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Estimate Software- Printing software that helps you find the hidden treasure in your business.

No Time to Sell?

The day starts. You arrive at the office, sit at your desk and ask out loud, 'What will the day bring?'

By Bill Farquharson, President, Aspire For
This article appeared in the SGIA Journal May / June Edition 2019 Issue and is reprinted with permission.
Copyright 2019 Specialty Graphic Imaging Association ( All Rights Reserved.

You just made your first time-management mistake.

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  • Creating a task list for the day, you vow to make a minimum of five sales calls today. It was the same promise you made yesterday and the day before. Neither promise was kept, but today ... Today is the day! Today you are absolutely, 100% committed to ...Then the phone rings. It's a client checking on an order. You get an update from your production manager and call the customer back immediately. That call lingers a little longer than you had hoped as the conversation drifts from business to personal and 15 minutes slip away. It's okay, you think, customer service is king. The call ends and it's back to the task at ... Your sales rep walks in to your office and asks for a few minutes. "Of course," you reply. He wants to talk about an upcoming sales presentation he has with a potential customer early next week. It's on his mind and he needs some advice. You told him your door was always open, so the next 30 minutes are spent planning the call and thinking through the opportunity.

    You just made your second and third time-management mistakes.

    Before you know it, it's noon. The afternoon is a combination of putting out fires, calling to check on incoming deliveries of materials needed, and various human resources issues. Looking up, you simply cannot believe what time it is. Another day has passed. It was a good day, a busy day, but once again, no sales calls were made. That's okay, you think, I'll come in early tomorrow so that I can get my work out of the way and make my five calls. Then, you utter the lie all bad time managers say: "And this time, I mean it!"

    Compare that day with this one:

    The day starts. You arrive at the office, sit at your desk and look at your agenda - the one you made before you left yesterday. (This solves time-management mistake No. 1.) Your phone rings, but you let it go to voicemail, where a message awaits the caller to explain your whereabouts. (This solves time-management mistake No. 2.) Out of the corner of your eye, you see someone approach the door to your office. He stops, reads the note you've posted, checks his watch and promptly turns around. (This solves time-management mistake No. 3.) Smiling, you pick up the phone to make sales calls for the next 60 blissfully uninterrupted minutes!

    Consider those two scenarios. What sets them apart? Preparation, mostly. The efficient day starts by engaging a plan, not creating one. The best of the best make a habit of never leaving today without having tomorrow planned. If you show up in the morning and ask, "What will the day bring?" you are already behind. Never make that mistake again. Set an alarm on your cell phone to go off at, say, 5:00 PM every day. At that time, stop whatever you're doing and create a detailed plan for the day ahead. Who will you call? Who will you go see? What are your priorities? Not only will this allow you to set yourself up for success, this practice also gives you the chance to leave work at the office, go home and give your family your complete presence. No longer are you thinking and worrying about tomorrow. You've got a plan ... Now if you could just ensure that your plan is engaged successfully.

    Interruptions can make even the best laid plans go awry. Salespeople who need your time and customers requiring an update are both necessary and common occurrences. But ask two questions first:

    • Is someone else's priority automatically your priority?
    • Is performing a specific task really the best use of your time?

    This is not to say you should be intentionally unavailable; you just need to run such interruptions through a filter of some kind. Sure, that sales rep might need your help, but does it need to be right now?

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    Try using a magic word once in a while: "No."

    When someone asks, "Do you have a minute?" your response can be, "No. Can we set up a time to talk later?" As for customers, their needs are critical, but not always urgent. Here, too, a little pushback can go a long way toward creating time for you to make sales calls. For example:

    What if you changed your outgoing voicemail message daily to say something like, "Today is Tuesday, and I will be available after 9:30 AM. If you need help prior to that, press '0' and ask for Allison. Otherwise, I will return your call after 9:30. Thanks."

    Think about what this achieves. The caller hears the date and your availability status: It's today and you are in the office. Next, the caller is given an option: Receive assistance immediately or wait a short period of time. Either way, their needs will be met. In fact, it could be argued that this kind of outgoing voicemail message is even better than the standard greeting. "I'm sorry I can't come to the phone right now. Leave your name and number and I will call you back" tells the caller very little. It's ironic, but this practice of changing the outgoing voicemail message daily provides more and better service despite the fact that you are unavailable.

    But what about the problem of in-person interruptions? The person who approached your office was the aforementioned salesperson, looking to discuss an important upcoming call. The sign he read asked a simple question: "Can it wait till 9:30 AM?" He looked at his watch, decided that it could, and left. Had his needs demanded an interruption, he would have knocked on your door. Instead, as if you had a force field around your office, he answered your silent question in the affirmative and decided to come back later.

    You are not nearly as important as you think you are. As hard as it is to grasp, not every customer request needs to be handled immediately. And while it's important to help a salesperson plan for an important customer visit, it's not automatically urgent. Taking these few simple steps carves out sales time every day without drastically affecting the other parts of your job. So, change your outgoing voicemail message daily, and post a sign on your door designed to stop the (as Dr. Stephen Covey would say) "Important, but not urgent" interruptions.

    And did all of that effort pay off? Did you end up making five sales calls? Actually, no ... You made 12!

    Contact Bill Farquharson at or 781-934-7036.

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