Procrastination: The Silent Sales Killer

Procrastination technically refers to the avoidance of a specific task or work which needs to be accomplished.

Most salespeople procrastinate when it comes to making sales calls since this necessary sales evil is often thought of as boring, non-productive or anxiety-producing activity.

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In order to understand and solve your procrastination problems, you must carefully analyze those situations where your work is not being completed.

First, determine whether the cause is poor time management; if so, you will need to learn and develop time management skills, which we cover in another module.

If, however, you know how to manage your time but don't make use of those skills, you may have a more serious problem. Many individuals cite the following reasons for avoiding work:

LACK OF RELEVANCE. If something is neither relevant nor meaningful to you personally, it may be difficult to get motivated even to begin.

ACCEPTANCE OF ANOTHER'S GOALS. If a project has been imposed or assigned to you and it is not consistent with your own interests, you may be reluctant to spend the necessary time to see it to conclusion.

PERFECTIONISM. Having unreachable standards will discourage you from pursuing a task. Remember, perfection is unattainable.

EVALUATION ANXIETY. Since others' responses to your work are not under your direct control, overvaluing these responses can create the kind of anxiety that will interfere with work getting accomplished.

AMBIGUITY. If you are uncertain of what is expected of you, it may be difficult to get started.

FEAR OF THE UNKNOWN. If you are venturing into a new realm or field, you don't have any way of knowing how well you'll do. Such an uncertain outcome may inhibit your desire to begin.

INABILITY TO HANDLE THE TASK. If through lack of training, skill, or ability you feel that you lack the personal resources to do the job, you may avoid it completely.

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Once you have surmounted the emotional block by acknowledging your procrastination (guilt, anxiety, feelings of inadequacy), and after you have analyzed the underlying causes, you need to clearly specify how you procrastinate. Consider the following examples.

Do you act as though if you ignore a task, it will go away?

Do you underestimate the work involved in the task, or overestimate your abilities and resources in relationship to the task?

Do you tell yourself that you grasp concepts so easily that you need only spend one hour on researching prospects, which would normally take someone else six hours?

Do you deceive yourself into believing that a mediocre performance or lesser standards are acceptable?

Do you deceive yourself by substituting one worthy activity for another? Suppose you perform filing instead of making prospecting calls. Valuing a clean desk is fine but if that value only becomes important when you are way behind on your quota, you are procrastinating.

Do you believe that repeated minor delays are harmless? An example is putting off prospecting so you can talk to co-workers. In the time-management module, we explain how you can track your time so that you can better allocate it to more income-producing activities.


If you can visualize yourself in one or more of the above situations, you may be ready to overcome your problems with avoidance or procrastination. The following is a list of additional steps which may help you to deal with your avoidance problems:

Extract from the above examples those principles which apply to you. Write them down.

Make honest decisions about your work. If you wish to spend only a minimal amount of effort or time on a particular task, admit it--do not allow guilt feelings to interfere with your realization of this fact.

Weigh the consequences of various amounts of investment in a project and find the optimal return for your investment. This step exposes intentional reasons for avoiding work.

If you have been unintentionally avoiding work, admit to yourself that you do want to achieve certain goals and accept the responsibilities involved in meeting those goals.

Work to acquire an adequate understanding of what is necessary to accomplish a task within a given time frame.

Distinguish between activities which dramatize your sense of commitment and those which will help you accomplish the task.

Devote only that amount of time which is appropriate for each part of a task.

Develop an overview of the entire project and visualize the steps that are needed to reach completion.


The larger, more involved, the project, the more difficult it is to plan effectively to carry it out.

The following steps may be helpful:

Segment the task. The entire job may seem impossible, but smaller segments may seem more manageable. Divide the task into small steps.

Distribute the small steps reasonably within the given time frame. "Reasonably" is the key word; you must allot sufficient time for each step. Do not fool yourself by believing you can do more than is humanly possible.

Realize that humans periodically need variety and relaxation. Intersperse rewards, relaxation, and gratification for work completed. This will help you feel less resentful of the task and the work that still needs to be done.

Monitor your progress on the small steps. Watch for the pitfalls discussed earlier. Assess problems when they arise and do something about them quickly. Keep track of the segments and how they fit together to form the whole picture. Reassess time commitments as necessary.

Be reasonable in your expectations of yourself. Perfectionistic or extremely strict expectations may cause you to rebel or may sabotage your progress.