Excerpted from 11 Secrets of Time Management by Dave Kahle, Career Press 

In 2003 I wrote “Ten Secrets of Time Management for Salespeople,” because I was convinced that time management had become the number one issue for professional salespeople.  The book struck a cord, and became a world-wide seller, with translations into eight different languages.     Eleven years after the initial publication, the publisher approached with an idea – an expanded  second edition entitled ’11 Secrets of Time Management for Salespeople.”  And so we did, understanding the time management had become an even greater challenge.

And now, I see that the world of the professional salesperson has become even more chaotic, more complex and more out of control. The next level of time management goes way beyond just making good decisions about sales time,  In today’s chaotic world, time management has morphed into life management. 

Our chaotic environment

The changes begin with the impact of communications technology.  Smart phones and tablets have burst onto the scene and become so routinely used that it’s difficult to imagine a professional salesperson without one.  Along with them came a confusing cornucopia of apps – including games, mapping programs, video apps and a list that grows almost minute by minute.

Just in the last few years, Skype has come into its own, and spawned a growing list of competitors and similar services.  It’s now possible to connect via video to prospects, customers, and colleagues from your smart phone wherever you are.

Social media has become a major presence in the lives and days of millions of people, as well as the salespeople for whom this article is focused. There is an entire generation of people who couldn’t imagine living their lives without Facebook, Instagram, or one of the other social media sites. I hesitate to mention any other specific app, website or service, as there is a likelihood that it will be eclipsed by the next big thing before the ink on the page is dry.

But technology isn’t the only driver of this burgeoning complexity for sales people.  The health care law and the proliferation of regulations put into place by the national administration has brought the federal government into our lives and jobs in ways that were inconceivable just a few years ago.

Our economy has created a situation where almost every company is hesitant to take risks and add people.  So, more and more of your customers are being asked to do more, accomplish more and become more productive. Customers are more pressed for time than ever.  There is an expectation of instant information from everyone.  And, likely, those same expectations are being applied to you as well.

All this means that businesspeople have less time today than ever before.  Salespeople are squeezed in the heart of this vice.  So, we have a world where salespeople are living increasingly hectic lifestyles, feverishly tied to their smart phones and tablets, bouncing from one electronic transaction to another.

It’s a complex, chaotic environment, where all of these factors open additional opportunities for salespeople, but, more importantly, present obstacles to our success of such huge size they can render us ineffective.

The challenge to become effective at time management is greater, more urgent and more critical today than at anytime in the past. It is now about life management, not just time management.

The problem is huge

As I say in almost every one of my seminars, “If you think this year is challenging, wait around till next year.”

Here’s why this is such a huge obstacle.  Becoming an exceptional sales person is more about effective time management than anything else.  And effective time management is more about thinking about your job, and making intelligent thoughtful decisions about the use of your time.  Becoming an effective human being is just as depended on the same kinds of choices.

We can’t think well when our attention and concentration is scattered and interrupted. The great educator, John Dewey, observed:

“There is no greater enemy of effective thinking than divided interest.”

The changes in the last few years have created a world that is characterized by divided interest — where “scattered and interrupted” has become the norm, and multi-tasking is standard procedure.  Every day salespeople are tempted to give up control of their days to the lure of the electronic, and spend their time reacting to whomever is on the other end of that text or voice mail.  It is as if a cloud of techno-chatter has gradually enveloped the salesperson, to the point where his days are dictated by the electronic media, and he/she isn’t even aware of it.  As a result, it is harder for salespeople to think well today than at any time in the past.

 The solution?

What’s the solution?  My recommendation – live deeper.

Let me show you what I mean.  Look at this diagram:Think of this as a diagram of one way to look at each of us.  Think of this as a pie-shaped slice of an onion.  There are layers and layers of substance to the onion, from the thin and crinkly skin at the surface, to the strongly pungent core.

Each of us is like that.  We have layers and layers of complexity and substance to us.

On the very surface are our interactions with other people – our customers and prospects.  These interactions are often shaped and directed by the sales tactics we’ve learned along the way. This is the person that our customers see.      It is on the surface that we spend most of our time.  It’s here where we text, email, post on social media, and occasionally actually see a customer face-to-face. However, in the bigger picture of everything that you are, it’s the most superficial part of you.

As we peel each layer off of the onion, we go deeper into the person that we are.  Just beneath the surface are the strategies we design, the goals we set, the habits we have built up over the years, and the ways we go about doing things.

For example, let’s say you have become adept at asking your customer good questions.  That’s a tactic — on the very surface of your being.  It’s where you interact with someone else.

The reason you ask better questions — the motivating force that underlies your use of that tactic — can be one of a number of things.  Perhaps it arises out of a strategic plan you created to learn more about your customer.  The strategy was the deeper motivation that gave rise to the more superficial tactic.

