In order to be more productive, you need to spend your time more efficiently. You can start with the goal of eliminating an hour’s worth of non-selling tasks in your day — but chances are you won’t find an hour in one place. It will more likely be 5 minutes here, 2 minutes there. So, to discover where those minutes are, you might start by tracking how you spend your time each day by keeping a log. Then review the list to see where the time savings can be found. I’ve pointed out that two and a half minutes per day adds up to one full day of lost productivity per year. Now, if you can eliminate five or six tasks that each require two and a half minutes per day, you’ve just saved yourself five or six days — which you can now spend with customers.
With this foundation of self-analysis to shore up your time management, you can also use some tools that integrate with Microsoft Outlook in order to save time on some of the most common communication tasks in your day.
Most of us spend a lot of time using Microsoft Outlook. In fact it just might be running nonstop on your computer as a central dashboard for tasks, meetings, and e-mails. Outlook is very useful, if not essential, for business. But there are drawbacks to the program. If you’ve ever tried to quickly locate an attachment, you know what I’m talking about.
There are several Outlook “plug-ins” that give the program additional functionality and convenience. These plug-ins add buttons and menus to the screen that can be used alongside Outlook’s standard features.
Xobni (“inbox” spelled backwards) is one of my favorites. Xobni adds an indexing feature that makes searching for contacts, messages, attachments, and threaded conversations easy to find. And it’s lightening fast. Once you download Xobni, it appears as a sidebar in your Outlook screen. The sidebar includes a search box for finding information stored in Outlook. Let’s say you’re on the phone with Anne Smith who asks to discuss the document she e-mailed last week. No need to panic. As you start typing her name, Xobni begins building the list of matching attachments. Before you finish typing A-n-n-e it’s already calling up a list. Within seconds, you’ll see a list of her emails, conversations, attachments and appointments.
If Anne is in LinkedIn, you automatically see her LinkedIn photo, her phone number, title, and company name. And if you use Skype, you can simply click on her phone number to call her. Along with the LinkedIn functionality, you’ll see a button for Facebook, Twitter and Hoovers. Clicking the Hoovers button will pull up a company profile if available. Using the Twitter button allows you to send a quick tweet. And clicking the Facebook button sends you to their Facebook profile. If you’re a Salesforce.com user, you will also see a button to access Salesforce.com specific data inside Outlook.
Xobni Pro costs just $29.95 per license with no monthly fee. It has a free version as well if you want to give it a try before buying.
Template Phrases for Outlook
Another Outlook plug-in is from Able Bits and it’s called Template Phrases for Outlook. When you download this plug-in, you get another menu added to Outlook. If you write a lot of e-mail messages on a daily basis, you know that some part or parts of the e-mail text is constantly repeated. Template Phrases for Outlook keeps frequently used phrases and Microsoft Outlook templates at hand so that you can easily grab and paste the right one into an e-mail message. Phrases and templates are easy to organize and access.
You need just a double mouse click to insert frequently typed phrases or blocks of text into Outlook e-mail messages or to add a new phrase to your template list.
Perhaps you’ll have a Thank You folder. This might contain the following templates; thank you for your time and patience; thank you for contacting us; thank you for attending our event; thank you for choosing us.
Template Phrases for Outlook is a great time-savings tool and the cost is only $29.95 per license. Again, no monthly fee!
Attachments Alarm for Outlook
Able Bits has another Outlook plug-in that I find to be a timesaver. It’s called Attachments Alarm for Outlook. It’s a clever tool that solves a frequent e-mail nuisance.
If you’ve ever pressed send to an e-mail that is supposed to have an attachment only to realize too late that you forgot to attach the file, you’ve experienced this nuisance. This software looks for certain words in your e-mail such as “attached,” “in the attachment” and “attached file.” It will never let you forget to add an attachment if the body of a message contains the keywords you specify. Instead, a message pops-up asking if you intended to attach a file. Does it save a ton of time? No. But what if you sent an e-mail with an important and timely proposal attached, then shut down your computer to catch a flight? Only you didn’t realize that you forgot the attachment? That can have huge consequences. Attachments Alarm for Outlook would’ve saved the day.
The cost is only $19.95 per license.
Nancy Nardin founded Smart Selling Tools after a prestigious career in high-tech and IT market research sales. She is considered the leading expert on sales productivity tools.