What’s your typical day look like?
Let’s take a shot in the dark here…
You head into the office, focused and motivated to get a particularly important task done. But as the morning drags on, you’re constantly getting pulled from one thing to another. Responding to client questions, helping colleagues navigate the new CRM, reaching out to IT because Outlook isn’t syncing (again!)…
And at the end of the day, that important task? Well, it’s still not done. And you’re no closer to reaching your quota than you were before your day began.
Sound about right?
It’s a classic sales rep story. And unfortunately, all that wishy-washy flitting around is killing your sales productivity.
In this guide, I’m taking you through my own personal method for skyrocketing sales productivity.
You don’t need to buy sales tools to increase sales productivity. Your sales processes don’t need to change.
Instead, using this simple productivity framework, you’ll develop a laser focus on the tasks that matter, organize your day for maximum effectiveness, and feel better (less stress, more fulfilled) about what you’re accomplishing each and every day.
Sound good? Then let’s get productive, people!
What Is Sales Productivity?
So, what is sales productivity? And why is it important?
Sales productivity is the ratio of results (outputs) in a given time (inputs).
The more sales you close (or cold calls made, leads followed up with, etc.) in an hour, the higher your sales productivity.
Easy stuff, right?
The problem is, not all tasks you complete are actually counting towards your productivity.
You probably see this with other members of your sales team. Maybe they seem to work less hours than you but they perform better? That is because they’re increasing sales productivity by increasing outputs whilst eliminating inputs.
In essence, they’re improving their sales efficiency.
For instance, you may be feeling busy—you’ve reorganized your desk a few times this morning, read a LinkedIn article on a trending sales topic, updated your client contact info. But these tasks aren’t actually revenue drivers. These aren’t the activities that are getting you closer to hitting your numbers. Because these tasks aren’t selling.
As it turns out, sales reps tend to spend only about 36% of their time on actual selling activities. The rest? Admin, meetings, forecasting, etc. Tasks that lack sales effectiveness and which forget to progress the sales process for their customers.
And for certain undesirable parts of selling, it all comes down to just plain procrastination.
As Mark Evans put it in our interview:
“When you don’t want to prospect, even vacuuming the floor or cleaning your kitchen seems like a good idea at the time.” – Interview with Mark Evans, Sales Expert & Founder of SalesKit
Once you learn how to organize your day, prioritize your tasks, and nip procrastination in the bud, you can start skyrocketing your sales productivity. For you, that means more deals closed, more commissions received, and a more lucrative income earned.
It’s About More Than Just the Money
There’s more to upping your sales productivity than just the cold hard cash, too. Those sales productivity metrics, when mastered, give you a wealth of benefits:
A) Feel Less Stressed
How often have you felt like you’re drowning in work? That you have so many tasks piling up so quickly that you can’t seem to make any headway? That every mere thought of sitting down at your desk gets your heart racing, skin flushing, and palms sweating?
When you’re looking at a wall of unorganized tasks on your to-do list, it can seem like completing it all is downright impossible. And that sends your body and mind into a panic.
But when you know how to break down these tasks by priority, you turn an insurmountable obstacle into a very reasonable plan for your day. The result is more focus, greater productivity, and less stress.
B) Capture More Unseen Opportunities
When you’re juggling 20 different tasks at the same time, you aren’t just being unproductive. You’re also missing out on some spectacular opportunities.
Think about it like this—if you’re feeling stressed and infinitely busy every day, you’ll feel like you don’t have the time to follow up on that “maybe” lead. You won’t take the time to research prospects as deeply as you should. And you certainly won’t have the bandwidth to expand your social selling assets like quality content, webinars, or networking connections.
But if you get more organized with your tasks, you can actually make room for these activities in your schedule. And doing so could potentially open up the door to some exciting new opportunities to advance your career.
C) Experience More Fulfillment
Last (but certainly not least) comes fulfillment. Burnout is a serious problem in the sales industry. In fact, Tim Clarke of UNCrushed found that 67% of the B2B sales professionals he interviewed reported being close to burnout levels.
