How do sales professionals manage their time for maximum impact?

What are the right activities to focus on, and which should not have quite as much focus?

Are your priorities unclear or out of focus, leaving you in reaction mode and worried that you’re not focused on the right things?

When we slow down to really think about how and where we spend our time, it’s easy to feel that “the whirlwind” is mostly in control. But how we spend our time is the only thing we can truly control, so letting the winds of chance blow us about can have profound negative implications on sales and revenue results.

Sales professionals with properly aligned time management priorities can, in some estimates, increase their close rates of larger, meaningful deals 20 – 30%, which has a significant impact on total sales revenue.

What is the best method for ruthless time management aligned for results? 

Because the goal of any organization is to drive profitable top line revenue, the best sales professionals prioritize winnable deals over those which are less likely, or earlier stage in the decision process. And since time is a finite resource spending a too much focus and time on the wrong opportunities can take away needed focus from the large and winnable deals that really move the needle.

 

Our Time Framework: 1C2P

We have developed a simple way make sure that ensures that you divide your selling time up in a way that assures maximum focus on meaningful opportunities. We call it the One Column, Two Pyramid Framework, or 1C2P Time Management for short. It is designed to easily visualize the right divisions of time and how they align to the buyers at all points in your pipeline.

Here is the visual.

Now let’s break it down…

 

Time Building a Healthy Pipeline

The first pyramid, which is upside down, represents your pipeline funnel segmented where each buyer is in their decision process. Note that we have found that sorting your opportunities the buyer journey is far more accurate than sorting them a rigid sales process that may or may not represent the buyer’s real progression toward a purchase decision.

At Buyer Aligned Selling you will hear this mantra often. In fact, we have an entire training module on how to do that, but for now here is a quick guide to the four decision stages of the buyer journey:  (You can also download the B2B Buyer Decision Matrix)

Stage 1      Status Quo           Unaware of a problem or opportunity.

Stage 2     Awareness            Curious and considering a change.

Stage 3     Consideration     Committed to change now. Exploring options.

Stage 4     Decision                 Reviewing vendors to make purchase decision.

Of course in an ideal pipeline there are a different number of potential buyers in each stage. That’s why it’s called a funnel. It’s been said that at any given time, roughly 3% of potential buyers are ready to buy what you sell. There’s probably no definitive way to know whether that statistic is true, but it’s a good approximation that creates a mindset for what a healthy pipeline should look like.

If we use that number, we see that for every 3 buyers who are squarely in Decision mode there are probably 10 to 15 in Consideration, 20 – 30 in Awareness, and 55 to 60+ in Status Quo.

And there is the danger!

If it takes 100 total buyers to find 3 who are “ready to buy”, it can be quite a time suck if we fall into the trap of spending too much time with early stage buyers just because they are nice enough to meet or talk with us. That’s time away from the 3% who are real buyers; which if we shortchange, decreases our odds of winning and maximizing those real and meaningful deals.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves…

 

Time Nurturing Your Pipeline

The Column in the middle represents the total amount of time you want to spend with each customer group, decision stage. Notice each of the four segments of the column are equal in size. The goal is to not short change any of the essential sales strategies that align to the buyer’s decision process, but to roughly spend equal amounts of time with each buyer group Prospecting, Qualifying, Solutioning and Competing to Win, respectively.

For a mental image of how this might play out in an imaginary, and unrealistically ordered world, you would spend…

… Monday prospecting and talking mostly to early stage prospects who do not yet perceive a specific way for your company to bring value to them;

… Tuesday qualifying the prospective buyers who have become aware of one or more of the issues you help address;

… Wednesday collaborating on potential solutions with the potential buyers who have decided on an issue that takes current and prioritized focus;

… Thursday proposing, differentiating and negotiating with the 3% of buyers who are ready to finalize a purchase; and…

… Friday doing administrative work and getting yourself organized for the following week.

Of course no such world exists. But it’s a helpful mental image to see how these fundamental selling strategies should be roughly equal in total time focus in order to make sure that all segments of the pipeline funnel are healthy.

In our 1:1 coaching sessions it’s not uncommon to suggest that sales professional track their time in these four buckets for a couple weeks just to get a starting point for assessing what may need more focus.

 

Time Progressing and Closing Opportunity

This brings us to the final pyramid. This one graphically represents the amount of time one should be spending per buyer. Since there are many more prospects in stages 1 and 2 than there are in stages 3 and 4, in order to keep the overall pipeline focus roughly equal, it’s important to spend a greater amount of time with each late stage buyer.

Let’s go back to our imaginary week and our properly segmented funnel to see how this might pay out. But to make the math work a bit better, let’s say we have 200 total prospects in our pipeline (double the numbers above), and let’s work backwards to make the point on how much focus to give each prospective buyer.

 

 

On Thursday we spend 8 hours preparing for or meeting with contacts from each of our 6 buyers in the Decision Stage. That equals roughly 1 hour and 20 minutes per buyer every week.

On Wednesday we spend 8 hours preparing for or meeting with 12 contacts from our 24 potential buyers in the Consideration Stage. That equals 45 minutes per potential buyer every other week.

On Tuesday we spend 8 hours preparing for or meeting with 15 of our 60 prospects in the Awareness Stage. That’s roughly 30 minutes per prospect about once a month.

On Monday we spend 8 hours preparing for or meeting with 20 of our 120 prospects in the Status Quo Stage. That’s roughly 25 minutes per prospect every six weeks or so.

Of course this is not meant to be a literal strategy. This world does not exist. But it does demonstrate the notion that the best sales professionals manage their time in a way that allows them to prepare for more frequent and substantive meetings with the influencers and decision makers of late stage opportunities.

Again, time is finite. So spending a disproportionate amount of time with prospects who are in the very early stages of awareness will take time away from adequately preparing to win and maximize opportunities with real buyers.

 

Time to Increase Efficiency and Productivity

And this, incidentally, is where automation comes in. Having a CRM system that is streamlined to capture only the most essential information needed, along with email templates, organized content, industry insights, and automation of call reminders can make one quite efficient at regularly touching the early stage prospects so that proper time and attention can be given to those who do not yet perceive an issue that you can solve, or are just becoming aware of it and not sure what to do about it and what the priority is.

This the way is a good “Friday Task”. After you have reviewed you previous week and planned out your week ahead, spend some quality time planning out your own workflow and automation process so that you can optimize your time, rather than recreating the wheel on every early stage call.

Now you have a framework for managing your time to prospect, qualify, progress and close your pipeline in proper priority. All that’s left is execution.

Happy selling!

Steve