The first rule of business is always to stay in business. This is one of my favorite adages because it is impossible for anyone to argue with. I mean, who would actively work against such sound sense?

So with that in mind, you might also assume that it simply makes ‘sense’ for aspiring entrepreneurs and ambitious small business owners to spend most of their time on the only activity that directly improves the health and lifespan of any business – sales. Sadly in many cases, it just doesn’t happen.

Why do so many of us break such a fundamental, beneficial rule?  

Many founders and business owners will tell you that they would love to focus more time on sales, but that they simply cannot find the time. If this story sounds a familiar one, then you need to act now to avoid its tragic ending, and begin a new, more profitable chapter that you can believe in.

Here’s the uncomfortable truth behind the usual procrastination and excuses.

Many entrepreneurs and startup teams consciously avoid finding time for sales activities.

They do this because they view sales as confrontational, unpleasant and challenging, rather than rewarding, profitable and fun. They want to spend more time doing the things they enjoy, but choose not to connect their ability to do these things with sales success.

As a result, time that should be dedicated to sales activities that will keep the business alive and thriving, is instead consumed by meetings, networking, social media – anything that avoids addressing the sales elephant in the room (but is still legitimate business activity).

But only sales will generate the revenue required to sustain all of those other nice things.

Sales takes a back seat because it requires a different focus and skillset to creativity, communication and collaboration, and these skills fall outside the comfort zones of many.

Focusing time on the sales activities that must be prioritized to stay in business is one of the greatest obstacles facing business leaders today. However, it can be overcome with a willing team ready to play its part in changing business culture in return for greater reward.

Help your team to understand the immediate benefits of healthy sales habits

Encouraging sales discipline will establish good habits that ultimately lead to more hours dedicated to sales activities. Although I’m well aware that discipline doesn’t initially sound like a lot of fun to everyone, it soon feels a whole lot better when it delivers positive results on that bottom line.

If talented, creative people are the backbone and strength of your young businesses, then sales and revenue are the lifeblood. (Fortunately, talented and creative people are also happy to run with an analogy if they can see it’s going somewhere!) Remember when you joined that gym or running club that actually stuck?

When the early morning aches and pains were finally outweighed by the joys of achievement and the pleasures of positive results that made the world look that bit better? We recommend that our startup clients start spending quality time every single morning on sales.

By doing something healthy and practical for the business right off the bat each day, you’ll feel happy and confident in the knowledge that you’ve already achieved made a significant contribution.

Spending exclusive time on sales every morning will actively improve the health of your business and will leave you in a positive frame of mind to tackle the rest of your business day.

Tips for replacing the bad behaviors holding back your business, with sales-focused habits

1. Decide on a scheduling system that works for you (and you’ll use). Whether it’s MS Outlook, Google Calendar, a CRM schedule, a whiteboard, flipchart, or an old-fashioned pocket diary – just pick one system that works for you and you will use consistently

2. Block time. Plan your time in chunks, assigning each activity to a specific block of time. I like blocks of between 45 to 90 minutes, depending on the activity I’m working on.

Focus, and don’t attempt to multi-task. Psychologists have proved that multi-tasking is really task-switching, and that significant inefficiencies build if you continually switch tasks, draining daily productivity by up to 40%

3. Know your numbers. Your numbers are the bedrock of your business, and should be open and understood by everyone that is part of it. Your financial figures are key to understanding how many sales you need.

Depending on what you sell, you can work out your sales targets, and how many new customers you need in a quarter, month, a week or even in a day.  Write down those targets where everybody can see them  – and work to beat them as a team

4. Take control of your schedule and never give away your time. If you work within a multi-skilled team, assign specific times to work with specific people. As far as possible, try not to let people interrupt your day and distract you from key activities you have planned

5. Don’t let email start and run your day. Email is an enormous distraction. Too many people start every day of their business lives by opening their inbox and then taking action based on new messages received.

If this is you, break this habit tomorrow morning and count it as a big win. Use your email as a practical tool like any other, but don’t let it dictate what you do

6. Learn to say NO. You can’t do everything. Each day, make a list of things that you are NOT going to do.

7. Make a contract with yourself. Don’t just think, “I’ll spend more time on sales.” Think about how this will be formally structured into your day. Figure out how this will look on your calendar. If you have a team, introduce it as a fixed team routine.

For example, will you spend an hour every morning on sales, or dedicate every Tuesday and Thursday morning solely to sales? Or will you make every Monday a dedicated sales day for everybody?

Personally I find a daily commitment works best. But whatever you decide, make a date with yourself and write it in your schedule. Make the commitment and honor it.

8. Only spend sales time with relevant prospects. Know who your customer is, as well as who he or she is not. Then spend your time wisely. Be careful not to chase your ‘sales tail’ while talking to the ‘wrong’ prospects.

9. Set and run weekly sales meetings. If you have a team, share numbers and targets, and use time blocks to increase focus and efficiency. Schedule regular sales meetings (I like weekly sales meetings) with a prompt beginning, a strict end time, and a shared agenda.

Don’t ‘chew the cud’, and instead have specific, deliberate discussions about how to move prospects smoothly along the sales cycle. Remember to record and assign all actions in your lead management or tracking system.

The importance of setting an effective sales routine and developing good sales habits for you and your business will pay off – literally – and you should begin seeing some impact pretty quickly.

But like any new routine, you have to work hard initially to maintain that discipline until it becomes second nature. If you don’t develop good habits focused on sales, then generating revenue will once again be pushed to the back of your brain and the bottom of your to-do list.

But you’ll never forget that first rule of business now you know how critical it is, right? Right?

Hazel Butters the CEO at Prompt Inc. She is a Sales Accelerator working in Boston, Austin and London helping technology startups to overcome fear or frustration around sales. Hazel has worked in this space for 19 years and has worked with technology companies such as IBM, Oracle and Dell, as well as hundreds of startups.

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