Updated: Sep 17, 2021
Calendar management has become one of the biggest challenges for Sales and Sales Development teams. They're constantly fighting with their calendars, trying to pack sufficient prospecting and opportunity advancement activities into a limited time. Interruptions and schedule changes make a mess of daily plans, force rescheduling and outright deletion of required tasks, and lead to frustration and turnover.
There is an easier and more effective way to deal with these challenges - the Structured Week.
Imagine planning your work life as a project, not a schedule. Consider a day filled with tasks, milestones, and critical slack time instead of just scheduled events. You'd be able to focus on each task required for success, use your allocated free (slack) time to handle inevitable interruptions and emergencies, better focus on critical deadlines and milestones, and adapt as needed without getting off track.
Here are the 7 steps for getting control of your schedule and focusing on executing the tasks required for success.
1) Define the activities that are required to do your job, and those that are critical for your success in your sales position
2) Assign a typical amount of time you believe you need to spend each time you start one of those tasks
3) Put them into the key categories based on importance, for example: Necessary Time Killers, Investment, and "Money Time"
Here's what these steps would look like, represented graphically, for an SDR:
4) Prior to each week, allocate about 6 hours of daily tasks, in the order they should be completed. Some of them will be meetings or sessions at a specific time of day, but this is not a calendar. Place them in the approximate order in your day when they will occur. Be sure to leave about 2 hours of flexible (slack) time in your planned day. As an Account Executive or SDR, a minimum of 4 hours should be spent on money making tasks each day, with few exceptions.
The real key... don't plug each activity into a time slot on your calendar. Simply place them in the order in which you plan to do them. If you try to schedule each task for a specific time, the interruptions of the day will likely cause you to miss many of your appointed time slots and get you off track.
Your structured week will look something like this, and include your commitment for the tasks and time allocations you believe are necessary for your success (SDR example) To be clear, the chart represents the planned order in which you will work on your tasks and the planned duration for each session. It is not a schedule with specific start and stop times.
5) Adapt. This form of planning is flexible. If you're interrupted in a task, go back to it after the interruption. You should have about 2 hours of unallocated time each day to adjust your schedule. If you're having success with a particular task, spend more time on it while you're on a roll. If a new commitment comes up, shift your list to accommodate it.
6) Manage your Necessary Time Killers. Are all of those meetings necessary? Are they scheduled so they create natural interruptions? Can any of them be combined? For 1-on 1s, consider using the phone instead of zoom when you don't need to share your screen... Conversations tend to go faster on the phone. Be sure to advocate for your time, especially if you work remotely.
7) Evaluate and Revise: This form of planning is based on commitments you make to yourself, and is not intended to be a reporting tool. Document how your week went compared to your plan. At the end of the week, talk it over with a teammate or coach.
Was your plan for this week effective, or should it be changed?
Are there critical tasks you're avoiding?
Are there extra meetings that keep you away from focusing on Money Time?
Roll your observations into next week's plan.
The power of the Structured Week is that it represents your COMMITMENT to the tasks that will drive your success, and knocks down many of the structural barriers to making it happen.
Interruptions don't matter as much, and are easier to manage,
You'll allocate roper amounts of time for each task, regardless of scheduled events,
You have a feedback loop to see how you're doing and adapt as necessary,
You'll gain control of your time and stop fighting with your calendar
You have the tools. Now go out there and effectively EXECUTE on your COMMITMENT. Success is guaranteed to follow.
If you'd like help implementing a Structured Week for your Sales or Sales Development teams, click here.
What if your messages were regularly read, then SAVED by your recipients and used for future reference? There’s one type of email message that, when executed well, can achieve this and even create anticipation for receiving the next one… the topical digest.
A recurring theme you’ll hear from me regarding sales and marketing outreach is that you must add value for your prospect with every touch. As a marketer this is a real challenge. Your audience may be fragmented with diverse interests. Their timing may not be right for a particular message. You may need to reach out without a strong call to action. Or you may have lots of content you want to present, and you’re rightly concerned that it will be ignored (or blocked) if you appear in your prospects’ inboxes too often. You can address all of these issues by consolidating some of your messaging into a digest.
So what is a digest? It’s a quick summary of content that may be useful to your broader audience. The primary content will be yours, of course, but by interspersing third party content, you’ll add to the informational value of the messages and keep your audience engaged. And even better, by providing varied content, you’ll be able to reach more diverse segments within your audience and provide something of interest for many of these groups.
A good digest consists of links to 5 to 8 content pieces, organized in a few headings. Use less items and you’re missing the opportunity to resurface some of your older content; use more and you’ll limit the clickthrough to the individual pieces.
