The High Cost of Busy: 3 Time Traps That Are Costing You Sales


“Being busy does not always mean real work,” wrote Thomas Edison.In the promotional products business, we tend to use our “busyness” as a barometer of success.Busyness is not a metric for progress; busyness is often an excuse for not doing the hard work that matters most!Why do we mistake busyness for real business?From a famous New York Times Article entitled “The Busy Trap”: 

Busyness serves as a kind of ... reassurance, a hedge against emptiness; obviously your life cannot possibly be ... meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day.

 In the promotional products industry, busyness is easy to come by, you can “busy” yourself with many trivial tasks that seem important.Following are three of the biggest time traps in the promotional products industry that rob you of sales: 

#1 Time Trap: Non-mission-critical Work

 What’s mission critical for a salesperson? Only two things: Growing existing business and gaining new customers. If you’re in sales, get everything off your plate that is not selling.Any minute a salesperson spends working on an order after it is safely put into production costs you money, period.Matty Toomb, Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Shumsky says that “by January 1, you have to realize you're going to lose 20% of your business.” By sheer attrition, you will likely lose more business than gain if you do not activate a mission-critical mindset.Because the industry is rife with variables, salespeople often get bogged down in the details. Administrative tasks become mental therapy, a way to put the mind into cruise control for a while. These tasks are dangerous because they delude us into thinking we’re productive. Example: A complex apparel order suddenly requires you to create a spreadsheet -when no spreadsheet was necessary- simply because it’s easier, risk-free (busy) work. Or, as a friend once told me, "work expands to fill the time available."And let’s face it: working with customers, trying to influence buyers, facing rejection, it’s all emotional risk, and emotional work is harder work. Moreover, proactive sales work is the hardest work to do because there is no looming deadline. So, we drift into busy-work on current projects in the pipeline instead of proactively driving ourselves to tasks that will pay us tomorrow.To fix this, review your internal processes and determine if you need to change your infrastructure to free you up to focus on sales. Formulate a plan for a reorganization and create a deadline for process improvement. For additional help, listen to Catherine Graham’s presentation, Strategies for Scaling. 

#2 Time Trap: Lack of a Simple Workflow 

 It’s not just salespeople doing admin work that crushes potential; it’s also duplicate processes and over-communication that cripples a salesperson’s progress.For many distributors, the #1 enemy to their sales growth is their production workflow. The simple lack of a streamlined workflow can cap sales earnings, balloon payroll costs, and frustrate growth. I spoke to a large distributor just this morning who was frustrated by their antiquated process, “If we don’t get a streamlined system soon, we expect a 30% drop in our sales or we’ll have to add five more people to the team.”In a study by McKinsey & Company, “The average interaction worker spends an estimated 28% of the workweek managing e-mail and nearly 20% looking for internal information.”In short, according to McKinsey, nearly 50% of your workweek consists of email and simply finding shit.The lack of a unified system that takes orders from concept to completion, using the same system for order entry, artwork management, and internal communication, is the only way to manage your business. If you are using multiple systems, review our worksheet Are You Prepared to Scale? How a Systems Change Can Ignite Sales Growth 

#3 Time Trap: Deskbound and Demoralized

 If I’ve heard it once from a salesperson, I’ve heard it a thousand times: “I get far more done away from the office than inside.”One benefit of being frequently outside of confines of your company is that you will naturally network, whether you are visiting clients, at a business function, or simply out socially. Real connections happen outside our office walls. Danny Rosin, co-founder of distributor BrandFuel wrote:“Get away from your damn desk ... In the digital age, human to human relationships and interactions are changing … Carve out time to meet with your clients, even incremental time. Sounds obvious. But as Amazon and other online sales channels loom large and close by, visiting with your client is the new competitive advantage.”Inside the walls of an average distributor’s office lay a landmine of busy traps: well-intentioned colleagues with frequent interruptions, unnecessary chatter about work in production, and meetings that extend way beyond their productive value. 

If, according to Mckinsey & Company, you spend nearly 50% of your time emailing or looking for things, guess how much of your time is left for selling after you’ve spent a week in unnecessary conversations and endless meetings?

 This is why it’s imperative for salespeople to free themselves from the tyranny of the desktop.To begin, start moving your business processes to the cloud and seek mobile-based solutions that allow you to manage your business effortlessly, while on the go.If you do not have a work-from-anywhere solution that allows you to free up your life and manage your business stress-free, you should make that priority #1 for 2018. For inspiration, listen to our podcast conversation with Justin Carter of Brand-On (Creating the Life and Business You Want) and for practical steps to creating a work-from-anywhere lifestyle, check out our Guide to Creating a Modern Office.Don’t let “busy” become a mantra that, due to repetition, becomes how you define your work-life. Recognize that “being busy” comes at an incredibly high cost.Michael Gerber, author of “The E-Myth Revisited” wrote, “Quit being 'busy' and start actively owning and operating your company, and you'll be able to understand where the money is coming from and how to make more of it.”
commonsku is an effortless business management platform that empowers you to process more orders and handle more business. To learn more visit