When you compare the resources available to most companies, it hardly ever seems fair. There are always those that have more people, a bigger marketing budget, more offices, more offerings, etc. Name any resource, and you're probably able to point out who has the upper hand and who has the short end of the stick.
But the most precious of all resources is the one currency that's distributed exactly the same for everyone: time. There isn't another resource in the world with which we get that blessing.
Imagine if time were a paycheck we all got in line for each week. My check, paid to the order of Bill Golder in the amount of 24 hours, seven days a week, is the same as yours and anyone else who happens to be reading this (and wondering why this matters). Whether you're Bill Gates or Bill Golder, the paycheck is the same. I have to admit I like the sound of that.
As to why this is so important: In large part, we take time for granted and spend it like there's an endless supply. In sales, we spend time analyzing our competition—what they have and don't have versus what we have and don't have. Then we either fret too much over what we don't have or get too confident over what we do have. We create great brochures, podcasts, e-mail campaigns, and presentation decks emphasizing the areas in which we are resource-rich.
While all are important, I would argue there isn't a greater resource in the craft of selling than time. Of course, how we spend that allotment of time each week is where the great divide exists in terms of the "haves" and the "have-nots." That one characteristic, I would argue, is what puts one group of salespeople on the wrong side of the tracks.
As I think of all the salespeople I've known who consistently deliver, the one common characteristic is they spend their time on the right activities. Sales is a numbers game, but ultimately, it is how the minutes are spent versus how many cold calls knocked down in a day that makes the greatest difference.
Oftentimes, when we analyze deals won or lost, it rarely comes down to product, resource, or price advantages as key attributes. It most typically comes down to positioning, time spent with the right buying influences, and credibility.
I boil it down to how well time was spent on an opportunity. Most of the deals lost come down to things like time spent with the wrong people and time spent talking to the client about unimportant strengths. Essentially, lost sales almost always come down to time spent on the wrong priorities.
The more complex the deal, the more choices a salesperson must make on the strategies and actions necessary to win. Those choices are all about where time will be invested and what people to spend that time with.
In today's current environment, we are seeing more and more deals lost due to conditions that have changed over time. Initiatives that were once high priority have been deep-sixed due to missed earnings. Salespeople who can't efficiently assess and anticipate these situations are likely spending time on the wrong strategies and with the wrong people.
Sales managers should think of themselves as advisors and experts in clock management for their teams, just as financial advisors are to those making decisions with their money. In football, the best coaches and quarterbacks are often excellent managers of the clock—a critical resource that's equally distributed to both teams.
Great sales managers are no different. They make sure their team is focused on the right deals, and they constantly drive a consistent framework for evaluating and setting the right strategies on each one.
The best sales organizations (and Miller Heiman's latest research study validate this) have invested in standard process of how their sales team engages with their customers—and they are outperforming their peers. They're winning because they have a common language that enables their salespeople and managers to more efficiently make decisions, coach, and ultimately execute better strategies to win.
The study revealed sales organizations that organized standard processes and activities around opportunity creation, opportunity management, and relationship management significantly outperformed their peers in the areas of customer retention, new client acquisition, forecast accuracy, percentage of sales team achieving quota, and greater quantity of qualified opportunities in the funnel.
Additionally, these organizations showed much greater effectiveness in areas like SFA and CRM adoption, as well as better identification of the best practices of their top performers. Simply put, they've made a commitment to put framework around how their teams will leverage their time to drive organic growth.
Whether you're a sales leader or front line salesperson you should ask yourself if the time being allocated to you or your organization each week is being properly invested.
With all the talk about fewer resources than ever, we shouldn't lose sight of the fact time is the one resource that remains unchanged. You alone can choose how it's spent…and whether it becomes your greatest strength or your least-leveraged asset.
SMM columnist Bill Golder is executive vice president of sales at Miller Heiman. Available for keynote speaking opportunities, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 877-678-0397.