"The Navigator" News Blog

Are You Doing What is Urgent, Important, or Valuable?

What if I told you that most sales forces underperform?  And when I say “underperform,” I mean anything from “doesn’t quite achieve its potential” to “complete and utter waste of time and money.”  Maybe your sales force falls on that continuum.  If it does, I can tell you why – it’s the same reason that I’ve seen in every underperforming sales force.  Most salespeople spend most of their time making useless, agenda-free and objective-free calls on people who cannot buy or whose purchase would not be impactful even if they could.  That’s a big issue, isn’t it?

I’m often asked (by managers who have the above problem) about doing a program on “time management” for salespeople.  To me, time management is a pretty elementary subject.  Years ago, I took a time management course and in it, we spent significant time discussing the difference between what’s important and what’s urgent – the idea being that we spend too much time doing what is ‘urgent’ versus what is ‘valuable.’  That’s probably true.  But there’s a deeper level that goes far beyond simple “time management” and into “professional discipline.

That issue is “value.”  We, of course, think of “Value” when we’re selling or proposing, but oddly enough, not when we’re building our schedule.  If most people spend more time doing what is urgent than what is important, they spend even less time doing what is VALUABLE.  Can you think of a more ass-backwards way to try to achieve your objectives?

Let’s define our terms.  The three words – Urgent, Important, and Valuable – can mean different things to different people.

“Urgent” means “requiring immediate action or attention.”  “Immediate” might be a bit of an exaggeration, but certainly “urgent” implies a short timeline.

“Important” means “likely to have a profound impact on success, survival, or well-being.”  Something that is “Important” is something that absolutely HAS to be done but could have a flexible timeline.

“Valuable” means “worth a great deal of money.”  In other words – this is what you’re really paid to do.

To put it in context, let’s think of a typical outside B2B salesperson.  This salesperson might have to balance:

An ‘urgent’ duty like making a delivery to a customer who is out of product.

An ‘important’ duty like completing a report to a supervisor.

A ‘valuable’ duty such as making sales calls on a Fred.  (Don’t know what a Fred is?  Read this article.)

Sounds simple and easy to balance, right?  Here’s what happens, though.  Salespeople too often elevate non-urgent tasks to “urgent” status, de-prioritize “important” tasks, and the “valuable” never happens.  How should you deal with this?

  • Commit to spending at least 50% of your time on things that are Valuable – i.e. face time with Fred or tasks that facilitate face time and selling to Fred.
  • Do what is Important a bit ahead of schedule.
  • Delegate Urgent tasks when you can – you’ll be surprised at how often those things can happen without your personal involvement.

Sales Managers face a similar dilemma.  An “urgent” task might be smoothing over the feelings of an upset customer, while an “important” task might be forecasting sales for the C-suite, and “Valuable” tasks would be the time spent coaching and developing salespeople.  Whatever your inputs, the resolution is the same.

  • Delegate “Urgent” tasks when you can.
  • Do what is “Important” ahead of schedule.
  • Spend at least half your time on what is “valuable.”

If you follow this recipe (whether you are a salesperson, sales manager, business owner, or solopreneur), you’ll be amazed at the results you can get.