Desperately seeking what shouldn't be lost
A sure way to waste valuable time is to keep looking for something you desperately need because you were careless when you “put it away.” Looking for lost items is the single biggest time waster. Those few minutes here and there can really add up, so designate a specific place for every item you use regularly, and then make sure you always use it. If you always hang your keys on a hook by the door, you won't spend precious time searching for them.
Failing to do the job right the first time
Because of the demands salespeople place on themselves, they tend to rush through their paperwork and their planning of presentations without carefully checking or rechecking details. Don't risk angering others with costly delays or mistakes caused by carelessly written paperwork. Champions double-check everything for accuracy and clarity.
Procrastination can kill your career. Don’t feel alone on this one; everyone procrastinates. Most people procrastinate because of fear. They fear making a mistake, so instead they do nothing. The trouble with doing nothing, though, is this: Doing nothing can only produce nothing.
Making unnecessary or unnecessarily long phone calls
The telephone can be your greatest ally or your greatest enemy, especially when it comes to time management.
Set aside specific time each day to take and make phone calls.
Do your best to set a time limit for your calls.
Write down your objectives for the calls and focus on them.
Have all necessary materials within reach before you pick up the phone.
If you do business with someone who is chatty and won't let you off the phone, call him just before the time when he leaves for the day. You'll be surprised how brief conversations with such people can become.
Holding unnecessary or unnecessarily long meetings
Attending too many nonproductive meetings can be a major time waster. If you're in management and you think you waste a great deal of your time in meetings, maybe you should reevaluate how often you need to meet with your people and what you need to accomplish when you do get together. Is a daily or weekly meeting really necessary? Or can more effective communications within the company eliminate the need for such meetings? Don't hold a $1,000 meeting to solve a $50 problem.
Many people have found that holding meetings standing up is highly productive. When people don’t settle into comfortable chairs for the duration, they finish their business much more quickly.
Attending client lunches that last for two or more hours
As with the phone, when you're out for lunch with clients, you need to develop ways to let them know that you've finished your business for today and that you must move on. For example, when you sit down for lunch at noon with a notorious “friendly afternoon waster,” you can say something to the effect of “This works out great. I don't have another commitment until 1:30, so I have plenty of time to talk.”
Not using driving time wisely
The average salesperson drives 25,000 miles a year for her job. That works out to about 500 hours a year, or about 16 weeks — your basic college semester.
So how can you make the best use of this time? Hundreds of educational programs are available as audio recordings. Use this driving time to listen to programs on sales training, motivation, self-esteem, financial planning, small business strategies, foreign languages, classical literature, history, as well as a growing number of how-to programs and the latest popular novels. That way you're getting where you need to go, both literally and figuratively.
Not confirming appointments
Why do salespeople fail to confirm appointments? The old standby: fear. Some salespeople fear that, if they call, the person may say, “Never mind.” Such salespeople would rather drive all the way to a customer’s office and have the receptionist tell them that the buyer got called out of town for the day.
A quick phone call before you leave not only can save you valuable selling time; it also tells the potential client that you're a professional with something valuable to say. If you handle it properly, your brief call to confirm may keep your appointment from being the one that gets canceled if your customer needs to change his decision-making schedule.
When you call to confirm an appointment, do it this way:
Hi, Jim. I've spent a lot of time preparing for our meeting, and I just thought I'd call to let you know that I'll be there right at 2:00. I think you'll be excited about what I have to show you.
My experience with high achievers says that they do not waste time watching television unless it's an educational program that will help them get more out of life or their business. TV watching is probably the single least-productive activity in the American lifestyle.
Saying "yes" too often
Many of us just can’t say no when people want a chunk of our time. But it’s better that you say no to someone, than it is to say yes and not get the job done. Professionals recognize their limitations. If you explain, with warmth and care, the fact that others are better suited to getting the job done properly, the people who ask you for favors will appreciate your honesty and your ability to refer them to someone trustworthy to do the job.
Think about your day today and how you might make it more effective by using your time more wisely.
Excerpted from Selling for Dummies by Tom Hopkins