The easiest and hardest productivity tip of all

Sales master trainer Tom Hopkins has a mantra that he encourages all salespeople to recite many times a day. It’s a mantra that, if you obey it to the letter, all but guarantees your success.

I must do the most productive thing possible at all times.

Back when I was doing sales, we lived by this mantra. It was taped to our desks, on doors, all over the place. Meetings started and ended with it. Yet a surprising number of us, myself included, struggled with it as a work formula for two reasons.

First, especially in sales, the most productive thing possible is very often neither fun nor interesting. In order to make huge money, you have to spend an insane amount of time on preparation and groundwork, from culling databases to dialing for dollars. Activities like going to networking events were far more interesting and entertaining than going through the Boston Business Journal every week with a red pen and pulling out the job listings to see which companies were in transition. (I was a technical recruiter, so culling job listings from local papers was standard fare)

Second, the most productive thing possible isn’t always obvious. One of the most critical mistakes we all made in sales back in the day was doing very tactical, day to day stuff to advance our short term goals (sales), but we ignored long term and long investment tasks (skills & tools to make more sales). Had we dedicated, say, 5% of our work week towards learning new sales techniques or learning how to leverage our tools better, we would have trimmed down that list of tactical activities by 50%, giving us 50% more time to sell. I wish back then that I’d had my line of sight framework that I do now, since it makes it much easier to judge the overall value of an activity. Nowadays I can point to an activity and either show that it traces back to net income in the short or long term, or I have to put the activity on the back burner.

This, by the way, is why I answer no about 90% of the time when someone asks if I’m going to be at an event like CES, SxSW, Blogworld, etc. As much fun as those events are, and as well run as they are, they’re still not the most productive thing possible for me. When I do show up or speak at a conference, it’s because it’s a productive use of my time, even if it’s not a big show name. The events I show up at deliver the best possible value for me, personally and professionally. Want to see where I’ll be soon? Check the events page.


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  • http://www.hanifinloyalty.com/ billhanifin

    Chris, You’ve nailed it. It is far too easy to make and rework daily a to-do list and then spend the day picking off the more compact, easier, or just enjoyable tasks. I’ve created an opportunity pipeline format that forces me to focus on the opportunities that are revenue producing with highest validation and possibility to close. The structure is there and if I don’t follow it, I have only myself to blame. Your post outlines a basic structure that, if followed, would improve the results from any organization.