Tactical Sales: 7 steps to getting control of your time with the Structured Week
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 proper 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.