I just talked to a sales pro who had her best month ever. She’s on top of the world. There’s arguably no better feeling in the world than hitting a new sales peak.
Maybe you’re having your best month now too. If so, congrats. If not, you surely remember your best month (and your best year too).
For the sake of argument, let’s say you are having the month of your sales career.
Everything is going right and you’re incredibly busy. In fact, there’s so much going on you have several deals that are closing at the same time. Everything is looking good with those deals.
You know there’s a chance one of them could fall through at the last minute, so you’re doing your best to make sure nothing goes wrong. You’re acting like a “deal shepherd” as you diligently monitor all aspects of the process and keep in constant communication with all parties involved in the transaction.
And let’s further say everything works out. You make a ton of commission money and you couldn’t feel happier.
But there is a down side when you have a great month full of bottom-of-the-funnel activity: you will most likely neglect the top of your funnel: prospecting.
I don’t necessarily blame people who find themselves in that situation. It’s easy to put off top-of-funnel, down-the-road prospecting activity when you’re busy. And at some level, it’s completely rational to do so. After all, it makes sense to devote whatever time it takes to close a sale that is late in the stage and has a high likelihood of closing. After all, you presumably had to work very hard to get the sale to that point.
So what can you do to make sure you do at least some prospecting even when you are up to your eyeballs in high-value opportunities that are just about to become done deals? Here are a few things that can help you get the best of both worlds – your sales completed without leaving your pipeline empty:
Time Management – All professionals need to exercise good time management practices but it’s especially important for busy sales practitioners. I have noticed that even those people who are highly successful and who happen to be going through a particularly busy time, STILL end up wasting time each day. If you watch the little five- and 10-minute time wasters, you just might find time to work in some calls to prospects.
Time Blocking – I’m a huge fan of time blocking, and it’s an important component of time management. Time blocking means you literally block out chunks of time on your calendar before a week even begins in which you will do nothing but reach out to prospects. It could be email. It could be in-person visits. It could be telephone calls. I find that telephone calls still tend to be the best use of prospecting time. The key to time blocking is to never cheat. Once a time block is on your schedule, you should stick to it no matter how tempting it is to do something else during that time.
Teamwork – Any time you can divide the labor, you give yourself more capacity. If it’s appropriate in your company, you might want to team up with another sales professional. If you have access to clerical support, find good and efficient ways to use it. I have met many a sales pro who has access to administrative support but chooses not to use it, saying something like, “Well, it’s faster if I just do it myself.” To me, that means the sales pro hasn’t spent time training the admin how his or her sales process works.
Research During Off Hours – It is especially important during your most busy months to do your prospect research during off hours. Since you have so much going on when you’re about to close a bunch of deals at once, you don’t want to spend prime, daytime meeting/calling hours looking up prospects’ websites and LinkedIn profiles. Instead, do that during weekends, late nights or early mornings.
No matter how busy we get, even during our craziest, most exciting months, we still need to find a way to reach cold prospects. It’s shocking how fast a pipeline can drain. If you want to avoid the up-and-down, boom-bust business cycle that too many sales reps find themselves struggling with, you have to find the time, energy and enthusiasm to make one more call.