Getting a salesman to plan his time is regarded by many sales executives as the number one problem of sales management. Why is time management and planning so important in selling? The answer lies in today’s rising sales costs, amid the hot competition for markets, and the apparent decline in face to face selling time.
Setting a time budget
Setting a time budget is a cooperative effort by sales management and the salesmen. The sales manager and his field managers are responsible for a salesman’s productivity, so they cannot escape having to manage and plan their time well. But the salesman must also plan his time intelligently.
No salesman can be under continuous and constant supervision. He has to have leeway and some independence. His sales day is rarely ever routine. For example, one customer keeps him waiting in the reception room longer than he planned.
Another customer is called into a meeting and cancels the appointment after the salesman has arrived at the customer’s office. A third customer spends a half hour airing complaints.
All time management planning does is create the proper environment for the sales man to use his time well. It is designed to get him face to face with as many prospects and customers as possible. This does not mean he will work harder; it means he will work more intelligently.
A successful salesman is more than a salesman. He is a manager, managing himself, his home, his job, a segment of a sales territory. The ability to plan is a big step toward promotion.
Controlling a time budget
A first step in controlling a time budget is periodic analysis of call-reports and time charts. The salesman should get a copy of this analysis to help him improve his use of time. Too many call-reports are simply reporting for reporting’s sake; the reports are scanned as a routine procedure and filed.
If the sales manager or supervisor wants to teach his salesmen to manage their time more wisely, he should teach them the correct hours to make sales calls, and whether or not a prospect or customer should be sold over the phone or face to face. This does not just save time, but also resources.
How salespersons should plan their time is really not all that different from how people in other professions should manage theirs. This is where the word ‘timing’ comes in. That is, there are certain things that are best performed and accomplished within a particular time period. Thus, a priority list is also important.
Control of a salesman’s time for work and travel depends on management’s knowledge of the sales territory, the present and prospective accounts, traffic conditions, and other factors. All plans must be flexible because workloads and territorial boundaries must be adjusted from time to time.
Managers cannot work entirely at desks, looking at control maps. They must get into the territory, not only to make logical adjustments but also to bolster the salesman’s morale and to make him respect the plans he is expected to follow.
Some companies use their marketing service staff to help regional and branch managers route salesmen manage their time more effectively. Some companies provide clerical help in field offices to take over much of the paper workload. Many provide audiovisual equipment and other types of persuasive sales presentations to exploit the precious three or four hours of face to face interviews each day.
Salesmen should be sold on the need to plan. In many companies, ‘how to plan’ is part of the salesman’s basic time management planning and training.