Or, you may have developed a goal to ask four questions during the course of the day.  In that case, the goal was the deeper motivation.

Or, maybe it’s just your habit to always ask good questions.  You’re not really sure why you have that habit.  In that case, the habit was the deeper issue which caused you to ask those questions.

Or, finally, the deeper issue could be a process that you’ve created which requires you to fill out a form with the answer to that question.  Regardless, your sales behavior always arises out of one of those four motivations.  You either work intentionally, with planning and forethought, as evidenced by your goals, strategies, and processes, or you work “unconsciously,” through your habits and routines.  These motivating forces lie just beneath the surface, but they shape your actual behavior.

Peel off that outer layer, and we’ll find, at the next deepest level, our attitudes.  You’ve heard many times about the importance of a good attitude.  That’s because your attitudes give rise to your habits and your goals.

When you’re burdened with a depressed, pessimistic attitude, you don’t set worthwhile goals or aspire to great accomplishment.  The opposite is also true.  When you have positive, optimistic attitudes, you naturally aspire to challenging goals, and that leads to energy and positive behavior.

If your attitude is positive, you’ll feel like you can positively influence a prospect.  That positive attitude can lead you to creating a goal and developing the strategy that you’ll need to achieve that goal.

Back to the asking questions example.  Let’s say your positive attitude has led you to develop the goal of acquiring three new accounts this month.  Now that you are optimistic enough to set a challenging goal, you need to create a strategy to achieve it.  So, you decide on a strategy, part of which requires you to ask good questions of a certain number of prospects.

In this example, your attitude led to a goal, which led to a strategy, which led to the actions you took with your prospect.  Your actions bubbled up from the inside out.

But, you’re still not at the very heart of things.  Underlying your attitudes are your values.  Values refer to the things you hold dear and important.  For example, you may value integrity, success in your job, and the well being of your spouse.  These values give rise to certain attitudes about those things.

Take the situation where you highly value your spouse’s physical well-being.  Since you value him or her so highly, you think positively about your ability to provide protection and security.  Out of that attitude arise your goals and strategies.

But, you’re still not finished.  Underlying and supporting your values are your beliefs.  For example, you may believe that it is always the husband’s responsibility to support the family no matter what.  This belief may be so deep inside you that you never really articulated it.  It’s just been embedded deep into your psyche.

As a result of that belief, you place a high value on the physical well-being of your spouse because, after all, it’s your job to take care of that.  That value leads to attitudes, which lead to goals or habits, which lead to behavior.

Notice how the deeper issues impact and share our behavior?  When we make changes at the deeper levels, those changes impact everything above.

There is yet one layer deeper.  And that is your worldview.  Your worldview is comprised of your fundamental, core beliefs about the world and yourself.  It’s composed of the absolute deepest beliefs you hold about your purpose in life and the way in which the world functions.  It differs from the beliefs above it only in degree.  The worldview comprises the beginning of the spiritual part of ourselves.  These beliefs shape everything above them.

For example, one person may believe that the universe is so connected that everything we do is a result of fate or destiny.  Another individual may believe the opposite, that we are creatures with free will existing in a world that responds to us.  A third may believe that we are the creation of a loving God — designed for a specific purpose.

If you hold a world view that attributes everything that happens to you as controlled by fate, or destiny, you’ll have little interest in building positive attitudes, creating goals, developing strategies, practicing skills, and using effective tactics.

I’ve personally seen tribal people in developing countries who hold a world view like this.  As a group, they never seem to make much progress, and many live in a lifestyle and economic conditions that have changed little over the generations.  The lack of improvement in their conditions is, in my opinion, a function of their worldview.  In many cases, millions of dollars of aid and years of assistance at the more superficial levels have done little.  Real change won’t happen until they make changes in their worldview.

This basic view of yourself and the world is usually influenced by your culture.  It is often influenced by religious education, because it borders on the spiritual part of us.

Now, you’re probably wondering what all this has to do with sales, time management and life management.  Study the illustration.  Notice that there is a direct relationship between the higher layers and the deeper layers.  When changes are made in the deeper layers, those changes affect everything above them.  A small change made deep down in a person will impact almost everything above it.

If you change your attitudes, you’ll change your strategy, habits and actions.  Change your values and your beliefs, and you can’t help but change your attitudes.  Modify your worldview, and everything above it will change.

Now, what does this have to do with time management?  Follow this:  If you are going to be an exceptional salesperson, you must be good at time management.  In order to be good at time management, you must devote dedicated, quality time to thinking about your job, and making informed, intentional decisions about how you use your time.  That means you regularly deal with the deeper issues in your life.  The deeper issues impact and inform all the decisions you make at more superficial levels.

Take control of the electro-chatter that occupies your days, harness the power of attitude, beliefs and worldview to impact everything you do.  Decide what should be done, and done effectively.  Live deeper.

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