By Shelley Cernel
Do you ever find yourself putting off some of the simplest tasks? Do you feel like you are spending more time avoiding an assignment instead of just sitting down and simply doing it? Are you letting yourself get distracted by office gossip, social media, and holiday parties? If any of these sound familiar, you may be suffering from Q4 procrastination.
Procrastination is a condition that plagues many a sales rep. And this time of year, with impending holidays and plenty of social distractions, can be even more detrimental to sales productivity (and the bottom line!). And let’s face it – nobody is 100% focused and efficient, 100% of the time. According to Piers Steel, author of The Procrastination Equation, the average person procrastinates for two hours a day. That’s 25% of a sales rep’s workday. In other words, that is the equivalent of working January – September and taking off October through the end of the year! The outcome of all this procrastination? Increased anxiety, stress, and even guilt, as well as decreased sales results. Plus, the longer you procrastinate, the faster win rates will drop.
Why We Procrastinate
To learn how to stop sales procrastination, first it’s important to understand why it happens. Contrary to popular belief, it’s rarely because sales reps are lazy. There are many schools of thought around procrastination, ranging from the scientific to the psychological to the emotional, but most revolve around these basic ideas:
- Fear of Failure – Sometimes it’s easier to believe that you didn’t hit your sales goals because you postponed those critical tasks rather than facing the truth that you may not have the ability to succeed. At the root of this idea is low self-confidence. The earlier you are in your career, the more likely this is the reason you procrastinate.
- Fear of Success – Sometimes you may feel as if you are doing too much, too fast. You may be hesitant to hit your goals because that could mean setting the bar higher in the future or additional responsibilities moving forward.
- Too Much Work, Too Little Time – Sometimes you simply have too much going on, and there will always be some tasks that will never get done. Most people want instant gratification, so reps are more likely to complete easier, shorter tasks. That means those more long-term responsibilities may not be accomplished any time soon.
How to Stop Procrastination
Follow these tips to stop the sales procrastination and hit those year-end sales goals!
Step 1: Make a Plan
We are half way through the quarter, and you are probably feeling the pressure. The first step is to make those projects you have been pushing off more manageable. Break down the rest of the quarter by month and week – what milestones and critical tasks need to be accomplished by each of those dates? Now, block out your day into manageable chunks of time, such as one hour. For each block, don’t do anything else except the task at hand (such as making phone calls, following up on emails, or prospecting on LinkedIn). All other activities will have to wait for your break in between these time blocks.
Similarly, break down larger assignments into more manageable tasks. This strategy will make it easier to approach the project at hand. Each little step will make you feel more accomplished and take you one step closer to completion. Another prioritization strategy is to organize your tasks in terms of increasing complexity or difficulty. This strategy is particularly useful for more junior sales reps who are still learning. And if there is a particular unpleasant task that you aren’t looking forward to, just go ahead and schedule it on your calendar – day and time.
Step 2: Set Goals
So, you know what needs done and you know the time frame you have to do it in. Now it’s time to articulate your goals. When defining these goals, it’s important to make sure that they are specific. For example, don’t just say, “Make phone calls”. Instead say, “Call X many prospects within 1 hour and send follow-up emails to each”. Set these types of goals every day, and they will soon become habits.
And remember to have realistic expectations for the rest of the year. No – this doesn’t mean creating excuses for a lackluster performance. It means focusing on manageable and achievable goals.
Step 3: Clear the Calendar
Consider which activities contribute directly to revenue (i.e. will help you hit your sales numbers) and which can be saved for another day with more time. Now is not the time to be volunteering to test a new sales process, write a blog for marketing, or organize a company corn-hole tournament. Even if you engage in these activities, at the end of the day you will still have a sales number looming ahead. Keep your eyes on the prize!
Step 4: Embrace Automation
Automating activities such as admin tasks allows you to focus and dedicate time back to core selling activities. And don’t forget to leverage your organization’s sales enablement tools, which will save you time and effort in looking for the right content or messaging to share with prospects.
Now, go forth and be productive! Good Luck!
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