Your phone is not ringing as much as before, companies are taking longer to reach a buying decision and referrals are slowing. Combine this with poor time management and what do you have? Disaster.
So what can you do to maintain sales and income? One option is to understand the value of your time and organise your day to earn more. Here are eight concepts to help you do that.
1) Money hours
Organise your day around the ‘money’ hours. These are the hours that you can and should be talking with your prospects and customers. Going out on appointments. Calling on the telephone. Finding new customers and seeking opportunities with existing ones. The money hours are too valuable to waste on non-revenue generating activities. Confine these activities to before or after your money hours. This requires discipline, doesn’t it? How much easier is it to do a bit of paperwork rather than picking up the phone?
2) Best time to call
When calling, persistency pays. Sometimes up to six calls are required. The best time to call to get real people willing to do business is between 3.30pm and 4.45pm. The best time to get a “live” conversation is between 3.30pm and 5.30pm. Friday is the best. Monday is the worst.
The best results are obtained within 24 hours when returning incoming phone calls. And leave a good message.
3) Prospecting hours
Dedicate a certain percentage of your money hours to prospecting for new business. Vary the time of day when you contact individuals to increase the probability of reaching them. As this is an activity most people hate, put it in your schedule. Then do it. Pick up the phone and – as all telemarketers are told – call with a smile on your face.
4) Follow up
Do what you say you’ll do. Ensure you document your follow-up immediately. If you set it aside for later you’ll either forget to do it or you won’t remember all the details. Set a date and time reminder for it to pop up in your calendar and remind you to do the follow-up.
Use these prompting functions to help you to maintain your follow-ups when faced with a continuum of ‘not yets’. Persistence pays off, yet very few people persevere when they don’t get an immediate ‘yes’. It also helps for those longer-term ‘call me back in six months’ follow-ups.
To make it easy, standardise your most frequently used follow-up pieces for easy production and distribution.
A little extra advice: with so much email clutter and spam filtering, you may consider posting the marketing or proposal material in addition to emailing. Emailing allows recipients to share and forward it. However, many large corporations and government departments strip attachments or limit mailbox sizes, so the recipient may never see your email or attachments. Posting a print version ensures they do.
5) Keep improving
Make sure you schedule non-money hours for professional development such as sales skills, people skills or improving industry and/or product knowledge.
6) Know your statistics
Sales don’t appear magically out of thin air. The ‘yes’ you got today from a customer was generated by an activity that occurred in the past. One of the biggest problems for small business owners and the self-employed is being too busy and allowing marketing and business development to slip off the radar.
In other words, not following point 1; using the money hours correctly. If your sales funnel is four months and you were busy in February, neglecting to create activity, June will be unusually quiet.
Here are other statistics you should be keeping track of: how many phone calls or emails to make contact with an individual? How many contacts to a qualified lead? Qualified leads to proposals? Proposals or contracts to customers? Calls per hour? Follow-up attempts before dropping?
7) Productive downtime
Always, always have something to read for flight delays, waiting rooms, standing in lines. Use your time driving to listen to educational or business podcasts. With headphones, you can also use the time to make call backs.
8) Just one more
If you can discipline yourself to make just one extra contact a day with someone new, you’ll have about 250 extra contacts in a year.
Debbie Mayo-Smith is an internationally renowned motivational speaker, and the author of 16 best-selling books about business success. Learn more at www.successis.co.nz