Here are some suggested headings, both formal and more casual depending on your chosen tone:
Latest Insights (or What’s New) - Links to 1-2 pieces of your new informational content. Use your blog posts, press releases, or white papers of general interest. You may recycle previously posted content if you update it and enough time has elapsed
Events (or What’s Up) - A webinar invitation, brief list of events you will be attending (live or virtual), or access to a previously recorded event. To keep your digest short and clean, this section can be combined with the Insights section
From the Industry (or The Big Picture) - Links to 1-2 news articles, LinkedIn posts, press releases, or guest content pieces from outside your organization
From the Archives (or In case you missed it) - Highlights from your previous digest, and/or a few links to additional older content you want to resurface. This is your best way to re-use previous content, and should appear in every issue of your digest.
Don’t forget your call to action. Always close with one additional opportunity for the recipient to engage with you. Consider any Register, Subscribe, Download, See a Demo, Contact, or other simple button, and change it up in every issue.
Here’s an example:
This should be one piece of your overall outreach program. If you want to increase readership and subscriptions, be sure that at least two out of every three content pieces is primarily informational. Avoid too many product-specific or sales-heavy pieces, and stay away from aggressive calls to action. You can send those in separate marketing or SDR messages.
Also avoid using a large banner or image at the top of your digest. To get maximum impact, you want your readers to be able to see your introduction and several lines of content without scrolling, even on a mobile device. HTML is fine, but other than a small logo or graphic, limit your text styles for section heads and content. You may even want to A-B test a version in plain text with visible links.
How often should you publish? Our research has shown that you’ll get the most clickthrough to your content by publishing every two weeks. If your organization produces a lot of content, consider accelerating this schedule to weekly, but eliminate the bulk of the individual messages you send to your audience. Sending too many messages will likely get you ignored, or even worse, blocked.
Should you track? This is always a controversial question, but our belief is that you want as many people as possible to see your digest. Using tracking technologies can get you caught in SPAM filters and limit the reach of your message.
Catch your important leads with landing pages and content gates once they’ve clicked, but keep the UTM and tracking data out of the links in your digest. For your own content, avoid URL shorteners, as they may also trigger spam filters and security systems. Consider using a short URL alias on your website for the landing page. For third party content, be sure to remove any UTM or tracking from the links and test in advance to make sure they still work.
Results: If you want to increase your audience engagement, create anticipation for your content, and extend the useful life of your content, consider sending a topical digest. Your audience will appreciate that you’re respecting their inboxes, will be more likely to consume your relevant content, and may even save it for future reference.
If you want help producing or managing a digest campaign for your organization, click here.
Updated: Aug 10, 2021
Recently a friend told me that he had put his entire business at risk because he failed to foresee a major flaw in a partnership agreement.
At the end of 2019 my friend had just finalized an arrangement that was months in the making. He had considered asking his investors for another round of funding to expand sales for his surgical device company but decided that a distributor would better achieve his goals for fast growth.
Two large distributors were contending to carry his product and they each demanded exclusivity. He selected the one with an existing portfolio of medical products that was most complementary to his own.
For his fledgling business, the benefits of this partnership would be substantial. A distributor of this size would increase sales using an existing customer base, large sales team and worldwide reach to promote his surgical devices. He projected a five-fold unit sales increase in year one alone.
Shortly after the contract was executed, the distributor, true to the commitments made in the negotiations, promoted this new device with a comprehensive product launch campaign. To accommodate the expectation of increase unit sales, my friend doubled manufacturing. Everything was going exactly according to plan until COVID hit. The distributor furloughed several hundred employees and suspended all new sales activities. Their sales efforts, like most everything else in the world at that time, were in limbo.
Because he had given this distributor exclusive rights to sell his product, not only were other distributors precluded from selling his devices, but his own company could no longer directly sell his products either. Now his chosen distributor was incapable producing new customers AND incapable of fulfilling orders to my friend’s existing customers. Sales came to a halt and inventory piled up.
It required months of negotiation for this distribution partner to amend the contract and allow my friend's company to ship product to existing customers until the pandemic subsided. He was lucky that the distributor agreed to this even though they were not obligated to do so.
We hope that we never see another year like 2020, but it doesn’t take a pandemic to put your business at risk. While partnership agreements can be extremely beneficial, it is important to structure your agreements to address contingencies and protect your business from unforeseen consequences.
If you are considering a distribution partnership for your business and would like to be better prepared, click here to register for our partnership bootcamp.