And as Time notes, how good you are at your job (affected by your sales proficiency) is a major contributor to the likelihood of burnout:
“Burnout is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterized by three dimensions: feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion, increased mental distance from one’s job or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job, and reduced professional efficacy.” – Interview with Tim Clarke, Co-Founder & CEO of UNCrushed
But when you improve your sales proficiency, you’re improving your capabilities. And thus, you’re also protecting yourself against feeling burnt out and unfulfilled on the job.
The Bucket Productivity Framework
Okay, it’s easy to make a case for why improving sales productivity should be a priority for any success-minded sales professional.
But what about the how?
How can you increase income, reduce stress and burnout, and identify more opportunities by improving sales productivity?
For me, the best of all the sales productivity tools I’ve used has been The Bucket Productivity Framework.
This simple framework lets you organize and prioritize all your tasks so that you have a clear course of action every single day. With it, you’ll get more done, feel less anxious, and take your sales capabilities to the next level.
When you start bucketing your tasks your sales cycle will shrink and your sales manager is going to be begging to learn how all of a sudden you’ve become a lead generation beast.
All it takes is:
- Capturing Your Tasks In a Bucket
- Defining Your Next Steps
- Organizing Your Buckets
- Draining Your Buckets
1. Capture Your Tasks In a Bucket
The first step of The Bucket Productivity Framework is arguably the most important.
Before you can even begin to boost your sales productivity, you need to create a reliable system for capturing and documenting all the tasks you have on your plate.
Now, I know you might have just relied on your own memory in the past. But there are two problems here:
- Memory Is Not Infallible – To be human is to forget. Only an irresponsible sales rep leaves their important tasks undocumented.
- Your Brain’s Bad at the In-Between – Your brain isn’t very good at handling jobs that can’t be completed right this second (short-term memory) and haven’t been revisited a bunch of times (long-term memory). So it will pester you, stress you out, and nag you typically until the job is done.
That’s why it’s so important to write out your tasks.
Doing so relieves you from the stress of your nagging brain and physically documents the task, so you’re less likely to forget it later.
Incorporating this step alone is often enough to remove massive amounts of pressure from salespeople like you who usually have too much going on and not enough time to do it.
Now, as you write your tasks down, you’re going to organize them into one of three buckets:
- Do Today
- Do Anytime
- Do Sometime
These are tasks that must be completed before you go to bed tonight.
Simple enough, right?
However, you need to be careful about putting tasks in here. If you don’t get these tasks completed in time, the whole system will fall apart because your daily tasks will stack up on each other over time.
Any tasks that are not going to get completed today get removed from the “do today” bucket and put in the “do anytime” bucket.
Sales Productivity Pro Tip: For this bucket to work correctly, you need to block off time on your calendar for each task. If you need to make, say, 20 sales calls tomorrow, come up with a data-driven estimate for how long that will take and write down that completion ETA next to the task. This is a must for step #3 of the framework.
“The number one most important factor for Salesforce productivity was task clarity. If the salesperson knew what he or she wanted to accomplish, they got it done.” – Interview with Jonathan Byrnes, MIT Senior Lecturer, Author, & Speaker
These are the important—but non-urgent—tasks that must be completed. However, they’re not the ones that need to happen today.
Think reorganize your contact catalog, update your CRM, and even clean out your workspace.
We’ll review this bucket regularly in a later step in the framework to make sure nothing gets missed.
These are non-urgent, non-important tasks that you’d like to do at some point, but you don’t really need to do them right now (or any time super soon).
These might be future business ideas, where you want to go on holiday, or any other task that doesn’t have a defined point in time that you’d like to complete it by.
Now that you understand the three buckets, it’s time to talk capture systems. What exactly are you going to use to keep track of your tasks?
If you’re sitting at your desk all day long, a pad and pencil will work just fine. All you need to do is organize the sheet into three columns for the three buckets.
