Here we are, once again at the start of a new year. As you look ahead, what are your goals? What are the goals for your team and what concerns you most? As a sales manager or VP of Sales, I am certain that you could come up with a long list of to-dos that, if well-executed, would bring you great success in 2016.
But, what is really different about 2016 than last year or the year before? I imagine some of the problems that existed in 2015 also existed in 2014 and 2013. Most problems don't disappear just because we want them to disappear.
Take my health for example. Last year, I had a doctor inform me that I had a life-changing health condition. I knew that I needed to be more conscious of my diet and exercise– my wife, Linda, had been telling me that for 30 years. However, this is a tall order for me, a man who loves to cook and eat. I have never been a big drinker, I exercised somewhat regularly and, beyond the occasional cigar, I thought I was living a healthy lifestyle.
But, apparently I needed to do more. I bought a FitBit, one of those watches that monitors your steps (10,000 recommended daily – which translates into 4-5 miles depending upon your stride length) and I set up the supporting online program that allowed me to enter my food and water intake.
I immediately began to monitor my watch to see how many steps I still needed to get in before the day was over. Where, once upon a time, I would go to the gym and do a heavy workout, my lack of consistent behavior had allowed me to gain weight. After a long day at work, who wants to work out for an hour? So, I changed my mindset and my goals and took up walking the neighborhood to complete the 10,000 step per day goal. Now, I supplement my fitness program with work outs at the gym.
Surprise! Now, that I am monitoring my daily habits, I realize how unhealthy they were in the past. In the space of a couple of months, I have lost 20 pounds and I did not gain a pound through the holidays, which was no small feat for me. Needless to say, I feel better, look better and am healthier than I was prior to monitoring the things that I can control.
Here are my suggestions for New Year's Resolutions that, if implemented properly, will eliminate many or most of your sales problems.
- FOCUS ON THOSE THINGS YOU CAN AFFECT. Recognize that while you can't control the economy or the world of selling, you can control how you approach it. Recognize that you must have salespeople who know how to prospect and reach out to find business.
- MANAGE YOUR PEOPLE'S PERFORMANCE. Inspect what you expect. You will be amazed to discover that the very act of inspecting the right metrics will improve sales (or your health). A weekly huddle to review numbers will call attention to the under-achievers. No one wants to be at the bottom of the board. Peer pressure is a valuable tool for getting results. Use it to leverage sales.
- ELIMINATE EXCUSE-MAKING. Stop making excuses for your salespeople and stop accepting them from your salespeople. Introduce a sense of urgency into your sales culture. Too often, we accept unnecessarily long sales cycles. Teach your people to work prospects through the pipeline efficiently. Help them learn to eliminate those who are clogging the funnel so they can focus on finding those prospects who will buy.
- COACH YOUR PEOPLE. Focus your training and coaching to improve skills and change behaviors. Make your salespeople role-play. “Have them “practice perfect performance” so that when they are under pressure, they are able to focus and sell.
- APPLY THE 80/20 RULE TO YOURSELF. If you perform 20 tasks week after week, there are probably 4-6 tasks that really matter. Those 4-6 tasks generate 80% of your results. Find out which 4-6 tasks are your Go-Tos. Spend 80% of your time on these Go-To tasks.
- ABR – ALWAYS BE RECRUITING. About 20% of your sales team is not performing adequately. This 20% is never going to perform adequately. Fire them. In order to do this, you must be able to replace them. Recruiting is one of your 4-6 tasks that really matter. Spend time finding people who will sell.
Success in selling isn't all that different from success in fitness and health. There will always be issues that exist beyond our control-we can't control our genetics which predispose us to certain conditions, but we can control our habits like sleep, diet and exercise.
In selling, we can't control the economy or the consumer. But we can control our behaviors – like prospecting and number of dials, number of appointments, etc. – that contribute to our personal and company economies. We can control how we interact with customers, learning to reach out and stay consistently in touch.
In managing a sales team, your job is to control those behaviors that contribute to the company's sales. Thus, while you can't control John or when John makes prospecting calls, you can control your inspection of his behaviors and, ultimately, you can decide whether he is productive enough to be on your sales team.