lot easier!
About the Author
Gregg Schwartz is the vice president of sales and marketing at Strategic Sales & Marketing, a lead-generation firm based in Connecticut. His company helps technology companies and various startups and small-to-mid-size businesses in the business-to-business sales category generate sales leads and improve their sales processes.