Sales professionals in the top 10% of their industries share a common trait: They control, use, and invest their time more wisely and effectively than their lower-performing associates. Among sales professionals, time usage determines income.
The most significant challenge for most sales professionals is time control. Through years of study and coaching sales professionals, I’ve compiled the following list of challenges that most sales people experience when trying to master their time-block schedule.
Mistake #1: Making yourself too available. The biggest error that salespeople make is getting sucked into the interruption game. You need times in your schedule that are free of interruptions, during which you bar access to all but those to whom you grant exceptions. Follow this advice:
Use an effective gatekeeper to screen your calls, redirecting all minor issues, problems, challenges, and interruptions that can be handled by an assistant or some other person.
Limit the number of people who have unfiltered access to you. Create a short list of the important few people who can interrupt your schedule at any time of the day, and don’t let anyone else in during time blocked for interruption-free activities. My short list includes my wife, my father, my attorney, and a few key associates. Period. As you make your own list, include only those who are extremely important to your personal life. Very few clients find their way onto the short lists of truly successful people.
Mistake #2: Choosing the wrong office location and set-up. The nature of your physical office has a dramatic effect on your time management and productivity. Give serious consideration to the following two issues:
See that the size of your work environment matches the size of your practice. If you don’t have enough square footage for yourself and your staff, your production will be stunted.
I had a coaching client a few years back who worked out of 150 square feet of office space with three associates. Amazingly, even as they were tripping over each other they managed to do 150 transactions a year.
But when they moved into a new 500 square-foot office, they watched their production soar. Each team member could control time better, limit interruptions, access files, hold meetings. The expanded space allowed for an increase in discipline, talent, skill, and production.
Don’t let your physical space limit your growth opportunities. If you are crowded by your staff, you’re in the wrong physical location.
Your personal office must be private. There are too many focused activities in a day for a top producing agent to be in the bullpen of activity. If you’re surrounded by the buzz of the staff, inbound phone calls, problems, and challenges, it’s too easy to be tempted to jump in and help, tackling the issues of servicing at the expense of new business creation. The only way to control your planning and prospecting environment is to locate your practice in a private office away from distractions, other agents and staff.
Mistake #3: Failing to operate on an appointment-only basis. Too many Agents are willing to meet at all hours of the day and night and on a moment’s notice. By time blocking, you can create appointment slots and drive prospects into those slots, just as your doctor, dentist or attorney does.
Studies show that 80% of all prospects are willing to fit into the schedules of their professional advisors. But when they aren’t alerted to a schedule, they take control on their own, dictating the appointment time and leaving an agent like you juggling your schedule to adapt to their needs. Realtors accept this knee-jerk scheduling approach as a necessary aspect of a “service oriented” business. As if total availability equals service.
Operate as a professional on an appointment-only basis, with all appointments scheduled during time-blocked periods when you know you will be available, focused and uninterrupted by any issue other than the one your client is sharing.
Mistake #4: Bowing to distractions. Real estate sales is among the most interrupted and distracted professions on the face of the planet. Realtors are distracted by the constant jangle of desk phones, home phones, and cell phones.
If the phone isn’t ringing, you have the distraction of e-mail, usually interrupting you with some unsolicited miracle offer or, less often, with a new lead opportunity. Here’s a tip: Don’t derail your day just because your computer tells you that you’ve got mail. The conversion ratio of Internet leads is less than 1%. If you’re engaged in productive activities, don’t stop what you’re doing for a 1% opportunity.
Control distractions following this advice:
Block time in your day for the distractions you know you will encounter. If you want to socialize with other agents, plan a set time to do that. Just remember to keep it short and to limit the coffee klatch to the time you allocated for it.
Create a list of no more than five people that are granted instant access during your workday. Have your assistant memorize the names. If you don’t have an assistant, then work with your receptionist so that only those few people are granted unfiltered access.
Position yourself as an agent-in-command versus an agent-on-demand. Block your time and maintain your schedule. Rather than putting yourself at the beck and call of others during all hours of the day and night, work on an appointment basis, eliminate distractions, and take control of your days, your business, your income, and your life.