Time Management for Sales People

- Dave Kahle on how to make the most of your time

Dave Kahle

Effective time management for sales people is crucial.

As one of the world's leading sales trainers, Dave Kahle knows what it takes to "sell anything to anyone".

In this interview he shares his thoughts, tips and experiences on better time management.

If you have an interest in this field, I hope you'll benefit from what Dave has to say below...

What do you believe motivates some people to improve their personal time management skills more than others?

If a person is motivated to achieve in any area of his/her life, they eventually confront the need to be more effective with the use of time. Effective time management is one of the keys to personal success.

So, it's an inevitable, and quite natural location on the road to achievement in anything.

After a lifetime of working with sales people, managers and executives, I can honestly say that I don't know why some people are motivated to achieve and others are not. It has to do with the age-old questions of nature vs nurture.

You've written that it's crucial not to get sucked into being busy at the expense of doing what really matters. What strategies do you recommend for ring fencing creative time?

  1. Schedule it, just like you would any other appointment. Put it on your calendar and keep the appointment.
  2. Find a time and place that you find conducive to creative time. For example, I often walk in the morning, just after I get up. It's a great creative time for me. Because I travel so much, I have certain disciplines for in-flight use of time, and, I always drive with a voice recorder of some kind, as I find drive time to be a time often rich with intuitive insights.

When it comes to doing the tough stuff you have to do but don't want to do, what strategies have you found most effective for getting them done? To what extent do you rely on self-discipline?

There are some well-known, classic strategies that work well:

  1. Break the big tasks up into little ones, and see the tough stuff as composed of a number of minor, smaller and easier tasks.
  2. Save the enjoyable tasks for last. That helps you focus on taking care of the difficult things so that you look forward to the more enjoyable ones.
  3. Reward yourself with some small pleasure after you finish a difficult task. Get a cup of coffee, read a book, enjoy an ice cream -- whatever is appropriate as reward for the difficult task completed.

As a prolific and proven coach, author and trainer, you're spinning many plates. How do you habitually organize your time on a daily basis?

  1. Annual goal setting.
  2. Monthly review, planning and preparing for the coming month -- focusing on the "most important, highest priority."
  3. Weekly "task" lists, always prioritized from the most to the least important.
  4. Daily versions of the above.

These days, probably the biggest threat to good time management for sales people is the constant interruptions brought on by our expanding use of electronic communications.

You need to create a well-thought out strategy to deal with cell phone and email traffic. The best laid plans can be hijacked by a personal culture of instant reaction to every interruption.

From your experience, what time management for sales traits do the most effective sales people routinely exhibit?

  1. They are thorough and disciplined planners.
  2. They have the ability to say "no" to constant interruptions,and the lure of the urgent but low potential account.
  3. They constantly prioritize, not just monthly or weekly, but throughout the day as the ebb and flow of events swirl about them.
  4. They are disciplined enough to do what they plan to do.
  5. They understand the unique nature of a sales person's job, and have the insight that there are times, in the course of a day, that are appropriate for some kinds of activities and not for others. For example, you shouldn't spend sales time (time when you can meet with customers) in doing paperwork or studying a new product. That is more appropriately done on off times.

In the field of sales I guess there is a high degree of uncertainty about what will or won't happen each day.

In terms of time management for sales people, how can someone make effective plans when there are so many unknown variables during working hours?

You must start with a plan, knowing that you may not be able to finish it. To not have any plan is to cede responsibility for your results to whoever happens to contact you.

You must then develop some criteria for determining whether or not to allow some interruption.

For example, if you have determined to focus on high-potential accounts, and a call comes in from a low-potential account, you could determine not to immediately respond, thereby sticking with your original agenda.

See my notes, above, on appropriate times for certain activities. If you have an expense report to fill out, for example, you don't do that during selling hours.

Finally, you need to develop some disciplines that allow you, throughout the day, to refocus and re-prioritize as events ebb and flow.

For example, for years I have taught sales people to ask themselves this question several times in the course of the day; "Am I doing, right now, the most effective thing I could be doing?"

On a personal note, how do you manage to maintain a healthy work-life balance?

It's a constant battle, but so is every aspect of time management for sales people.

My wife travels with me occasionally, and when she doesn't, I talk to her every day. I text and talk on the phone with my grown kids from wherever I am at the moment.

I have software loaded on my laptop, websites book-marked, and appropriate apps on my smart phone that allow me to spend time with God; reading, studying and praying, no matter where I am.

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Dave Kahle is one of the world’s leading sales educators and an authority on time management for sales people. He’s written ten books, presented in 47 states and eight countries, and has helped enrich thousands of sales people and transform hundreds of sales organizations.

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