Wednesday, June 19, 2013

How Salespeople Manage their Outlook Inbox

Let's face it, when it comes to how salespeople organize, manage and store emails, we all have room for improvement.  In an informal poll about about 25 of the salespeople that work for my organization, I got 25 different ways people handle email, file email, create and manage tasks and store information.  The number one reply was using Flags in outlook to mark important emails for follow-up.  Email use has grown 17% from 2011 to 2012.  As salespeople, we are bombarded by emails and need to constantly improve our use of email if we're going to maintain (or actually improve) efficiency.

Here's 5 great tips that I've learned throughout the years:

  1. Try to touch an email ONCE and only once.  This is the rule of "D's."  If it's simply garbage, marketing, spam and you're never going to need it again - DELETE now (yes right now).  If there is required action, but you can DELEGATE the task, forward the email right now over to the person(s) that should take on the task.  Then move the email to a folder specifically for delegation follow-up.  DEAL with the issue immediately.  If it can be responded to quickly and dealt with, do it now, then delete or file the email.  The Inbox is not a filing cabinet.  Delete, Delegate or Deal with the issue.
  2. Create a Filing system with Folders outside your Inbox with no more than 7 folders.  Studies have shown that any more than 7 folders decreases productivity because it makes it more difficult to find the email you really need.  It's OK to have sub-folders under this, but with Outlook's advanced search features, many busy salespeople can manage to seven simple folders.
  3. Flags are an inefficient way to manage tasks.  Think about it, if you flag an email, then another, then another, over time, you'll have to re-review each of these emails and think about what needs to be done on them over and over and over.  This creates a huge amount of wasted time.  Instead of flags, consider using Outlook's Task feature.  Tasks can be tracked by date due, can be assigned, and separate your task list from your email list (they are two different things).  Create time in your schedule to work on Tasks.
  4. Use email from new people to quickly create Outlook contacts.  This is the most efficient way to develop and keep up your Contacts list.  When you get an email from a new person that you're likely to communicate with again, simply right click on their email and add to your contacts.  
  5. Don't let your Inbox control your activities.  Pick 2-3 times a day in which you "work" on email and dedicate 30 minutes to each session.  Resist the temptation to read email every-time that pop-up shows or you hear the chime.  (FYI- you can turn both of these off in settings if you can't resist).  Spending quality time in chunks with email has shown to improve your efficiency by up to 15% every day.
Happy Selling.


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