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About half the success you achieve as a salesperson comes from the skill you develop with interpersonal relations. You need to be good at the face-to-face interactions with your customers and prospects. But half of your success arises out of the way you think about your job when you are by yourself!
That's because how you think about your job directly impacts how you use your time. And the smart use of time is one of the things that distinguishes the highly effective distributor salesperson from the mediocre.
When you become skilled at time management, you free yourself from a lot of the tedious details that weigh you down and suck up valuable time. Things like expediting orders, checking invoices, arranging for samples, picking up returns, etc., can occupy hours a day and result in little measurable returns.
When you reduce the time spent in those kinds of things and increase the time you spend doing what you do best face-to-face interactions with your customers -- you change the whole structure of your day. The result is that you are operating at a higher level. And that makes you feel better about your job, more fulfilled and more satisfied.
Obstacles to smart time management
Why aren't all distributor sales people great time managers? Here are some reasons. See if any of these describe you.
We love being active. We like being in the car, going here and there. We get a charge out of being in the middle of deals, juggling a hundred things at a time and making it all work.
On the other hand, the most drearisome parts of your job, if you're like most distributor salespeople, are doing paperwork and sitting in sales meetings. You let paperwork go until your manager threatens your job. You fidget in those meetings and find reasons to go out into the hall and make cell phone calls. You just can't wait to get back out on the road.
That inclination toward activity is a personality trait that serves you and other distributor salespeople very well. However, when it comes to smart time management, that same personality inclination is a major drawback. We are inclined to just do it, to leap into action, and not think about it before we do it.
If we're going to become good at smart time management, we need to overcome our natural inclination to just do it - to be active.
Look at the number of SKUs your company handles. I'll bet that the number of SKUs has increased by at least 30% in the past three years. That means that just that one piece of your job, understanding what you sell, has become at least 30% more complex than it was a few years ago.
This increase in complexity is the natural response to competition and the increasing role of technology in our lives.
In almost every line of trade, customers are expecting more from the distributors who serve them. I recently facilitated a focus group for one of my distributor clients. We had two representative customers from each of the three market segments this distributor served. I had these six people around a conference table for an afternoon, discussing two basic questions: "What do you want from the distributors who serve you?" and "What do you want from the distributor sales people who call on you?"
They all volunteered that they were committed to buying more from fewer vendors. Those remaining distributors who would enjoy a growing part of their business would have to service them more effectively in order to earn their business. They'd have to know their business better, offer more services, provide a broader selection of products, etc.
That was the first answer. Here's the second. Every single one of those customers said, over and over again, that they did not want distributor salespeople to waste the customer's time. They were adamant and passionate about this. Distributor salespeople needed to be highly organized and prepared for every sales call, they needed to not bother the customer with products or presentations that were not a good fit for the customer's business, they needed to be prepared to take notes and thoughtfully understand the customer's business and they needed to offer ideas to help the customer grow his/her business.
Clearly, the customer's expectations of the distributor salespeople have become more complex and sophisticated. Those salespeople who can grow, develop and continually meet this moving target of continually growing expectations will do well.
This growing complexity of products on one side and customer expectations on the other combine to squeeze the distributor salesperson into more thoughtful use of time.
It's only natural, therefore, that distributor salespeople absorb this mindset - if the customer wants something, jump to take care of it. Ninety percent of distributor field people share this attitude.
Here's the problem. While that mindset is perfect for all the operational people within the company - everyone from the customer service reps to the delivery drivers - it is a serious obstacle for the time-conscious field sales person.
If you jump every time any customer calls, you allow him to control your day. At the end of the day, you are exhausted with your frantic activity, but you haven't accomplished many of the things that will bring you closer to your goals.
Dave Kahle ( www.davekahle.com ) is a consultant and trainer who helps his clients increase their sales and improve their sales productivity. He speaks from real world experience, having been the number one salesperson in the country for two companies in two distinct industries. Dave has trained thousands of salespeople to be more successful in the Information Age economy. He's the author of over 500 articles, a weekly ezine, and five books. His latest is 10 Secrets of Time Management for Salespeople.
He has a gift for creating powerful training events that get audiences thinking differently about sales. Dave Kahle's "Thinking About Sales" Ezine features content-filled motivating articles, practical tips for immediate improvements, and helpful tips to help increase sales. Join on-line at www.davekahle.com/mailinglist.html
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