Learning to Prioritize the Fires!

As a small business, whether you are the owner or an employee, you wear several hats. You will be doing several jobs all at once. It is vital to your success and your sanity to know how to prioritize “fires” as they are thrown at you!

The first step is to determine what is and is not mission critical. Is this call, text, or email critical to producing revenue?

The second step in the decision process is knowing how valuable the relationship is to you or the business. If it is your top referral partner, that is clearly more important than a cold lead that may just be kicking tires at the moment.

The third step is more long term/big picture. Does this call, text, email interfere with an activity that is planting seeds for the long-term goals of the business? If you are always doing activities for the immediate needs, you will not be steering the ship in the right direction. That is like being one of the guys with an ore rowing the boat without someone at the wheel directing the efforts. You will move, but likely not in the direction of the end goal.

For the most part, the biggest priority is your production team and getting the job done. Ideally, you’re setting jobs up well enough that your team/subs are not calling you regularly. We all have those field employees/subs that call you all the time to get direction or help and support. It isn’t a bad thing, but it is very disruptive to the other activities you are trying to get done.

When are they calling you, what questions are they asking, are they asking the same questions all the time… let’s see if there’s a way to solve that problem proactively instead of reactively.

The next priority is for items that create revenue in the future. This is everything from a lead, to a referral, to a networking event. These are the items that when done consistently keep your pipeline healthy.

When you get a call from a lead, or referral, or from a referral partner, you need to be ok getting back to them later or telling them you cannot meet during their requested timeframe. You will be amazed at how quickly they adjust their schedule to meet yours.

An example of this would be setting time for proposal creation on Tuesday afternoons. You get a call on Monday night about a new job opportunity and they ask to meet on Tuesday afternoon, and you say sure! Thinking to yourself you can get those proposals done another time. Then you get to the meeting and it’s a bust and was a waste of your time, and now the clients that you were excited about have to wait longer to get the proposal you told them they would have by Wednesday. All for a meeting that brought you zero value.

A better way to handle that would be to get the call Monday, they ask for Tuesday and you apologize and say that time is already booked (they don’t know nor need to know why you are unavailable).

You then say:

You: I am available Thursday from 8-10 or Friday from 1-3.
Client: Oh Man I was really hoping for tomorrow.
You: Yea I am really sorry, but I cannot move that meeting around. We stay pretty busy and I am rarely available next day because I am supporting our current clients.
Client: That’s great you are so busy.
You: So how would Thursday or Friday work?
Client: I will have to move something around, but I could make Friday work! Thanks!
You: Awesome! What is your email and I will send you a calendar invite?

Now you have done yourself a favor by prioritizing your scheduled proposal time, which keeps those potential clients you have already met with happy. It keeps your stress down and shows the new prospect that you are in control of your business.

Overall you have set the standard expectation that you are not always available at a drop of a hat. The new prospect is not upset, you are happy, and you keep your commitment of getting the proposals done by Wednesday.

The decision here is that the activity of completing the proposals carried a higher priority than a new client meeting.

In my opinion, the breakdown of priorities is as follows:

-Mission Critical to Producing Revenue
-Existing clients
-Referral partners
-Prospects you have already met with
-New Leads

If you are in the middle of an activity or have a time block scheduled compare the interruption to this basic break down and decide for yourself if it is worth it….