However, you may want to upgrade to a more modern solution like sales productivity software. That way, you can bring your to-do list with you wherever you go.
No matter what capture system you use, just be sure it’s one that you’re going to actually use.
Sales Productivity Pro Tip: I personally use an app called Thing 3 as my go-to sales productivity software. This award-winning app is intuitive, easy to use, and incredibly helpful at keeping my day, week, and month organized. It’s one of the best sales productivity tools I’ve come upon.
“There’s no way that AI is going to replace a salesperson in the next, at least during my lifetime, I believe. But we can definitely make everybody more productive and more effective through the technology.” – Interview with Roy Raanani, CEO & Co-Founder of Chorus.ai
2. Define Your Next Steps
Once you’ve got all your tasks written down, you’re going to want to define the next steps for each “Do Today” task you’ve written down.
So if I document the task, “complete bucket productivity workshop script,” I’ll also include the next step of “make sure all files are on the computer ready to go.”
Now, why do we do this? Can’t we just figure out those tasks later on and write them down once we’ve completed our current tasks?
You could handle things that way. But when you attach the next step to each task, you’re overcoming a serious productivity problem—task switching.
See, our brains have a really hard time shifting between tasks. When we switch tasks, our brains have to dump all the information they’re storing just below the surface to help with the task and then get back in the right frame of mind for the next one.
All that jumping back and forth can seriously hinder your productivity. And when you attach the next step right to the task, you’re keeping your brain in the right mindset to finish both tasks quicker.
Task Switching—Productivity’s Worst Nightmare
So, how big of a problem is multitasking for productivity? Well, let’s look at the numbers.
- Multitasking leads to as much of a 40% drop in productivity (Harvard Business Review).
- A group of Microsoft workers took, on average, 15 minutes to return to serious mental tasks, like writing reports or computer code, after responding to incoming emails or instant messages. (New York Times).
- It actually takes more time to get things done when you try to multitask. People who are interrupted – and therefore have to switch their attention back and forth – take 50% longer to accomplish a task. Multitaskers also make up to 50% more errors (Brain Rules).
- People who multitask may experience as much as a 10% drop in IQ (Harvard Business Review).
It’s clear that making the switch between tasks saps mental energy, productivity, and effectiveness on the job. And that’s why not skipping this part of the framework (writing down the next step for each task) is so important.
Sales Productivity Pro Tip: A quick and simple tip here—rather than jotting down all your tasks and then going through with the next steps afterward, take care of it all right away. Write down the next step right as you’re performing step #1 of the framework. Doing so takes 20 seconds to complete but saves you hours of mental task-shifting each day.
“Most of us unfortunately get so busy nowadays that we don’t stop and think about how we’re living our lives. And if we don’t do any of those things, we’re just busy, and we fool ourselves into thinking we’re being really productive.” – Interview with Matt Anderson, Sales Training & Personal Coaching Expert
3. Organize Your Buckets
In all likelihood, you’re going to create more tasks than you can possibly complete. In fact, I don’t think I’ve worked with anyone who crosses off all their tasks every single day.
That’s why it’s absolutely critical that you regularly go through this step—organizing your buckets.
Often you’ll add a task that must be done today to your “Do Today” bucket. But as your day progresses, you realize you actually don’t need to complete it, and then the next day, it doesn’t seem all that important after all. When this happens, you need to remove this task from your “Do Today” bucket and put it in either your “Do Anytime” or “Do Someday” buckets.
Similarly, there are going to be tasks in the “Do Anytime” bucket that need to be moved to the “Do Today” bucket.
Effective organization depends on your ability to recognize the value in each of your tasks.
Recognize the Value in Tasks
Not all the tasks that you capture will have the same amount of value when completed. The task of “calling the CEO back who really wants to buy your product” will undoubtedly deliver more value than “reply to customer service email about a feature we don’t have.”
Therefore, in sales, more than any other business function, we need to prioritize high-value tasks that generate revenue. Your boss won’t be mad that you delivered your expense report late, for example, if you’ve just closed the biggest deal in your team this quarter.
