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The Green Sheet Online Edition

July 12, 2010 • Issue 10:07:01

Managing your most important asset

By Jeff Fortney
Clearent LLC

It's the asset we all own, rich or poor. It's finite, yet called infinite. And once it's used, it can never be recovered. No one can corner the market, and no monopoly can set the price because it doesn't have a universally quantifiable cost. Have you guessed what I'm talking about?

It's time

We have all left meetings that seemed to waste our time and heard someone say, "There's an hour I'll never get back." In truth, every hour that passes is sixty minutes we will never get back.

Time management systems comprise a huge industry. The plethora of time management tools, from generic to customized, all stem from the need to better manage this valuable asset.

Yet it is the one tool in the ISO and merchant level salesperson (MLS) toolbox that is most often wasted. We are often advised to always be selling and reminded that every situation is a sales opportunity. But when it comes to purposefully managing time spent selling, most of us fall short.

Six steps toward stellar sales time

Successful ISOs and MLSs are intentional and disciplined when it comes to using time. Follow their example with these six steps:

  1. Schedule sales time: Appointments are important; people don't tend to add frivolous activities to their schedules. But it's easy to set the wrong kind of appointments when your schedule appears free. It takes focus to ensure that sales appointments are for true sales efforts.

    Treat scheduled sales time as valuable. Don't just book time; book the right time. And schedule your sales time around your target market. For example, don't schedule sales time for restaurants between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.; that's their lunch rush.

  2. Set aside separate time for support tasks: Never pass up an opportunity to sell if it arises, but also schedule time to plan your sales efforts, handle the mundane day-to-day tasks and ultimately de-stress. (A good salesperson gets a fair share of rejection. If you don't de-stress daily, your sales efforts will ultimately falter.)

    Know your market, and schedule your planning and preparation time for when you would be the least effective if you were selling on the phone or in the field.

  3. Plan how you will use your sales time: Just booking time for sales does not ensure you will spend your time wisely. Preplan the use of your booked time.

    This is not planning your presentation or honing sales techniques. These are important to your efforts, but they are not at the heart of managing your time. This form of planning calls for carefully allocating how much time you intend to spend on each sales-related task, so you can set and measure objectives for what you hope to accomplish within each time frame.

    Failure to plan your time results in lost time. Plan your calls, your efforts and your targets prior to your scheduled time. And protect your dedicated sales time; make every effort to avoid cutting into it. Keep in mind that drive time is not sales time

  4. Avoid distractions: It happens to everyone. During your scheduled sales time, you receive a call from a merchant with a serious issue (or so it seems to him or her). It's important to handle the concern, but it's also necessary to mitigate its impact on your scheduled sales time.

    Assess the problem as quickly as possible. Does it involve something you must physically handle? Can you handle it with a phone call? How time-critical is the issue? Can it be addressed during time scheduled for support tasks?

    Always address merchants' concerns as rapidly as possible. But remember, not all of these "urgencies" are truly urgent. Many issues can be handled appropriately with a quick phone call on the spot or after your sales time.

    Weigh the importance of addressing the issue immediately against the value of your lost sales time. If you must address it right away, do so. But then extend your sales time accordingly, or add time to your next sales effort.

    The key to not getting embroiled in distractions is to identify the issue and consider the ramifications of addressing it now versus later.

  5. Document, document, document: Leading time management systems require that you document your activities. The importance of this is obvious. Unless you can refer to how you spent your time, you have no way to measure the effectiveness of your planning efforts.

    Outline your sales plan, describe the results after each call and note the time spent. Review these actions weekly, and identify the most successful efforts, as well as those that wasted time.

    Increase your time spent on productive efforts, and thus reduce waste in the future.

    Do not ignore this step. Failing to conduct a thorough review will negatively affect your sales results and cause you to become increasingly frustrated.

  6. Finally, spend all your time wisely. It's the most valued asset you have. (I hope you read this on time set aside for professional enrichment.)
end of article

Jeff Fortney is Director of Business Development with Clearent LLC. He has more than 12 years of experience in the payments industry. Contact him at jeff@clearent.com or 972-618-7340.

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