Are you looking for ways to reduce sales stress? Are you a small business owner or professional salesperson who is feeling stressed out, overwhelmed, or out of control? Are you having difficulty getting traction, staying focused, moving sales opportunities to a close? These 5 strategies may help.
I’ve suffered from an anxiety and ADD disorder my whole life. It’s a brain thing. I was born with it. Living and working with ADD/ADHD is difficult. And, so, during the early part of my sales career, I really struggled to get organized and stay focused. I had a hard time getting traction on deals, keeping things from falling through the cracks, and pushing sales to a close. I was stressed out and not enjoying life at all. Then things changed and I’ve had a very rewarding career ever since. Here’s what happened.
I was working for a large technology company as a technical consultant when I was offered a job as an account executive, a pure sales job. Up to this point, my jobs had been of a reactive nature — meaning that in most cases, I simply responded to requests in the order in which they came in. This new job was dramatically different. In this role, my work was primarily proactive — meaning I was responsible for managing my own time, agenda, and objectives.
The first 6 months of that job were some of the most frustrating and humbling months of my career. I dropped many balls, I had a very hard time staying on top of things, I wasn’t sure what to do from one minute to the next. My anxiety and stress were off the charts. But, as difficult as this time was, it was also one of the most important times in my life. It was because of the pain I was experienced, I began to look for solutions. I immersed myself in learning new time management skills. As a software developer and business process engineer, I began learning how to use technology and process to help me stay on top of everything. As I learned, things improved — dramatically. My productivity increased and my anxiety level plummeted. And, I have continued to learn and share what I’ve learned for the past 30+ years.
So, what did I learn and what do I teach others today? Hundreds of things. However, there are a handful of strategies that form the foundation I teach to every one of my customers. Each of these strategies will help you boost your productivity. However, when you combine these and use these together, you’ll be amazed at how much more productive you can be.
Reduce Sales Stress with a Work Structure and Daily Routine
According to the Oxford Languages Dictionary, a routine is a sequence of actions regularly followed; a fixed program. A daily routine provides structure. It provides consistency. And, consistency yields results. A daily routine also provides clarity and comfort. When I don’t know what to do next, I default to my routine.
My daily routine combines personal and professional activities. It defines the general outline I follow on different days. I have a routine I follow for workdays, and a different routine I follow on weekends and while on vacation. I have different routines for different days of the week. 2 days a week I work on sales and marketing activities. Two days of the week I provide training and consulting services. One day a week is open to do what most needs to be done. On each of those different days, my routine differs somewhat. However, a sales day is always the same as other sales days, and my service days are the same as other service days.
Your situation may differ from mine – the type of work you do, when you can do them, work hours, etc. However, you can and should seek to create a routine within whatever structure you operate. It may take some trial and error to get to work for you. But, once established and fine-tuned, the idea is to make sure you stick to it. You follow that routine every day, every other day as needed.
Reduce Sales Stress with Time Blocking
Time blocking is a proven and powerful technique to organize and focus your time. Here’s how it works. You set aside specific blocks of time during which you ONLY perform work associated with a specific type of work. For example, you may set up a time block for making prospecting calls. You may set up a time block for entering and updating your CRM data. Whatever the time block is for, you perform that work — and ONLY that work — during that time block.
A typical time block is a 1-hour period of time. But, it could be any period of time you designate. Whatever the time period, it is important that you limit interruptions as much as possible and you stay completely focused on performing work specific to that time block. It is also important to know that you can set up multiple time blocks throughout the course of a day. For example, you may set up (2) 1-hour time blocks per day — one in the early morning, and the other later in the afternoon. You’ll learn more about this when you hire me to teach you how to use this and hundreds of other strategies.
Stay Focused with a Work Focus Timer
A work focus timer is a special type of timer that is designed to help you avoid procrastination, plan and execute, increase concentration, and reduce fatigue. The basic premise is that you use a work focus timer to set up work sessions. A work session is one period of concentrated work (work period), followed by a short break, e.g., a 25-minute work period followed by a 5-minute break. You set your timer for 25 minutes and you work until time expires. You stop working, you reset your timer for 5 minutes and you take a break. When the timer expires, you set the timer for 25 minutes, and get back to concentrated work, and so on, following this process until you completed the task or completed the number of work sessions you had planned.
The work session concept keeps you focused during the work period and allows you to take a short break afterward. This short break is the key. It is that concept that helps avoid hyper-focus and allows your brain to work much better.
But, wait. There’s more. This method also helps with procrastination and planning. When you use this method, you plan your work in terms of work sessions — breaking a large task into smaller work session sized chunks. For example, let’s say you have a proposal to develop — potentially an overwhelming task that you may be inclined to procrastinate. You break the proposal down into smaller related pieces, e.g., executive summary, proposal details, quote/estimate, terms and conditions, etc. Then you determine the order in which you develop the document and plan how many work sessions you’ll allocate to each component, e.g., 1- proposal details (4 work sessions), 2 – quote/estimate (3 work sessions), 3 – terms and conditions (1 work session), 4 – executive summary (3 work sessions). Next, determine how many work sessions you’ll allocate to the proposal per day, e.g., you decide you can allocate 3 hours per day to work on this or 6 work sessions. There are 11 work sessions required to complete the proposal, so you can have the proposal done in 2 days — if you allocate 6 work sessions per day. You’ll learn more about this when you hire me to teach you how to use this and hundreds of other strategies.
