Evan is new to the company, a firm that provides software, hardware, and managed technology services to businesses of all sizes. He entered the company from a different industry with no customer base or contacts within this business. He does, however, have a sales target. Evan is starting from scratch and he is prospecting for his livelihood.
Evan schedules his attention. Do not try to reach him between 7:30 AM and 9:30 AM. He is on the phone. Every day.
“This is the best time to get the right people at their desk. Why would I waste these hours writing or responding to e-mails when it’s the optimal time to get a live connection with decision makers and influencers? That’s my #1 priority. Speak to the right people.”
Every morning Evan has his plan. His call list, color coded according to potential, is on his desk. He has a framework for what he intends to say. All potential distractions are turned off. He is committed.
Most of us schedule our attention to get specific activities done. But schedule without its better half, protect, is like trying to back up the car without turning on the ignition. Nothing much happens.
Evan fiercely protects his attention for those two hours every morning. When I request an interview for my book at 9:00 AM, he politely declines and offers me an alternative time of day. Nothing short of the building burning down around him will stop him from getting on the phone to prospect each morning between 7:30 and 9:30. He will not respond to colleagues, he refuses to schedule meetings, he won’t let technology intrude. A few months on the job and Evan has achieved an enviable 50 percent access rate.
Scheduling your attention to work on the important stuff is easy. The hard part is committing to that schedule and protecting it against all distractions. An intriguing e-mail drops into your inbox. A client needs to meet with you. The boss needs an update. A peer drops by your desk to “pick your brain.” You plan your day. And then the chaos of your day happens. Leaving you with a scant 10 minutes of that scheduled hour to develop the creative access campaign that will get you onto the radar of your high-priority prospects. Not smart.
Now think about this.
You are in a meeting with your top client, Mr. Bigmoney. He is sharing the specifics of a new initiative that requires the support of a company like yours. As he speaks do you respond to your e-mail? Of course not. Do you allow colleagues to walk in and out of your meeting? No. Do you stop mid-conversation to work on a marginal lead in your inbox? Duh. And, prior to this important meeting, if another client requests a meeting at this same time, do you blow off Mr. Bigmoney? You’re not crazy. You’d offer another time to that second client. Common sense. Except that it’s uncommon to apply it to other priorities in your workday.
Schedule and protect. The two go hand in hand. There’s a world of difference between planning to do something and getting it done.
If you’ve mastered the act of “schedule and protect” please share a comment below. I know many others will benefit from your insights.