I was not born a natural salesman. At one year (and several hit quotas) into my sales career, that may strike some of my peers as surprising, but I can vouch for its veracity. The success I’ve seen in my current sales job at memoryBlue has reinforced a long-held belief on my part: success in nearly any task in life very rarely comes off of raw talent or charm alone (though a bit of that certainly can’t hurt if you’ve got it). Instead, it flows naturally as a byproduct of having systems in place to maximize whatever measure of talent one does have.
If this is beginning to sound like a cliché, commencement-style exhortation on the merits of hard-work, fear not (my goal is quite the contrary, in fact). For as the great personal productivity guru David Allen wrote in a commendable recent blog post, “I am the laziest person I’ve ever met… Perhaps it is equally true that I’m the most efficient person I’ve ever met.”
Setting Up for Success
I wouldn’t go so far as Mr. Allen to say that I’m “the laziest person I’ve ever met.” But like him, I constantly strive to be highly efficient in everything I do. High achievement in any profession will require a fair amount of hard-work, but the secret to making this success and happiness as easy and sustainable as possible over a long span of time is to establish processes that do most of the administrative work for you. The end result of streamlining tasks this way is that it will allow your mind to focus more on the creative (and fun) aspects of a job.
I loathe wasting unnecessary time, energy, and attention on administrative details. Like Mr. Allen (and many others, I suspect), I’d much rather finish my work early, efficiently, and effectively so I can move on to other undertakings (such as working out, spending time with friends or reading the works of 17th century English political philosophers – but perhaps that last one is just me?).
My time in sales, and in life, has taught me that the easiest way to complete administrative work is to essentially automate things. I’ve learned to do this by establishing a personal organization system that, over time, takes care of most of the work for me and requires very little mental energy. The key to getting started is harnessing every single task, idea, and project taking up unnecessary mental space and getting it out of your head and on to paper; or, more appropriately to the 21st century workplace, a Word document.
Capturing Your Past, Conquering Your Present
The market today is flooded with an abundance of personal digital productivity tools that claim all sorts of unique benefits compared with their competitors (or more traditional products like day-planners and calendars). I certainly have friends and peers who heavily use apps and vouch for their effectiveness. Everyone is best-suited going with whatever approach works most naturally for them – if you are more of a techie or app-junkie, go that route. Personally, I’ve found that the best approach for me is a simple Word doc that I call my ‘Day Log.’
No matter which productivity tool you choose, give yourself a 30-minute to 1-hour window to brain-storm every single task that you would like to get done for your job over the coming days, weeks, and months. I often find that transforming these tasks from abstract stressors floating around in my head to concrete items listed in a document is a great stress-reliever. The results are a pure ‘To-Do’ list.
After building your list, insert a page break from the first page of your document so that the ‘To-Do’ list goes on page 2. Now working on the first page, establish your ‘Day Log’ with a simple heading of the current date. As you accomplish things on your ‘To-Do’ list over the course of the day, cut-and-paste them from that list to the ‘Day Log,’ with time-markers for accountability. This effectively keeps a running daily tally of all of the tasks that you have accomplished.
Working off this cadence is helpful for a few reasons. First, you have developed a useful resource that tracks not only what you accomplished, but has added specifics around what day you actually completed a particular task. Second, this document can be a great jolt to morale and confidence when you look back on all that you’ve accomplished at the end of a given day, week, or month (or anytime you need a pick-me-up).
When I first began in my role as a Sales Development Representative at memoryBlue, this approach was a great help to me in keeping track of the many organizational and training tasks required in my first few weeks on the job. The numerous administrative tasks associated with starting any new role can be daunting during the on-boarding period. I’ve continued to update my ‘Day Log’ in this manner consistently during my entire tenure, and the document is now over 60-pages long. I used this approach in previous jobs as well, and it was just as useful for those as it is in my current sales role.
Building Your Own Life Raft
Maybe you think this type of detailed time tracking is over-the-top? Let me share with you how it saved my very job with one former employer.
In a previous role, I was an IT Associate at a locally-owned bank in my hometown of Amarillo, Texas. A few months onto the job, budgetary concerns were forcing my department to consider which costs could be cut, including, potentially, my position. One day, my supervisor unexpectedly emailed me a request to send him a comprehensive list of all the things I had achieved and issues I had resolved for the bank during the duration of my employment (in order to demonstrate my value to the bank).
My guess is that most people in such a situation would panic and scour their brain frantically in a feverish effort to remember everything they’ve done that may be of some shred of value to their employer. Instead, thanks to my organizational system, I didn’t even break a sweat as I emailed my ‘Day Log’ document to my supervisor. My comprehensive accounting generated a terse, but very welcome, response from him: “Wow! Good work.” I stayed happily employed there until I left on my own accord and remain on great terms with that former employer to this day.
In addition to the ‘Day Log’ and ‘To-Do’ list, if you are selling for multiple accounts or your position requires you to manage an array of responsibilities, it can be useful to divide all tasks on your ‘To-Do’ list into a ‘Projects’ list. The ‘Projects’ list divides each task by category and ranks them in order of immediacy. When first building out this list, I find it useful to follow the advice of Stephen R. Covey in his seminal work The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and “begin with the end in mind.”
What does this mean? Essentially, it means to consider what the ultimate desired result would be in each of these projects and then to start from there and work your way back. What would success on Project X look like? Hitting quota? Meeting and surpassing a client’s expectation for meetings scheduled or deals closed? Revenue targets? Thoughtfully consider each step that may be necessary to accomplish that task and then list them in order – starting with the ones that can be accomplished immediately, building gradually to the ones that can be done by the end of the day, the week, the month, the quarter, and ultimately completion of the project itself.
On the section of my ‘Day Log’ document that contains my ‘To-Do’ list and ‘Projects’ list, I include my calendar, which features events that occur every day and week at a set time. This also includes affiliated deadlines (whether set by my client, supervisor, or myself) for reaching certain desired benchmarks or documented completion of items on my ‘Projects’ list. This consolidates your entire working life into one comprehensive document. In my case, doing this has dramatically reduced my stress levels and provided me with a living blueprint that orchestrates the drumbeat of my professional time.
Going on Autopilot
I can understand if all of this sounds a bit daunting at first blush, but I guarantee that taking just an hour or two to put a personal organization system such as this into place ultimately (and very quickly, in fact) pays off in spades. In addition to the scenario mentioned earlier where my job was literally saved by having a ‘Day Log,’ it has been a tremendous boost in helping me to master my sales follow-up game.
Staying organized remains at the forefront of everything I do in my work life. I put every sales meeting I have scheduled for my reps on the calendar section of my ‘Day Log’ immediately after I send the calendar invite out to the prospect. I can’t tell you how many meetings have occurred that may have been otherwise cancelled if not for me seeing them on my ‘Day Log’ and using that reminder as a means to follow up with the prospect (thus ensuring that the meeting takes place).
While this approach may be more rigorous than “winging it” (and relying on pure charm and talent to make it in sales), it is more reliable and, from my perspective, less stressful. There’s a confidence, as well as a peaceful state-of-mind, that comes with getting all your critical tasks and projects into a tangible, external document. After doing the hard work to get such a system established into your life, you’ll get to enjoy the benefits of less administrative headaches, less stress and, in the end, a feeling that you’re in full control of your professional time.
To see how memoryBlue can save your sales team time and bring new business right to your doorstep, contact us today!