Time management is always a difficult aspect for salespeople. They could be racing ahead of time to catch up with commitments or struggling to get quality time from clients. If time is such a scarce resource, it requires judicious management. I have heard salespeople complain about unending review meetings and unwanted training sessions eating away their productivity. I was reflecting on my conversation with 4 sales professionals last weekend and found their time management complexities amazing.
Imran is a Sales Enablement Executive with an IT major. The number of internal sales meetings that he attends as a spectator bogs him down, as he has no clarity on why he was invited. Thanks to the features of Zoom, he gets a good amount of “me time” by setting his audio on mute and switching off his video. He is not sure if others are gaining any value from the occasional points, he contributes during the meetings.
Narmada, an Account Manager in a SAAS player had invested two evenings preparing for the offsite quarterly business review, which was held at an exotic hill station. At the end of her passionate 30-minute presentation, she was dismayed at not getting any useful feedback from her boss.
Stella, a Sales Development Representative (SDR) with a Fintech attends digital learning sessions for 2 hours every week on various topics. She derives immense value from the sessions but is yet to apply the concepts in actual client interactions.
Padmanabhan (aka Paddy) is a Managing Consultant in an advisory firm responsible for multiple client engagements. Paddy is clear that he would not make any canned PowerPoint presentations to clients. He does his research and emails a questionnaire to his clients, so they can come prepared for the focused high gain meetings. Paddy does extensive white boarding and engages with all the participants. This professional approach is appreciated by his clients since both Paddy and the clients derive greater RoTI (Return on Time Invested).
Reflecting on the above situations, I could relate to the dilemma/predicament faced by many sellers at work. Imran does not have the power to decline meeting invites. Narmada deserves guidance from her boss to be more successful in the coming quarter. Stella is happy learning but learning without application is hallucination, and Paddy seems to be in control of the situation.
The first thing I do on Monday, is pose the question to my manager, Venkataraman Subramanyan (Venkat) – “If meetings are necessary evils and double-edged swords, how can salespeople manage their meetings effectively and derive value?” Venkat answered that every professional is blessed with 168 hours every week and can claw back a day by having a conscious approach to time management and meetings. Being a man of methods and frameworks, Venkat gives a simple time management framework or a 2×2 matrix to classify meetings using “Value Added and Value Derived” as variables.
Based on the above matrix, Venkat’s prescription to Imran who is in the spectator mode is to eliminate or avoid the non-value adding meetings by taking his manager into confidence. The candid admission that he neither contributes nor derives value from the list of last week’s meetings would be an eye opener to him as well as his manager. This would allow them to discuss and prioritize time and efforts in the right direction.
Narmada has a right to politely seek her manager’s inputs post the QBR, on how she could do better going forward. Her investment of time to prepare for the meeting merits a return in the form of constructive feedback.
Stella is in a good position by learning every week. She could become even better by speaking to her manager and exploring opportunities to apply the same in her day-to-day work.
Paddy having mastered the art of managing time and meetings should mentor the young consultants in his team on this aspect.
In other words, sellers must refrain from meetings where they neither contribute nor gain value and plough back the time, saving it for more productive work. Sellers should demand value from the organisers of “Deceit” meetings, which could include sales reviews, quarterly business plans, etc. Continuous learning is a must for sellers to avoid obsolescence and to future proof themselves.
Sellers must focus on meetings in which both they and the clients contribute as well as gain maximum value. This magic ‘Focus’ quadrant is the most productive zone for sellers to operate and achieve greater results. The key to excel in these high gain meetings is to lead the discussion with insights and create multiple “Aha” moments for the clients. Salespeople operating in this arena are judicious in the utilization of time. Exchanging pleasantries, meet and greet etc. are an integral part of selling, but the focus should be on the outcomes the client envisages from the meeting. The seller’s endeavour must be to make the client acknowledge that it was a valuable spend of their time. Proof that the time was well spent can be seen when the client takes action at the end of the meeting by moving the discussion up by one layer in the client organization. In other words, the pursuit moves one step higher and one step forward.
Astute allocation of time by any sales professional would be to invest 60% in high gain sales meetings, 20% in learning and 20% in internal investment meetings.
A wise man said, “Time and tide wait for no man”. So, if time is a currency, whether it is invested, spent or squandered is in one’s own hands. Let us make the best use of it. To read more on time management and energy management, click here.