Living in sales can be like an ER nurse on New Year’s Eve. You’re dealing with waves of incoming fire. The volume and intensity of your work is unpredictable. You’re trying to manage erratic fits and starts of urgency, while trying to do your job. When you’re focused on survival, how much attention can you really pay to productivity?
As a former test prep instructor, I still adhere to the Princeton Review’s motto of “Work smarter, not harder.” I’m eager to fight for control by implementing processes or adopting tools to improve my productivity. TeuxDeux looked like it was going to save me at one point, then Wunderlist seemed like the ticket. I’ve toyed with processes outlined in Unsubscribe and goofed around with Trello boards. In the end they all wind up discarded in the kitchen junk drawer.
It’s not the tools or processes’ fault. They’d be effective if I used them effectively. The problem is that most of these tools and processes are built for improving day-to-day productivity. Or they’re built for tracking consistent weekly achievement and accountability. They’re measuring productivity in short increments. I get it! Measuring things out in terms of hours or days feels achievable. Most productivity hacks are daily plans or weekly goals.
In sales (and in many other roles btw), no two weeks are ever the same. As soon as you commit to daily or weekly tasks and goals, you’re almost immediately breaking those promises and commitments. If a sense productivity is a shot-in-the-arm confidence booster, breaking your commitments is death by a thousand paper cuts. How long can you stick to your goals when you’re constantly breaking your own promises?
I wish I could write every Tuesday like my friend Jen Dary does. Or that I could block out 3 hours every week for outbound introductory emails. Some weeks I can. Some Tuesdays I write. But when clients are dictating deadlines, their needs overlap and intersect. Especially early in the sales process when I haven’t earned enough trust to negotiate timelines and deadlines. I have to make tough decisions about what gets moved to the back burner. What gets pushed to next week.
I try to spread sales efforts across a variety of channels to ensure all bases are covered: outbound sales, account management, content marketing, inbound/closing, and partnerships. Instead of holding myself to weekly routines that fall apart, or daily objectives I can’t deliver, I widen the lens and examine my goals along a longer timeline. Perhaps over months, or per quarter.
Over a quarter I’ll commit to:
Two full outbound email campaigns
Six blog posts, or other content marketing projects
Two internal key account planning sessions followed by two collaborative client planning meetings
Signing/closing six consulting projects
Exploring two partnership opportunities
I may not be able to execute outbound every week like I’d prefer, but if I look at my calendar over three months, I’ll find windows where I can find the time.
For a long time I felt like I was failing because I couldn’t stick to daily to-do’s. I couldn’t create weekly goals I felt comfortable being consistently measured against. I needed to find the appropriate cadence for my goals, to allow an opportunity to feel productive.
Acknowledge the cadence of your own work, and build an appropriate approach. Don’t be hemmed in by “Every day do this” or “Every week do that” kind of advice. If it makes sense, free yourself from daily goals or weekly metrics! But replace them with monthly or quarterly goals you can solidly commit to. Widen your lens as far you need to make space for productivity.