Tip One: End Email Addiction
Email is the #1 thing that kills your productivity as a sales leader. You are actually addicted to checking your email, says Jill Konrath, president and CEO of Jill Konrath, Inc. and author of three award-winning books on selling. When you check your email, says Konrath, it releases dopamine into your body, a hormone that is chemically addicting.
It makes sense that checking email is addicting: Emails sometimes contain good news of sales, which is a trigger that keeps us checking. But, says Konrath, emails can be a big time waster, taking up nearly 28 hours per week composing and answering emails. The average person checks their email 30 times every hour. Konrath suggests setting aside certain times to check and answer email, scheduling those times in your calendar. If your addiction is bad enough, says Konrath, turn off all notifications or shutdown email while working, giving you breathing space to focus and work. A lesson on how to improve sales skills is simply spending more time in front of customers by curbing email addiction.
Tip Two: Plan Tomorrow, Today
Most of the time we focus on the urgent tasks, but not the important ones, says Trish Bertuzzi, President and Chief Strategist of The Bridge Group. Bertuzzi says by planning ahead, you’ll be able to focus on the important rather than the urgent. At the end of each day, she counsels, write down 2 things you need to do and do them first thing the next day. “Write them down, commit to doing them first thing, and do them before you do anything else,” she says.
Bertuzzi explains that having a strategy helps sales professionals be more productive. She cites the “Stanford Marshmallow Project” where children were given a marshmallow and told if they waited to eat it, they would receive more. Seventy-five percent of the children ate marshmallow immediately. The rest of the kids had a plan: They wiggled in their chair or twirled their hair while waiting. The point is, says Bertuzzi, you prevent wasting time by having a plan for tackling your to-do list. With over 150 items on the average to-do list, sales professionals can improve sales techniques by planning their tasks and choosing to focus on the important rather than the urgent.
Tip Three: Block Your Time
Have you ever felt like you just don’t have enough in your day to accomplish everything that needs to be done? Most do, sympathizes Konrath, who suggests blocking out our time to accomplish more. Konrath suggests making time for certain tasks by actually blocking out time on the calendar. Another important thing to block out time for is thinking time, says Konrath.
Konrath stresses the importance of sticking with one task rather than multi-tasking. When you’re working, says Konrath, write down your notes and enter CRM data at the end of your scheduled time block to stay focused.
Tip Four: Plan Airplane Days
Sometimes in our regular office setting we can’t focus. With so many distractions and people who constantly demand attention, it can be hard to just sit down and get your work done. Bertuzzi suggests scheduling one day a month with no meetings, no calls, and no interruptions. She calls these airplane days. Just like days spent on airplanes where you aren’t available, on these days you should be invisible to interruptions, have time to think, and focus on the big tasks at hand. Airplane days, says Bertuzzi, also decrease stress, allowing sales professionals to focus on ways to improve sales techniques.
Tip Five: End the Interruptions
Productivity is about flow, something difficult to achieve when the average worker gets interrupted every 8 minutes, says Konrath. Workers lose 2.1 hours every day to interruptions and US industries loose 61 billion dollars each year to interruptions, reports Konrath. If we managed interruptions, says Konrath, we would get done earlier and wouldn't have to work weekends. A strategy for reducing interruptions from coworkers is to simply say ‘let's talk later.’ Set and communicate boundaries and have a plan to use before the interruptions arise instructs Konrath.
Shockingly, the biggest interruption is when people interrupt themselves. Protect yourself against your biggest nemesis, yourself, says Konrath. She suggests managing distractions by using apps to eliminate interruptions. Some apps will only let you see one app at a time to avoid distraction while other apps block social media for set time periods.
Tip Six: Set An Agenda
Another great suggestion for how to improve sales skills through time management is setting an agenda for meetings, says Bertuzzi. Have you ever been in a meeting that doesn’t have an agenda? It’s frustrating, doesn’t flow well and isn’t organized. Bertuzzi says that without an agenda, the meeting turns into listening to the biggest mouth or fastest thinkers in the room who are not always the smartest people or the people with the best ideas. If you’re planning a meeting have an agenda, but if the matter doesn’t require participation, send an email instead.
Tip Seven: Avoid Multitasking
Have you heard the saying multitasking is 10 times more efficient and accomplishes more? That’s simply not the case, contends Konrath. When your brain jumps back and forth between tasks, it takes 40-60 percent longer to finish one thing, says Konrath. When you multitask, your ability to learn decreases and “you’re actually stupider,” says Konrath, citing studies that show multitasking lowers women’s IQ by 5% and men’s IQ by 15%. “Your cognitive ability goes from that of a Harvard MBA to an 8-year-old when you multitask,” says Konrath.
Konrath stresses the importance of slowing down and focusing on one task at a time. Doing so will actually make you more productive and improve sales techniques.
Tip Eight: Disconnect From Everything
We are a tethered nation, warns Betuzzi. “These apps and devices that are created to make us better communicators are putting a wall between us and the people we love the most,” says Bertuzzi. Another idea on how to improve sales skills is learning to disconnect periodically. Unless you’re sitting at desk in the oval office, quips Bertuzzi, “you’re not that important.” Without disconnecting, workers become distracted easily and lose productivity.
Sales leaders should be especially careful to disconnect periodically. For instance, says Bertuzzi, if you set an example for them by sending emails while you’re on vacation your team will feel like they have to work on vacation also.
Tip Nine: Manage Your Energy
How productive we are and how much we accomplish has a lot to do with personal energy, explains Konrath. Energy can be managed; it’s also renewable. Some things that change energy levels are working late online and walking. Working late on screens negatively impacts your sleep. Konrath suggests using Flux, which dims the screen making it easier for your brain to power down to sleep. The amount of sleep the night before determines how long it takes for your brain to wake up and function.
Walking keeps energy levels high throughout the work day. Konrath suggests getting up to walk around at least once an hour. Keeping energy levels high throughout the day increases productivity making it easier to work.
The final advice Bertuzzi and Konrath give on how to improve sales skills is to share these tips with your team. Finding ways to productively use time and energy improves not only the peace felt in life but also improves sales performance. In offering their time-saving advice, Bertuzzi and Konrath are also offering an extra hour a day. Now go out and make the most of it!