7 Tricks To Increase Your Sales Productivity by 73%

time management

Being a top seller and staying a top seller are two very different situations. We all know that the first few months of selling can be like a natural high, with the sheer excitement to succeed bringing out the best salesperson in most of us. After a while, though, people often find themselves falling into ragged routines that lead overall to a decline in reach and to general sales malaise. Numbers fall.

Fortunately, it doesn’t take a lot of change to fix the situation. With the following sales productivity hacks, you can make your daily routine more efficient, reinvigorating your book of business.

1. Plan your week out before it starts.

Making a plan of your week ahead of time eliminates wasteful activities throughout the day and allows you more time to increase your sales numbers. The benefits of this method were recently highlighted in the Harvard Business Review. Fifteen executives were asked to think critically about the activities that were most important to them, and then to schedule their time accordingly. The result? An average of six (6) hours less desk time and two hours less meeting time.

How to Do It:

It usually takes between 1-2 hours each week to plan out your week. Choose the same time and location each week, and play your favorite music or treat yourself to a special food while you make your schedule. This way, you eventually end up establishing your planning time as a habit, and it becomes an activity that you look forward to.

Your planning time should be as much about goals met as tasks not yet accomplished. Spend 5-10 minutes reflecting on how well you did last week in meeting your sales goals, or why certain deals fell through. Then, list out the most important activities for this week – time with family, researching sales opportunities, civic responsibilities, work meetings, etc. Follow this with everything else, from taking out the garbage and following up on leads to taking a well-deserved breaks.

Notes For the Naysayers:

True. Planning takes time, and you don’t have much of that right now – but it’s well worth the trouble. The bestselling author and entrepreneur Brian Tracy says, “For every minute you spend planning, you gain 10 in execution.” By that standard, taking an hour to plan out your week gains you 10 hours of efficiency. And, by committing to a weekly planning date, it will become an automated process that takes less time each week.

2. Get important things done first every day.

Although you may be used to starting your day with a leisurely cup of coffee and reading a slew of emails, you are wasting the most powerful part of your sales day. A recent study showed that over a third of workers and salespeople are at their most productive between 9am and 11am. Willpower and decision-making ability are at their peak during these times, and become weaker throughout the day. In a recent study by the Harvard University Center of Ethics, researchers found that test subjects were more likely to be honest in the early part of the day, when the “willpower muscle” was stronger.

Instead of putting menial tasks and rituals in this precious time slot, do the things most important to you. Meditate, exercise, or set up vital sales calls. Putting these things first gives them more priority in your life and is an easy life hack for increasing productivity.

Notes For the Naysayers:

It seems hard to break the habit of slow-morning email reading that has become your favorite part of the day. Yet, research shows your willpower is stronger earlier in the morning, which makes it a perfect time to do difficult tasks. By getting these larger tasks out of the way first, you are less likely to try to procrastinate them. And, as researchers found at the Unversity of DePaul, procrastination of large projects is one of the key time-wasters in your workday.

3. Cut out distractions.

In 2006, researchers at the University of California at Irvine, in connection with the Basex information technology research firm, studied how to improve workplace productivity. They found that workplace interruptions cost the U.S. economy over $580 billion per year and cut the work day down by over two hours. By cutting out distractions, you are more focused on the task at hand, which leads to more sales conversions and less stress.

How to Do It:

First, you need to know exactly how much time you’re losing to distractions and when you’re most likely to go off-track. Take a few days and audit your time. How much time are you spending on social media? Non-work phone calls? Are you more distracted when you’re hungry? How much of your day is spent reading and answering emails?

After you’ve observed your own behavior, you can create a plan that helps you be more on-task during the day. Turn off e-mail notifications and social media pings during your times of weakest focus. Consider an app like Self-Control or Concentrate that block off certain types of activities or websites at predetermined times. Or maybe, take a course or read an article on how to be more productive in Outlook. That way, you spend less time on email and more time focusing on your clients.

Notes For the Naysayers:

Many sales professionals defend their “necessary distractions” as an important part of their work day. Social media, emails, customer calls – each of these so-called distractions add to your bottom line.

The thing to remember is that your brain just isn’t as good at multitasking as you think it is. In fact, multitasking actually makes you 40% less productive, according to the American Psychological Association. That doesn’t mean don’t take breaks or check your email. That means you need to set aside time where you can focus solely on your sales responsibilities as well as time purely for social connection.

4. Focus on results-oriented activities (the 80/20 principle).

It’s easy to get so caught up in being busy that you lose sight of being an effective salesperson. Remember, as Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto explained: 20% of the input creates 80% of the output. That means that there are only a few things on your to-do list that account for the bulk of the sales activities you actually do each day.

How to Do It:

Mentally go through your daily responsibilities. Which ones have the highest conversion rate? Which ones have proven to lead to long-term investments from clients? Which ones make up the bulk of your income? Whittle that list down to the top 3-5 tasks. That is your 20% that brings in 80% of your business. Brainstorm ways to focus more time and attention on these activities. Are referrals making up 40% of your total sales? It’s time to think of ways to meet with clients and drum up more referrals. Do you do your best work on the golf course? Make a plan to do it each week, and watch your sales numbers soar.

