Did you know that the average salesperson's hour is only 24 minutes long? That's all the time they actually have in face-to-face selling. They spend 15 minutes traveling and waiting for appointments; approximately 19 minutes on reports; and three minutes handling service calls. This shows you the importance of time management in the sales game. Here are some tips on time management that have come up in Pro Talk, a series of roundtable discussions published by William Bradford Associates Inc., Cleveland.

Work at least one week ahead. Says one sales veteran, “I make no sales calls after 4 p.m., and use the rest of the day to set up the following week. This includes phoning for appointments, lining up a schedule of calls for each day and assembling the material I need for each call. As each day comes up, my schedule is set and I have nothing to do except make good sales calls. Planning has become a piece of cake.”

Don't underestimate the importance of analyzing your territory geographically. If 20 percent of your business and potential is in a certain city, you probably should be spending at least one day a week there. Also, consider dividing your hometown and nearby communities into calling areas. Determine what percent of your business is in each area, and then plan to spend that same percentage of time there each week. “This is a big help in lining up a schedule of daily calls so you don't spend any time backtracking,” says one salesperson.

Monitor this territory analysis, and adjust your schedule as necessary. Every three months, check where your sales are coming from to make sure you are using your sales time wisely. You must adjust your routine as your business changes.

Use the time you spend in reception rooms to your advantage. One salesperson says when she is waiting to meet a customer, it's a good time to catch up on her correspondence. “I use waiting time in reception rooms to write a letter or email that needs writing,” she says. “I find that if I put it off until the end of the day or until I get back to the office, it gets a little cold and I don't remember the details as much as I should.”

Give Us Your Ideas

This month's Sales Talk challenge for Electrical Wholesaling's readers is to submit the best time-management strategy. The reader who submits the best sales tip on this topic will receive a $100 American Express gift certificate and recognition in an upcoming issue of Electrical Wholesaling. To be eligible for this month's contest, e-mail your sales tips by May 15 to Jim Lucy, Electrical Wholesaling's chief editor, at jim.lucy@penton.com.

Stumped? Perhaps you want to offer an idea for finding more time to make sales calls, but you're having trouble putting your thoughts down on paper. Here are some ideas to spark your thinking. Check out the sales tips from “99 Can't-Miss Sales Tips” in EW's October 2006 issue and “The Quest for the 100th Sales Tip” in the December issue. These articles are available online at www.ewweb.com.

You also may want to use the following questions to prompt discussions among your salespeople in a roundtable format in a sales meeting.

By using open questions such as the examples shown below to tap the know-how gathered at the table, a company can harness a valuable asset to improve performance.

  • When and how do you do your planning?

  • How do you find out how much attention each of your customers really wants?

  • What can you do to match the potential in an area with the amount of time and effort you spend there?

  • What is your single best technique for cutting down on paperwork?

The roundtable format is the basis for Pro Talk, a brainstorming tool to focus a group of salespeople for an hour on one aspect of the job. For more information about Pro Talk, contact Dave Bradford at (440) 543-7602 or by e-mail at BradfordPROTALK@aol.com.

WE HAVE A WINNER in the “Dealing with Objections” Challenge

Jackson Kay, Consolidated Electrical Distributors, Pennsauken, N.J., offered several great tips for dealing with objections, and is the happy winner of a $100 American Express gift certificate. In submitting these tips, he said, “The tips are from what I've learned here at CED and also from my education, a degree from the Russ Berrie Institute for Professional Sales, William Paterson University, Wayne, N.J.

“I really enjoy your magazine — the LED articles are especially interesting to me — it seems like they are going to be huge in the next few years.”

Don't let the objection take place. It's easier to make a sale if an objection never occurs. Try to anticipate what the customer might be concerned with without appearing “too assuming.” Explain the value (what benefits they will personally see) before they get a chance to voice any concerns. This starts the transaction on a positive note.

Be familiar with your customer base and remember what's important to all of them. A do-it-yourselfer is probably concerned with price and the ease of installation. Talk about how they can install the product and try up-selling tools associated with the project. Maintenance workers will be interested in quality and dependability since they are responsible if the product must be replaced. Cost benefits do not affect a maintenance worker. Contractors want the correct quality/grade/rating, quantity and delivery schedule. They need to know they will have everything they need exactly when they need it. Otherwise, the project suffers as well as their reputation as a dependable professional.

Know how to handle the “P” word. Think of price as not being an issue. The value of the product is of far greater importance than the price. This is an investment, and customers need the correct item that will safely complete the project. You can provide them with this and ease all of their concerns. Stay in this mindset and focus on why their purchase is a great decision.

If the customer says, “Your price is too high, you might say, “I know this isn't inexpensive material to work with, but at least you know you'll be able to finish the job today. Plus, you won't have to go in again to fix it since these are such durable parts. What about it is too high? What were you expecting?”

Dig deeper/press for specifics. The initial objection is not always their biggest concern. It can be hiding the real reason they are hesitant. Ask thoughtful and pertinent questions that will get to the root of their uncertainty. Once they feel comfortable you're sincere in your questioning, they will open up and be willing to work with you.

Listen carefully/empathize. Do not control the conversation. People love to hear themselves talk. Let them express their concerns and empathize accordingly. Ask questions about their concerns and let them talk. For instance, if a customer says, “We're satisfied with our current supplier,” your response might be, “That's great, it's important to be happy with your supplier. What are you happy with/dissatisfied with about them? Are you satisfied with their delivery time/product lines/quantity they can handle?”

Another sales situation where careful questioning can help identify the true source of a concern is when you give a customer a trial order and it wasn't handled well. You might say, “I'm sorry that must have been frustrating. What about it wasn't handled well? Is there anything else concerning you? I want to make sure we are doing everything we can to help you.”

Believe in your product, company, and yourself. The customer has a sixth sense for insincerity. Salespeople get a bad reputation for being dishonest. If you are confident and genuine in what you are representing, the customer will recognize this and respect you for it. If you follow through on what you say you will build trust and generate a repeat buyer. Look at all objections as opportunities to prove your value to the customer. You should be excited to be able to show them why they are making the right decision coming to you.