Block Time for Sales Reps to Manage Daily Activity

How can a Sales Rep make 75 outbound calls a day, send another 75 personalized email follow ups, perform a few sales demos, attend a mandatory all-hands meeting, follow up on emails, close business and still get out of the office at a decent hour?

I’ve talked about using the 3 Big Rocks method for prioritizing activity and minimizing the time you spend on Small Rocks.

But what should a Sales Rep do when he’s followed the Big Rock method and still is left with days like the ones I had a Sales Rep described above?

This is where I recommend Block TIme. 


Block time is a simple way for a Sales Rep to maximize his productivity by scheduling activity in chunks of time (or Blocks).

I learned to use Block Time when I was a Sales Rep working for a fast-paced startup ISP.  We were so busy that I had a stack of proposals on my desk requiring follow-up, new leads pouring in every day and hundreds of emails a day which required my attention.

Being a busy Sales Rep is a good problem to have – as long as you are closing businesses and not missing opportunities. I knew I was dropping the ball on Opportunity and lead follow up so I had to learn a better way of working. My previous method of handling things as they came up wasn’t good enough.

In it’s simplest form Block TIme can be structured like this:

  1. Segment your day into two 4 hour blocks.
  2. In the first four hour Block do your most important task  (Eg. Call leads and create new opportunities).
  3. In the second four hour block, either do your most important task (Call Leads and create opportunities) or your 2nd most important task (Create proposals and follow up on existing Opportunities).
  4. Only check email (and do admin work) 3x a day – At the beginning of the day, at lunch, and at the end of the day. Limit the morning and lunch checks to 30 minutes max.
  5. During Block #1 and Block #2, eliminate all distractions. Turn off email notifications. Do not browse the web. Don’t listen to voicemail. Screen your phone calls. Don’t get in watercooler chats.
  6. One day a week, leave 4 hours wide open. This is your floater half-day where you can put in mandatory meetings, client visits, training etc.  This half-day will vary each week.

I recommend doing the activity you dislike the most first. For me, that was cold call prospecting and calling leads. Once I got into a rhythm, I could really crank through the calls and voicemails. Generally I needed to call about 75 leads to have 3-5 conversations and create at least one new Opportunity.

 

This is what a simple Block Time Schedule would look like:

A note about emailing

I wouldn’t email prospects when making outbound calls. Instead I had a spreadsheet where I’d enter the name, company, email address, a brief personalized note and the type of email to send (eg. First Call, 2nd Follow up, 3rd Call, Final email, Downloaded White Paper, downloaded Trial software).

At the end of the day, I’d do a few mail merges and would send out all of my emails at once. I’d have 3-4 types that I’d use as templates and then would merge the rest. Because I’d already included a personalized note on my spreadsheet, the merges could be done in 15 minutes or less with minimal editing.

Today a rep can use tools like InsideSales.com, Salesloft, Outreach, ProspectWorks or ToutApp to automate this mail merge function.


Another approach to Block time is to plan the entire week. I prefer using this approach because it allows for additional flexibility to accommodate meetings and events.  

It works like this:

  1. Break each weekday into 2 to 4 hour blocks of time. Each block will be used to perform only 1 activity.
  2. Plan your activity one week at a time.
  3. Prioritize your activity using the 3 Big Rocks, the 1 Big Rock and the Small Rocks method.
  4. Be ruthless when prioritizing your 1 Big Rock.  Put this first in your schedule. For me, often this was my least favorite but most important activity (eg. cold calling).
  5. Put mandatory meetings and customer demos on your calendar. Fill in the rest with block time. Make sure to eliminate most meetings.
  6. Schedule demos and presentations during assigned demo block hours. Do not let these take away from prospecting time. If you have a lot of demos, drop your admin work or follow up work before dropping prospecting if filling the pipeline is Big Rock #1.
  7. Schedule in some free time. Unexpected issues will come up and some tasks will run long. You will need some time to cover these.
  8.  Review your schedule every Friday afternoon and create a new plan for the upcoming week.
  9. One item worth mentioning is that Opportunity Follow up and Closing never required as much time as prospecting and initial presentations. Most of my reps, including me, have been able to allocate just half a day a week to this. The rest of our Blocks were focused on filling the pipeline. (Except for the last week of the quarter when we’d be 100% focused on closing).

This is what a detailed Block Time plan would look like:


I’ve been using Block TIme to manage my day for nearly 20 years. I even use it to manage my days off.

By thinking in terms of “chunks of time”, assigning the most important Big Rocks to accomplish during these times and focusing on one particular task during those times I’ve been able to accomplish a phenomenal amount of productive work.

  • As a rep, Block TIme was critical to keep me focused on the most important revenue generating activity while also freeing me from getting pulled into time sucking activity that might be important but would not generate revenue.
  • As a manager, Block TIme enables me to focus on the People, Processes and Systems that will drive the most success for the team.
  • As a business owner, Block TIme helps me to stay focused on critical business activities while avoiding intriguing but non-productive ratholes.
  • In my personal life, Block Time helps me stay on top of projects, get chores done and still have time for family and relaxation.

I’ve gotten so accustomed to this process, that it’s become second nature. I’ve taught it to all of my Sales Reps and have seen many of them do quite well with it.

I encourage you to teach your Sales Reps how to use Block Time and see how it works for them.

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