The Promo Professional's Frenemies (and Where to Find Margin for More)
As we continue our series on tiny tasks for ginormous gain, there is one crucial discovery we should make together, an imperative discussion that impacts your sales potential: realizing that you might possess margin in your schedule for more.Everyone hates the phrase “free time” as no one assumes they have any! But everyone has discretionary time. A single mom of multiples has very little discretionary time; a new sales rep with few familial commitments has much more. Depending on your role, your revenue, and your responsibilities, you can find margin in the small pockets of discretionary time stolen from you daily.Much of our wasted time or robbed time, is plucked from our schedule by the hands of frenemies. Friends: in that they bring us joy, profit, and positive experiences; Frenemies: in that they disrupt our schedules and thwart our plans.There are four primary frenemies of the promotional products professional. Some are more friend than foe and some are opportunities in perilous disguise.According to PPAI's studies through the years, more than 40% of orders in the promotional products business are rush orders. Some suppliers (those with a 24-hour service) will reflect statistics far larger. This begs the question: Aren't all orders rush orders? Well, no. But almost all orders are deadline driven.The promotional products business is a deadline business. If you feel harassed, it's for a good reason: everything you manage is on a tight deadline. This is not news, but it is critical for us to know so that we can begin to build tiny, proactive selling tasks into our day. You will rarely carve and command entire afternoons for proactive selling activities. If you are fortunate, and your business is growing, you will not have the bandwidth. This very afternoon that you had planned for prospecting (or for new idea research) will get derailed by a project with a deadline, and that's OK. Why? Interruptions are our business.According to facebook, their users average nearly an hour a day on the platform. And Netflix? 1-1/2 hours per day. That's 2-1/2 hours per day, and that does not include the other rabbit holes that exist in our life (ahem, Instagram). Again, these are not foes, they are friends, they bring us joy and connection with others, but they become foes if high-consumption prohibits creative selling. You inbox is your friend. It is your lifeline to your customers and your pipeline to opportunities. It is also a ruthless foe when it comes to proactive selling. Many of us prioritize our workday through our inboxes. How to escape?
- Defer, deflect, do. If it's not a project that's a priority for you, defer as quickly as possible. If it's a cute cat video that your cousin sent you, deflect it by using an app like Pocket (so that you can enjoy dancing kittens later), and if it's a "do", see the next step.
- Utilize a project management program (we're a bit partial to the one that features the hunky robot). Utilizing a project management tool means your inbox is simply a conduit for projects (not a parking place!) and that the real place where you determine priorities is not based on the last screaming email you received nor your ability to remember. Besides, studies have shown that you can only remember seven items at any given time (plus or minus two items). So, how do you expect to manage thousands of products and hundreds of projects for dozens of clients? The key: get the project out of your inbox and into a safe place where prioritization and collaborative work is possible.
- Close your inbox on occasion and practice Pomodoro: the Pomodoro technique is a timer technique used to break down your big project-work into incremental segments (like 15 or 30-minute segments). This is an ideal technique for researching ideas for your clients or working on that big hairy quote that contains a multitude of variables. The timer on your phone is all you need (well, that, and the iron will to turn off the email firehose). If you want a really cool experience with this technique, check out the 30/30 app.
- The 2-minute rule: If it can be done in under two minutes, do it now and delete the email. Managing the task will take more time than just getting it done.
Victory is won not in miles but in inches. Win a little now, hold your ground, and later, win a little more.