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Time Blocking: A Chapter from 21st Century Prospecting

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So here's the challenge. How do you make sure those prospecting activities from your cookbook actually get done?

Before you say, "Well, I'll just put a reminder in my calendar," consider that a lot of people have an entry in their Outlook or Google calendar that reads "Make prospecting calls" - and that reminder can be more than a decade old! So maybe using the calendar in the way they're using it right now is not the answer.

One of our favorite Sandler rules is, "You can never fail at prospecting - unless you fail to prospect." That's a point you want to bear in mind here. How do you make it harder to fail to prospect in the first place?

Yes, you may have the best of intentions. But since prospecting is strategically vital but not necessarily urgent, any reminders often get ignored. That's the reality. The goal has to be to change what you're doing and to change it in such a way that the urgent stuff still gets done and the behavior that gets entered into your tracking system increases over time and meets your targets. What can you do to move the needle?

The answer is you must start thinking differently about how you use your time. One of the concepts we want to strongly suggest is called time blocking.

Set the Appointment

Time blocking means not just reminding yourself to prospect but setting an appointment with yourself to prospect and then keeping that appointment.

You've got to start thinking of doing your daily prospecting behaviors as paying yourself first. In other words, as sales professionals, accept and embrace the reality that prospecting is your #1 scheduling priority. Prospecting gets scheduled first.

Let's say you work a 40-hour week, and let's say you figure out, based on the daily behaviors you identified in your cookbook, that you need to prospect for six of those hours. What does that mean in terms of time blocking? It means you start your scheduling, every single week, by acknowledging that you don't really have 40 hours to schedule. You actually have 34 because those six prospecting hours are already spoken for. Set up those six hours in the calendar before you set up anything else. Not only that--also color-code them, so you can see at a glance exactly where they fall and defend those prospecting slots on your calendar vigorously.

Are emergencies going to come up from time to time? Sure.

Are you going to be flexible about those emergencies? Of course. 

Are you going to accept anything less than six hours a week (or whatever the number is) in terms of color-coded, scheduled prospecting time? Absolutely not!

Think about your single best customer, your single best client, or your best prospect. Take a moment now to visualize that person. If you had an appointment scheduled with that individual, would you just cancel it the minute something else came up?

We hope not!

Guess what? Right now (if you're like most of the people we coach through the time block process), you're canceling appointments with yourself. And you're even more important to your business than that client or prospect.

You need to have that same level of commitment. When you put those time blocks in your calendar, commit to keeping them. Why? Because you are the most important person in your territory. You're the one who needs to be proactive and to find ways to make things work. That means you've got to stick to your time blocks.

We've compiled our best tips to help you succeed in time blocking. Access them here

Interested in reading more from 21st Century Prospecting by John Rosso & Mark McGraw? Download another free chapter or purchase the entire book here

John Rosso

CEO and Best Selling Author of "Prospect The Sandler Way"