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The Discipline of Schedule for a Sales Agent

Today I want to talk about the one skill that I believe has more to do with success than any other: discipline. Discipline is the habit of taking action. It is the habit of doing what you know you should do. You can borrow my system for organization; you can read good books like Getting […]

Today I want to talk about the one skill that I believe has more to do with success than any other: discipline.

Discipline is the habit of taking action. It is the habit of doing what you know you should do. You can borrow my system for organization; you can read good books like Getting things Done and Personal Efficiency Program which have helped me a great deal; but these books will not teach you character or discipline. Discipline is not something you learn; it is a habit that you develop. Let me give you several specific behaviors which, if repeated consistently over time, will help you develop the all important habit of discipline. They will do more than anything else to create a successful sales career and business. Start today to practice these habits. At first, some of them will seem very difficult. Keep working towards doing them every day each time you make a decision about a task, and eventually they will develop your discipline and character.

1. Answer your phone unless you absolutely cannot talk at that moment. If you plan on returning someone’s call, consider the results of not immediately answering: >You waste time listening to the phone ring, dialing your voice mail, listening to your voice mail, and writing down on a “to-do list” that you need to return the call. >Then when you call them, they may not be there. So you leave a message and play phone tag for 2 or 3 days. Just answer your phone and take care of it immediately. This takes discipline. The next time you look down at your phone to see the name which brings fear in your gut that says, “I wonder what happened with them?” – ANSWER YOUR PHONE!!!! You will feel so much better that you answered your phone and took care of the situation.

2. Treat emails like phone calls. If you can answer now, and you are planning to answer at some time in the future, answer the email now. To schedule a time to look at your emails and take action on them is fine, but too often we “decide” too much. Stop deciding if you should or should not take action; just take action immediately. If you decide to answer emails at 9am and 1pm, then make sure you do not look at your emails except at those times.  When I was selling full time, my work email beeped on my phone and I answered every email immediately unless my phone was on silent because I was with my family or at another appointment.

3. If you are not going to take action, get closure. If I get an email and think, “I’m not really going to answer that,” my temptation is to put it into next week’s folder so I can decide if I should answer it then. This is a waste of time. If I am not going to take action, I need to email back: “So sorry, but I am not able to do this at this time.” or “I wish I could help, but I don’t know the answer to your question. Here is someone who might.” Give some kind of reply; don’t put people off. If someone asks you to come over, but you know that you don’t have the time or inclination to socialize with this person, tell him or her, “Work is really crazy for me right now. I have decided not to add anything to my schedule for a few months. Let’s schedule a phone call to catch up.” A phone call will take 20 or 30 minutes at most. Perhaps you could fit this in, whereas an entire evening might be too much of a time commitment for you to make right now. Figure out what action steps you will take. Choose to take the steps now or schedule the time when you will take them.

4. Stop prioritizing tasks – just get them done. If you have a list of things to do, start doing them. I previously used all kinds of “A,” “B,” or “C” categories or “Urgent,” “Important,” etc. For a sales professional, there is no time to differentiate between an A, B, or C task. By the time most people figure out if a task is an A, B, or C and file it away for future action, I would already have taken care of it and removed it from my inbox. If you have a list of 50 action items, I bet you could take action on every single one in 4 hours while taking new phone calls and answering emails. The trick is just to do them! Don’t think about them; don’t think about whether you want to do them; and don’t think about how important they are to do. Just decide whether it is worth doing or not. If it is worth doing, then do it now!

5. Have one central system that catches everything.  Use your Gmail inbox for this purpose. If someone tells me something which involves any action response from me, I email myself about this action. (I use an android app called “VocaNote.”) My calendar emails me about every event; Google Voice emails me about every call; I get all my emails in one inbox. Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn messages are emailed to me. Thus, I know for sure I am not forgetting anything; it is all in my inbox. If I haven’t taken action, it is in a folder or “Label” in gmail under the day or month when I plan to take action. Or it is sitting in my inbox right now waiting for me to take action on it today.

6. Have times when you unplug. At this point you might be wondering, “When do you stop working?” I have pre-scheduled times when I don’t work. When I don’t work, I put my phone on silent; I don’t look at emails; and I don’t look at phone calls. Since I am not planning to take action on them, I hate having to decide, “Should I answer this call while I’m on a date with my wife?” So guess what I do…I turn my phone off. My wife and I agree to certain times throughout the evening when I will check my phone, move calls and emails to the next day’s folder or “Label,” unless it is an emergency. Knowing you have a time when you will check these things allows you to fully focus on your family or whatever you are doing now. I usually figure that most emergencies can wait 2 hours. So if I am going on a date with my wife, for instance, and planning to take the evening off with her, I turn my phone off at 4pm, check it again at 6pm after which I turn it off, check it once more at 8pm and then turn it off for good. During these times when I check it, I have already pre-determined what is and is not an emergency. I only take action on real emergencies. On everything else, I chose to take action the next day by moving it to that folder and out of my view until the next day. I don’t read the emails or listen to the voice mail if I know it isn’t an emergency. I just move it to the next day’s folder mindlessly. This ability to disconnect from tasks when you move them to the next day is also a habit that you will develop as you begin to trust your system more.

7. Work less. What?!?!? You heard me right. I said, “Work Less.” Stop getting burned out every day. Burn-out is not a function of your work load, it is a function of your work practices. I promise you that someone could do everything you do more effectively in half the time. You just need to adjust your system, add some discipline, and stop getting burned out. If you are getting burned out, I am going to take a wild guess here. I’m guessing you don’t ever turn off your phone and do something you really enjoy? It is interesting to me that most agents assume I work 80 hours per week on my business. I actually work about 45 to 50 hours per week on my business, but I am totally focused on business during those hours. I work as a Youth Pastor on the weekends; I usually take at least half a day off during the week; I spend time with my wife and kids. And still when I was out in the field full time, I made one sale like clockwork every day that I was working. The reason I was able to do this is that I love my work. I am not working towards retirement, I am working towards the rest of my day. I don’t resent my work for stealing my life. I have chosen to do the things I do, and I am at peace with my choices. I don’t “have to do” anything and neither do you. The next time you catch yourself saying, “I have to go to work,” or “I have to stop working now,” take a breath. Change your thought process to, “I have decided to work from X to X today and have scheduled to be home at X time.” Choose what you are and are not going to do today and the rest of the week. Then work on these behaviors to develop the discipline to keep your plan. I encourage you to start the habit of doing rather than thinking and prioritizing. If you know what action needs to be taken, take that action immediately. You will be surprised how quickly you will complete tasks that you have invested hours into procrastinating.

As always, email me with questions: james@ccsalespro.com

James Shepherd

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