Notes For the Naysayers:

One of the most common complaints with the Pareto Principle (80/20 Rule) is that there are still 80% of your tasks that still have to be done. Answering phone calls, checking email, etc., lead to very few opportunities, and don’t need as much attention as you think. These are among the top tasks to delegate and outsource, and keep you from focusing your time where it will be most successful. You can also find ways to eliminate or cut short the time you spend on these tasks. Remember, they only make up 20% of your book of business. Only give them 20% of your day.

5. Do one thing (or, one type of thing) at a time by batching tasks.

When someone asks you how to be more productive, your gut instinct might be to suggest multitasking. Unfortunately, multitasking is a sales habit that is quickly going out of style. In the late 1990s, researchers began to study the effects of quickly switching between tasks on work performance and mental acuity. What they found was that every time a person must “change goals” there is a tiny cost in attentiveness and time, leading to a 40% decrease in productivity. The American Psychological Association states, “Multitasking may seem efficient on the surface but may actually take more time in the end and involve more error.”

A viable alternative is batch processing, or doing similar tasks in a given block of time. Because there is less cognitive dissonance between related jobs, the goal never really switches. That means that you don’t lose time and can remain focused on a single goal.

How to Do It:

In batch tasking, the goal is to set aside certain blocks of time to complete related items. For example, instead of making a sales call each day, take one day a week and put all your sales calls back-to-back. The Pomodoro Technique of batching tasks has a clearly defined process that might also be helpful.
1. List and prioritize your tasks for the week. Group them by type. (i.e. All phone things, All paperwork things, etc.)
2. Set a timer for 25 minutes and complete as many items in a group as you can during that time.
3. After completing each “Pomodoro” (25-minute segment) put an “X” next to it and write how many times you were distracted.
4. Take a short, 5-minute break.
5. Start another “Pomodoro.” Finish any unfinished business from the previous time segment.

Notes For the Naysayers:

A recent study from the University of Utah showed that people who think they are very good at multitasking are the worst at it. He said, “People don’t multitask because they’re good at it. They have trouble inhibiting the impulse to do another activity.”

Being more productive is about recognizing the impulse to do another activity and ignoring it in favor of focusing on a single task. By eliminating distractions and batching tasks, you are less likely to lose time on more entertaining pastimes that aren’t contributing to your bottom line.

6. Take breaks.

Focus is a vital part of being a top-level sales professional, but it’s impossible to sustain forever. In a 2008 University of Illinois study, it was found that small breaks actually increase the focus while completing a task. These breaks allow your brain to rest, and provide you with a surge of energy when you return back to the task at hand. And, the study showed that effective breaks can be as little as a few minutes long.

How to Do It:

Taking breaks is great for your productivity, as long as you’re doing it correctly. As previously stated, breaking up your day with mentally or morally challenging decision-making can actually make your brain more fatigued and unfocused. Instead, consider one of these break ideas:
•Take a small social break – In person or online, take five minutes to talk, laugh, and share with another person.
•Reward long period of focus – Try the Pomodoro method by working for a set amount of time (25-90 minutes) and then taking a break. The longer period of 90 minutes actually lends itself to more focus, as long as a 15-20 break comes after.
•Go on vacation – Researcher Mark Rosekind of Alertness Solutions found that work performance increased by 80% after sales staff returned from vacation time. And, an Oregon company, H Group saw their sales numbers increase by 15% after adding in a third week of vacation time for the staff.
•Take a power nap – Taking a 10-minute nap has been proven to increase efficiency and sales productivity for up to 2.5 hours after completing it.

Notes For the Naysayers:

For years, business owners have been worried that “off-task” behaviors cost companies millions of dollars each year. Yet, more and more research is pointing to the idea that sales staff that take small breaks throughout the day are more productive and happier in their job. A recent Academy of Management study showed that employees who were allowed to use the internet for personal breaks throughout the day were 16% more productive than those who were not allowed.

7. Take small steps.

In an attempt to be more productive, we often take on larger projects than we can handle. This leads to longer work hours, more frustration, and burnout. In a study by Janet Polivy and her colleagues published in the journal Appetite, research indicated that the brain “gives up” when it thinks a task is impossible or too big to accomplish. Breaking a large job down into smaller, manageable parts means you’re more likely to get it done, and be more driven to complete each section.

How to Do It:

First, it’s important to consider the deadline for the particular project, and how many hours you project it will take to finish it. Then, break down the task into actionable goals that can be completed in 15-20 minute increments. For example, if the goal is to land a large marketing contract, you may make a goal to create the slideshow for a presentation (15 mins), make reminder calls to all presentation attendees (15-20 mins), and review a few sales tips and resources (15 mins). As you complete each mini-goal, check it off and give yourself a short break as a reward.

Notes For the Naysayers:

It might seem like a time-saver to simply power through a large sales project. In fact, cutting a large project into smaller pieces means you can utilize the Zeigarnik Effect. This research asserts that you’re more likely to remember a project and be mentally engaged in it if it is in the process of being completed, rather than fully completed. That means large sales projects will be more present in your mind if they are made into smaller weekly pieces rather than worked on for days at a time.

What do you think?

Using these amazing sales productivity hacks is one of the easiest ways to see more focus and increased sales for yourself and your team. Incorporate just one today and see how much more you get done. It will astound you how much a little planning and some well-deserved breaks keeps you more motivated to sell and more energized about your daily routines.

Are there any we missed? If you have some great productivity hacks to share, please don’t be shy. We love to know what you think about staying motivated to be a top seller.

2014 Avidian Technologies, Inc.

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