To Do Lists Don’t Work!

Conventional wisdom dictates that originators complete to do lists to succeed but the problem is that lists don’t work and can actually get in the way of real progress. Why? To do lists are tasks of everything that is on a salesperson’s plate for a day. What this translates into is an unstructured collection of tasks that many times don’t reflect the priorities required to be successful. Simply completing an unfocused list doesn’t work and can become a problem in and of itself when the top priorities are not correctly placed on the list.

What is the answer? De-clutter your personal and professional lives by throwing out everything that is in your way to achieving your vision of success. In Conquering the Seven Summits of Sales, a fascinating book by Susan Ershler and John Waechter, the authors — two sales executives who climbed the Seven Summits, the tallest mountains on each of the seven continents — discuss how salespeople get caught up with the wrong things such as e-mails, meetings and countless demands on their time. As a result, sales professionals can get overwhelmed and lose sight on what matters: revenue-generating activities.

Ershler and Waechter noted that “as salespeople, we should think of our to do list items as physical objects that we place in our backpacks to help us achieve our daily mission. We must learn to delay, eliminate or reassign any activity that doesn’t help us ascend Mount Quota.”

The authors further observed that most salespeople tend to focus on the easy tasks. They do busy work, talk with colleagues and react to other people’s priorities. Just think how much they would have accomplished if they had spent their time meeting with prospective clients!

The key to “traveling light” is to distinguish between daily strategic and tactical activities.
Strategic activities are about providing the sales person with a competitive edge and helping them to build customer loyalty. At the center of strategic activities are things that enhance the individual’s industry and sales knowledge. In the end, personal development is what truly separates the best from the underperformers. Personal development is what makes originators true experts in their guidance to customers.

On the other hand, tactical activities constitute everything else and should be addressed with the goal of quickly handling them. The biggest time waster in this category is email. The time originators and managers spend on email can be two to three hours a day. When this time is multiplied over a year, 480 hours translates into roughly 60 days that are wasted and lost by focusing on a non-revenue generating activity.

What would your sales results look like if you had spent the 60 days prospecting?