Now, there are two ways you need to prioritize your tasks.
First, you need to do so on a bucket basis. We already covered this part (“does this belong in ‘Do Today’ or ‘Do Anytime’?”).
Second, you need to prioritize your “Do Today” tasks by order of importance too. Start each morning by tackling the key revenue-generators first. When you know your most valuable tasks and their next steps each morning, you can get on with what drives revenue whilst your competition is treading water.
And since you’ve already jotted out the time it takes to complete each task, you can organize your day from start to finish and minimize the time-waster of task switching.
Sales Productivity Pro Tip: Tackle organizing each night. There is something satisfying about planning your next day the night before. Plus, it allows you to hit the ground running the next morning by being proactive too. Rather than fumbling with your email, changing plans, reacting, and getting stressed out, you’re starting your day off focused and productive.
“I think the perception of salespeople is that we’re constantly on the cell phone. Buy, buy, buy. Sell, sell, sell. But in actuality, I think some of the best salespeople that I’ve worked with and mirrored and have been able to see, their weeks are really actually kind of boring. They know when they’re prospecting from, let’s say 8:00 AM to 11:00 AM. They know exactly when they’re having their demo meetings, they’re set, they’re prepared for every single part of the day. And you can only do that when you really get intentional with what your weeks and what your planning looks like.” – Interview with Mark Evans, Sales Expert & Founder of SalesKit
4. Start Draining Your Buckets
Now that we’ve filled our buckets, jotted down next steps, and organized your buckets (and tasks) based on value, it’s time to get to work.
If you’ve done the work up until this point, you no longer have any excuses for not having better sales productivity:
- Your tasks are prioritized.
- You know the first and second steps to get started.
- The time to complete the task is already marked off in your calendar.
No more bullshitting yourself. No more procrastination. Start work on the first task on your “do today” list, and don’t stop until they’re done.
Be sure you aren’t deviating from your scheduled system throughout the day. As you now know, task switching is a serious sales productivity killer. So stick to your schedule as much as you possibly can.
Make Crossing Goals Off Satisfying
As you complete each task, remove it from your bucket. And as you work your way through the list, make sure it’s really satisfying to do.
If it’s a paper system, scribble each task out as you go along. Similarly, if you’re using an electronic system like Things 3, click that checkmark and complete the task. Then watch as it flies off your screen and take a moment to congratulate yourself.
These small moments of satisfaction will feed into each other, and eventually you’ll become literally addicted to completing your tasks each day. Doing so will also make you feel happier and more motivated because you’re making visible progress towards your important goals.
And before you know it, you’ll be crossing off your tasks, organizing your day, and skyrocketing your sales productivity.
Sales Productivity Pro Tip: Overcome procrastination by building effective habits rather than relying purely on “motivation.” Feeling motivated is a powerful force for productivity. But motivation fades. And it can be unreliable. But when you build habits, you don’t need that motivation to get the work done.
“It’s much more important to get in the habit of practicing 10 minutes a day, let’s say, rather than trying to get really into it so that you can do an hour or two. That might make you feel amazing, but then the next day, when you wake up and you can’t do it again, you’ll feel like garbage.” – Interview with Antony Sammeroff, Business Mindset Expert
So many sales reps spend their days jumping from one task to another, following up on spur-the-moment opportunities, and putting out fires from clock-in till clock-out. And this sporadic approach to sales makes it hard to focus on the important tasks while not forgetting about the other things that need to get done.
But if you want to maximize your sales productivity, reduce your professional stress, capture more opportunities, and experience more fulfillment at work, The Bucket Productivity Framework is here to help.
- Capture Your Tasks In a Bucket
- Define Your Next Steps
- Organize Your Buckets
- Drain Your Buckets
Sure, it might take some practice sticking to the system. But when you put in the work to implement it into your processes, you’ll be amazed at just how much you’re getting done each day.
And you’ll be flat out amazed at the doors greater sales productivity will open for you.