Time is money -- and nobody knows that better than salespeople. Every call you make and every meeting you take is an opportunity gained (or sacrificed) to bring money to your company and, ultimately, to yourself.
Because of this, your calendar is your single most valuable property. You’re probably (we hope) already using one to keep track of prospect calls and internal meetings, but it might just be in need of a facelift. If you feel your schedule getting away from you, use these strategies to declutter your calendar -- so you can spend your time selling.
Before You Begin: Complete a Calendar Audit
Before you can fix a problem, you have to understand where one exists. Perform a calendar self-audit: Review the past month and ask yourself the following questions:
- When are you most productive?
- On average, how many meetings do you have per day?
- Are there any recurring meetings on your calendar that only happen sporadically or have stopped occurring?
- When do you generally take breaks?
Once you know how you’re spending your time, you can optimize your schedule.
8 Scheduling Strategies to Streamline Your Day
1) Book time for prospecting every day.
Prospecting is a salesperson’s lifeblood, but it’s easy to skip if other tasks are piling up. Without dedicated time each day to generate new opportunities, your pipeline (and your paycheck) will quickly run dry.
You should split up your call and email prospecting so you’re not switching back and forth between two tasks. Align your call times with your territories’ local time, and make calls between 8 and 9 a.m. in your prospects’ time zones.
It’s important to schedule prospecting multiple times a week so you can follow up with inbound leads in a timely manner. Research shows that it’s best to call prospects within five minutes of receiving an inbound lead.
2) Schedule internal meetings strategically.
It takes about 25 minutes to return to productivity after an interruption, and while you can’t minimize the number of unexpected distractions you encounter throughout the day, you can design your schedule to make yourself more efficient.
Schedule internal meetings right before or after lunch, or back-to-back if you have multiple meetings in a day. That way, your day isn’t punctuated with several short interruptions from your regular sales activity.
If you’re a manager, hold one day per week for all of your one-on-ones with your direct reports and your administrative work. This way, you’ll be able to devote the rest of your time to helping them sell.
Of course, when it comes to prospect meetings, you won’t always be able to apply these best practices.
3) Hold specific hours for sales meetings.
You should defer to your prospect’s schedule if they have a preferred meeting time that can’t be moved, but you’ll make it far easier to schedule meetings if you hold a consistent time for prospect calls. You’ll be able to avoid conflicting internal meetings, and you won’t have to worry about reshuffling your schedule to accommodate your prospects.
4) Put “available to book” times on your calendar.
Don’t leave your colleagues in the dark. Make it explicit when you’re free for internal meetings or quick chats. This way, they won’t have to ping you asking if you’re available during a certain time -- they can just book you.
5) Remove unnecessary recurring meetings.
As a sales rep, the only recurring meetings you absolutely need to have are one-on-ones with your manager to review your pipeline and discuss your career path. For any other recurring meetings, make sure they’re completely necessary. If they’re not, or have already fallen by the wayside, get them off your calendar.
6) Build lunch into your schedule.
Ideally, you’ll be able to take breaks from your work throughout the day, but sometimes things get busy and you just can’t. But something you can’t afford to miss is lunch. Not only does eating improve your productivity, the extended time away from your desk gives you the mental break you need to enter your afternoon refreshed.
7) Leave 10-15 minutes between each prospect meeting.
Always leave buffer time between calls in case your prospect dials in late or the conversation runs over -- you don’t want to choose between cutting off a meeting and being late to the next one. The extra time can also be used to fire off a follow-up email or write call notes while the memory of the meeting is still fresh in your mind, instead of at the end of the day when the finer nuances may have escaped you.
8) Every Sunday, review next week’s schedule.
In a salesperson’s life, a calendar is more of a suggestion than a prescription -- last-minute things will always come up. But you should start your week with as organized of a schedule as possible, so spend 10 minutes every Sunday reviewing next week’s meetings and making sure everything that’s on your calendar needs to be there.
How do you organize your calendar to safeguard your time? Let us know in the comments below.