I was asked the other day by a distributor salesperson “how do I stay so organized and on top of everything?” I had to laugh because I obviously had them fooled as I feel just as frenetic and scattered as most people in a given day. Clearly I am a decent actor.
But it got me thinking about some of the key things I do that help me stay focused. Like many people, I have tried countless productivity hacks and most only stick for a few days before I forget about them.
To keep things simple, here are the 3 things I do to stay focused throughout the day. These have been my trusty go-to tactics for years.
1. Early bird gets the worm
I have 3 young kids and things turn sideways when they wake up at 7am. Distractions await me at the office after I drop them at school so I need a window of time where I can power through my to-do list, or focus on some big picture ideas.
So, I get up at 5am most mornings, brew some coffee, put my headphones on and work straight for 2 hours.
To keep me focused in that 120 minute period, I will jot down a to-do list on a scrap of paper (I’ll glean these from my digital task manager, but the act of writing them down helps me get them done). After I complete each task, I check them off with a congratulatory checkmark. It is 21st century meets the 18th century.
2. Gmail Folders and Filters
I use Gmail as my email manager so I am going to assume that what I am saying here can be done in Outlook as it’s pretty basic.
Like everyone in the promotional product industry, I am besieged by supplier flyers, specials, and new product announcements. These either make their way into my “Promotions” tab in Gmail or I set up a specific “Supplier Flyers” folder. So, instead of these emails constantly interrupting me when I am in my Primary Inbox, I schedule some time to scroll through these emails once a week. This keeps me on top of what’s happening in the industry in a focused manner.
While my inbox is not perfect, it’s focused on key messages.
3. CRM & Sales Workflow
There was a time when I had no system – other than my inbox – for managing opportunities from customers. Be it an inbound request (“Hi, I need ideas for my next trade show”) to action items associated with a client meeting. Everything lived in my inbox and managing it was a nightmare. On the best days, everything was reactive and disorganized. On the worst days, balls dropped everywhere.
Now I use commonsku to manage my sales workflow (bias alert, I co-founded the company, but bear with me). Every time a customer contacts me looking for promotional products, this gets logged as an opportunity in my system. This allows me to keep track of the opportunity, assign it to a colleague (if applicable), set a due date, add a description and include products. This creates a to-do list for me so I know when I need to act on each opportunity and bring them to the next stage in the flow (ie presentation, estimate or sales order).
As all forms are connected, I can jump from one stage in the sales process to the next without having to re-enter data. Each step builds on top of the last action, all the way from the initial opportunity to final invoice.
This system not only allows me to stay on top of various sales tasks, but the reporting gives me a bird’s eye view of all outstanding presentations or estimates so I know which ones I need to close and convert into orders.
commonsku isn’t the only solution, of course. I know of other people who use Slack, Trello, Asana, or Salesforce.com to stay organized. Regardless of what you use, it’s important to find some workflow system that connects your sales activities to your order processing capabilities. The two big time sucks for sales people as it relates to workflow are (i) scattered emails and (ii) the duplication of information. Find a process that eliminates these two problems and you’ll be well on your way to lowering your stress.
I’d love to hear from you too. What are your productivity and time-saving hacks?
commonsku is cloud-based promotional products software to modernize your business. We give you the best tools to run your business from presentation through to invoicing and everything in between.