The Work Schedule

“He who every morning plans the transaction of the day and follows out that plan, carries a thread that will guide him through the maze of the most busy life.  But where no plan is laid, where the disposal of time is surrendered merely to the chance of incidence, chaos will soon reign.”—Victor Hugo (1802-1885)

A straight-commission salesperson may work as much or little as he chooses to, depending how hungry he is.  Some companies are stricter than others, but usually it’s the salesperson’s decision.  He knows how much he needs to earn and what it’s going to take to consistently attain his goal.

For a disciplined salesperson, this prerogative is Utopia; for an undisciplined salesperson, it’s a ticket into the abyss of doom.  After I left the real estate business in my mid 20s, I discovered there was a huge difference between shooting the breeze with colleagues and actually working.  I discussed this with my father, who said, “When you work, you work; when you play, you play.”

Canon for 40 Years

I took my father’s words to heart and after that there was no in-between.  When it was time to work, that’s what I did—that’s all I did.  If you’re not preparing diligently, making calls, setting up appointments, or giving presentations, you’re not working; how “busy” you are is irrelevant.

Foundation of Work Habits

The foundation of a salesperson’s work habits is the work schedule—definitive set hours or number of presentations, on explicit days of the week.  The work schedule must be established and adhered to, no matter what.  Throughout my 40-year advertising career I had a number of work schedules; the last 10 years it was as follows:

On Sunday I flew to the town I was working.  On Monday I made my appointment calls—I was on the telephone from 9:00 A.M. to 11:30 A.M., took lunch from 11:30 A.M. to 1:00 P.M., and then continued making calls until 4:00 P.M.  When I filled my eight appointment slots—four Tuesday and four Wednesday—before 4:00 P.M., my day was over early; on the rare occasions I didn’t fill my eight slots by 4:00 P.M., I often made additional calls until I met my goal, but that was optional.  On Tuesday and Wednesday my work was not completed until I’d given the last presentation, no matter the hour.  My week ended after Wednesday’s final presentation.  I flew home Thursday morning.  I did this 35 to 40 weeks a year.

Time Versus Money

My dear friend and accountant Dave Levinson used to say I had the best part-time job in the world.  He forgot I was running a business, too—when I returned home there were a multitude of other tasks to deal with.  His point was that I could have put in more field time, which would have meant more income, but from my perspective I already was earning far more than I ever dreamed possible as a younger man and, as I said in another recent blog, time with my family was more important than more money.  This is a subjective decision each salesperson must make for herself.

It’s Sacred

Know this though: my work schedule was set in reinforced concrete and tempered steel.  It could be 3:30 on a Monday afternoon and I was mentally and physically exhausted, crawling on my hands and knees in a 130° desert towards the oasis, dying to call it a day; but I would not—never once—give in, disrespect the rules of my sacred work schedule.

This may seem too inflexible to you.  To each his own and if you think my work-schedule discipline is too harsh, too rigid, so be it—the decision of your work schedule is yours; but as Miss Sullivan, my grammar-school librarian, used to say, “A word to the wise”: that ironclad discipline worked for me and it’ll definitely work for you, too.  Anything less, I can’t guarantee.

It would behoove you to remember my father’s advice—“When you work, you work; when you play, you play.”  Keep them compartmentalized; never allow them to trespass across each others’ boundaries.  This will serve you well.

A master salesperson works a set work schedule.

The easy part is you get to design that schedule; the hard part is you may not cheat it, no matter what.