Get Organized with Work Queues
One of the challenges faced by every salesperson or team is managing and staying on top of all of the different types and number of activities that need to be performed. You have activities associated with prospecting. You have activities associated with advancing active sales opportunities. You have activities associated with ensuring customer satisfaction. You have activities associated with generating repeat business and referrals. At any given point in time, there may be a large number of total opportunities, with several opportunities that are at each stage in the process. Without some type of system or method to keep track of and keep things moving through the process, balls may be dropped and opportunities may be lost. That’s where work queues come in. Work queues help you organize your work into manageable pieces and then focus on completing tasks.
For example, a typical sales process is composed of 8 stages: prospecting, nurturing, discovery, solution development, proposal, negotiation, contract, order placement. As sales opportunity is worked, the opportunity moves through each stage — with different tasks and methods being utilized at each stage. In this scenario, each stage represents a work queue – a list of opportunities that are currently at a given stage. So, we have a Prospecting Work Queue, a Nurturing Work Queue, a Discovery Work Queue, etc.
Opportunities at each stage of the process — or within a specific work queue — all have something in common. They all require that a specific task or set of tasks be performed while the opportunity is within that stage. Now for the focus aspects of work queues.
There is a time management concept that says we’re most productive when we’re focused on performing one type of work over a period of time. And, that’s what work queues help you do. They make it possible to focus your work. When you are working within a given work queue, you focus on working on the items within that work queue ONLY. You perform ONLY the tasks associated with each item.
Let’s take a quick look at how you work a work queue. First, you select a work queue you want to work in. Your work queue may be configured using your CRM system or organized via filtered spreadsheets. Selecting a work queue will provide you with a list of items that exist within that stage of a process — for example, all opportunities at the Discovery stage in our sales process. Select the first item in the work queue. Complete the task or tasks associated with that record. Move the opportunity to the next work queue in the process. Get the next item from the Discovery work queue. Complete the tasks and move the opportunity to the next work queue, etc. Continue this process until you have completed all tasks associated with all items in the work queue. When all items have been worked, select the next work queue and complete all tasks associated with that work queue. Continue this process until all work queues have been worked or until the time allocated for working your work queues has expired. There is a lot more to this, but hopefully, you got the gist of how this strategy works. You’ll learn more about this when you hire me to teach you how to use this and hundreds of other strategies.
Reduce Sales Stress with a Sales Operating System
The most successful businesses on the planet all have one thing in common. They ALL utilize documented systems to run and manage their operation. A system defines how work moves through the business. It defines how things get done, when things get done, who does what, and how things are measured and managed. One of the most critical systems of any business is the sales operating system. A sales operating system defines how you and/or other members of your sales team go about producing revenue — from new AND existing customers.
A typical sales operating system defines the processes you use for generating and developing leads, conducting active sales conversations to convert prospects into buying customers, handling the buying process, develop new customers into loyal repeat buyers, and generate referrals from your customer base.
For each of these processes, a sales operating system defines the specific steps that are followed — what is done, when it is done, how it is done, who does, and how the process is measured and managed. It defines what technology is used and how it used. For example, the design and detail for the lead generation and development process might define how and where you find them, how you collect and organize them, how you follow up with them, how you nurture them, etc. It defines the messages you use, the methods you use to communicate with them, how often you communicate, etc. It defines how you measure and manage the process. The same level of detail is true for the other processes as well.
Once you have designed and implemented your sales operating system, it is critical that all members of your sales team follow the system — that everyone does things the same way. This is important because it helps you improve the system. When everyone is following the system the same way, you make improvements to the system as a whole. Then you observe results. If everyone is doing the same thing you can easily and quickly determine if the modifications had a positive or negative impact. This is not possible if everyone is doing something different. You would not be able to determine what’s working and what’s not.
Many business owners and professional salespeople are stressed out because they have trouble getting traction, staying focused, staying on top of everything, and getting sales closed. Oftentimes, that is due to ineffective time management and difficulty staying focused. But, there are proven strategies — used by many successful salespeople — that can help reduce sales stress and anxiety while increasing production. Adopting one of these strategies can help. But, using a combination of one or more can have a dramatic positive effect.
Author: Michael Bitter
Michael Bitter is a sales technology/sales process consultant, coach, and mentor with 30+ years of experience building — and teaching others how to build and use — technology-enabled sales operating systems.
His clients are small business owners, solopreneurs, sales managers, and independent sales professionals, who want or need to maximize productivity, get organized and focused, and close more new and repeat business. He does this by teaching and helping his clients build effective sales operating systems that use and leverage sales technology such as CRM, marketing automation, electronic signature, and cloud-based document management. Learn more about Michael’s training and consulting services.