Use The 80/20 Rule To Optimise Your
All of us have too much to get
done every week and not enough time to handle it all. Yet some of us
experience less stress and still manage to sell more. They have
learned to prioritize their work better than the average salesperson.
You, too, can Use The 80/20 Rule To Optimize Your Sales Performance.
The 80/20 rule is one of the only genuine "shortcuts" that
works in business today. There are many examples of the 80/20 rule
(also known as the Pareto Principle after a 19th-century Italian
economist of the same name). The one I want to focus on here simply
states that you will receive 80% of your return from 20% of your
For example, make a list of 10 things you have to do today. Chances
are that two of those 10 items will have 80% of the impact on your
company. Those two items are your priorities.
Most managers I know don't understand how the 80/20 rule works, so
they never get to cash in on its benefits. The first key to the 80/20
rule is to identify the 20% of your activities that bring you your
greatest return. The second key is to make sure those things get done.
For instance, if you have the following 10 tasks, then your job would
be to determine which one or two of these will bring the greatest
return to you and your company and to make sure they get done first --
as a priority:
Having one-on-ones with salespeople
Taking incoming phone calls
Seeing outside vendors
Handling customer complaints
Too many managers make a to-do list and race through it with little
regard to whether they are truly accomplishing the "first things
first." They are busy with activity but rarely complete the areas
that will bring the most benefit. Here are some ways most managers get
things done. See if any of them sound familiar:
Unpleasant things first
This is when you do the thing you hate
first, just to get it out of the way. This is OK as long as the
unpleasant thing is a task that will bring you top return on your
time. If it's not, you're not maximizing your time.
Unfinished things first
This is when you run down a to-do list
and pick up tomorrow where you left off today. However, if this is
being done without regard to the "first things" being
addressed (What if the "first things" are at the bottom of
the list?), then you have the things that matter most at the mercy of
things that matter least. Over time, what impact does that have on
your people, your customers and your company?
Urgent things first
Now you're working on whatever is
screaming the loudest -- even though it may be a low-priority item.
You'll find that when you begin doing first things first, you have far
less "urgent" issues to deal with.
First things first
You have identified the areas of
greatest importance and impact to your company, you schedule them and
do them first. Of the 10 sample tasks listed above, let's say the item
that brings you the greatest return is spending one-on-one time with
your salespeople. (Because in sales we have to get things done through
others, this should probably be on everyone's list.) In order to see
that this vital issue is addressed, you should be scheduling times to
meet with your people -- not just hope you have time to do it when
everything else is done. You'll also find that, as you develop your
people, they can take on more responsibility for those less important
tasks. And when you spend more quality time with your salespeople,
you'll probably find you have fewer unhappy customers to deal with as
Where you get your greatest return may differ from where others get
theirs. The important thing is that you spend some time identifying
those areas and then scheduling them. Too many managers prioritize
their schedule when they need to be scheduling their priorities. After
you have determined the "first things," you have to have the
resolve and discipline to see that they get done. Otherwise, you'll
find yourself getting caught up in the thick of thin things. Once you
begin to do this on a daily basis, you can have more impact and get
more done in less time -- because you'll be doing what really counts.
Put the 80/20 rule to work for you by evaluating your average day.
Where do you get your greatest return? How much time have you really
been spending on your important tasks? What can you do to increase the
time you spend on what really matters? Figure this out, and you'll be
head and shoulders above the average manager who continues to major in
Dave Anderson is the author of Selling Above The Crowd: 365
Strategies For Sales Excellence. He's been a salesman, general manager
and director of some of the most successful automotive dealership in
the country and is currently a partner in Anderson Honda of Palo Alto,
California. He publishes the Leading At The Next Level newsletter and
just released the audio program, The Fifteen Commandments For Peak
Performance In Sales.
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