Five Productivity Boosters for the Busy Sales Executive

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When I first started in sales I had simple tools: a pen, a notepad and me. I very quickly upgraded my notepad to a Daytimer. That one change increased my productivity by about 25%. It was because of this change that I learned the power of using good tools to help me sell more by being more productive. I eventually upgraded my Daytimer to a laptop running a contact manager. I experienced a similar productivity boost with this new automation tool. People that work on automation tools say that to be effective the tool must solve one of the three Ds – Dirty, Dangerous or Dull. For sales professionals most automation tools work on the last item - Dull. In the last 15 years I’ve discovered a number of tools that have helped me remove tedious tasks from my sales process. The following are five admin time savers I can’t live without:

  • Anagram
  • Lookout
  • PDF995
  • EZ detach
  • Plaxo

I have one caveat – most of the tools listed above work with Microsoft Outlook. If you are using another email program or contact manager you will find only limited value in these tools.

Collecting Addresses

Anagram is my most recent find. If you do any amount of prospecting online you need Anagram. This little piece of software will read the contents of your clipboard and convert it into an entry in Outlook. Anagram knows how to tell the difference between an address and an appointment. I most frequently use Anagram to copy a prospects address from their website right into my Outlook. No more typing, tabbing, cutting or pasting. In the past you might have used Outlooks “add to address book” feature. Doing this only adds the persons name and email address to your address book, that’s only half the job. If someone sends you an email with his or her address in the signature file you can use Anagram to create a complete address book entry. You can also collect the address from the sender’s website and then merge the have Outlook automatically merge the two contact entries

Searching Emails

About a year ago now Microsoft released Windows Desktop Search. In typical Microsoft fashion they purchased a company that made a great search tool for Outlook and incorporated it into their desktop search tool. When they did that they simplified the search syntax, what a pity. The previous incarnation of the software, Lookout, had robust search syntax. Lookout offers phenomenal search capabilities for your Outlook files (documents too). The search is so good that I no longer sort my email. Why bother? With Lookout I can do simple or complex searches to help me find that one email I’m looking for.

Let’s say Bob sends you an email on Tuesday, it’s now Friday. You remember that Bob sent you an email sometime this week but you can’t seem to find it amongst the hundreds of emails you received this week. With look out you can find the message very quickly with a simple search like this: from:bob lastweek. The search syntax is very robust but I’d say the lastweek keyword is my favourite.

Sending Proposals

I prepare between two and five proposals/quotes every week. In a previous job I was doing that many a day. In our interconnected world most quotes are now transmitted in electronic format. I choose to send all of my proposals in PDF format. I do this for several reasons: maintain the look of the proposal, make it harder for the recipient to edit the proposal and to provide a readable format for the proposal.

The de facto standard format for soft copy documents is Adobe Acrobat (PDF). If you are lucky the application that you use to create your proposals allows you to save in PDF format. Alternatively you can use PDF995 which is available in both free and paid versions. Don’t be cheap! The paid version is only $9.95 and I know who to make it pay for itself! Anytime you make a business purchase online create a PDF of the receipt page. You can then either print the PDF when you are back in the office or send it via email for reimbursement.

Saving Attachments

Email attachments bloat the size of your PST file very quickly; this makes it hard to transfer or back up your PST. If you are anything like me your PST file can easily climb above 650 MB, the typical capacity of a CD-ROM. I like to keep my PST under this magic number so that I can easily back up my PST to disc. Email is slowly replacing the telephone as the communication of choice for relationship maintenance. As a result backing up your PST is more important now than ever. (One day I’ll tell you about the time I drove over my laptop, ouch!) So how do you easily remove attachments from your email? Simple, use EZ Detach.

EZ Detach is an Outlook plug-in that seamlessly removes attachments and stores them in the folder of your choice. The software is smart enough to create subfolders for your attachments based on how you want them sorted: from address, date, account, etc. When EZ Detach removes a file it places a link in the email to the new file location. This makes it easy to open the file from within your email client but still store the files externally. With version 5 you are now asked if you’d like to reattach the file before forwarding the email message. Your correspondents will love this feature because it means they will only get the attachments they need! You are now prompted to reattach any file before sending. Ask yourself, does the recipient really need the file?

EZ Detach will store your attachments in the folder of your choice. I have a special folder called attachments in my document root. I can now open attachments directly without having to search for and then open the email directly.

Maintaining Your Address Book

My sister has worked for the same employer for 20 years! I don’t know how she does it. Most people I know change jobs roughly every 3-5 years. Some might be with the same employer longer but they will change positions within the organization. All this change causes havoc with my address book. I have found a tool that will automatically update my address book for me, it is called Plaxo.

Plaxo works on a free membership model. The contact details for any Plaxo member in your address book is automatically updated whenever the member changes their personal information. You can also request non-Plaxo member to send you their updated contact details.

I was unsure about Plaxo at first. I’ve been using it for almost two years now and it’s been nothing but helpful. I get to keep up-to-date with my contacts and equally important they get to keep up-to-date with me.

Continuous Improvement

The tools I’ve mentioned above are steps along the path of continuous improvement – what the Japanese call Kaizen. As with Kaizen no single tool will revolutionize your business or make you incredibly productive but the compound effect of increasing your productivity, even a little bit, is staggering. I am constantly looking for inefficiencies in my business, I hope you will too. Feel free to email me your productivity suggestions, I might just send you back some more productivity tips.

Download the tools mentioned in this article

  • Anagram (30 day trial)
  • Lookout (free)
  • PDF995 (free or $9.95)
  • EZ detach (30 day trial)
  • Plaxo (free, fee based support)

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