It is interesting to note that many successful sales people do not make very good team leaders. In fact, I would go so far as to say that promoting a top salesperson to the role of ‘team leader’ is a bad thing.
The character of a team leader is totally different to that of a salesperson. A top salesperson is generally focused on personal systems and actions. That is why they are so good at what they do; each day they do the right things and build momentum and market share. They also will earn a lot of commission as a result of these personal processes.
Many business leaders and CEO’s unfortunately take the top performer from the team and give them the ‘tag’ of ‘sales manager’ or ‘sales director’. That person will be given a pay increase in exchange for sharing their skills around the greater team. Whilst the logic is there, it is a ‘dumb’ business move.
Do you know what I mean? Have you been there before? Here are some facts that you cannot ignore.
- The character of a top performer is one of achievement. That is removed when they are appointed as ‘sales manager’.
- A top salesperson will drive massive business when given autonomy and left to establish their systems and procedures. Flexibility and creativity are critical factors to top sales performers. In the role of ‘sales manager’ they will not have that.
- A ‘sales manager’ has to be skilful in team leadership and team counselling. Those skills do not sit well with a top sales performer.
The best sales managers are special people that know how to encourage personal performance across many different types of people. They enjoy the job for the benefit and results that the team can achieve. Choose your sales managers well, and your business will benefit.
In professional selling I see so many salespeople that are struggling or at best are just in the ‘average’ zone. The problem evolves from one single fact. They are ‘reactive’ and not ‘proactive’. I call it being on the ‘back foot’.
To get anywhere in sales and customer contact you really do need to have a process of being on the ‘front foot’. In other words you are taking the right action and you do so in a controlled way. You are moving ahead under control.
So what issues can this have an impact on? Try some of these:
- Client contact programs
- Key account management
- Sales or order follow up
- Referral business or leads
- Database contact
Any of these things offer the opportunity for you to be proactive and in a position of taking action. That’s how you win new business and grow your market share.
All of this being said the ‘front foot’ process involves a sales person planning what they want to do and action. It is a deliberate process of moving ahead.
Let’s take prospecting as an example. Here are some stages to taking the right action:
- Researching the new people to call and contact
- Establishing the best time to make your prospecting calls
- Getting out into your market to door knock the local businesses that may need your services
- Tracking the responses from your prospecting processes in a database
- Making return calls to people on a regular basis
- Creating meaningful content to provide to your clients and prospects
It is easy to see why some people are more successful than others. It’s a choice. Put your front foot forward and take the first step.
When you work as a professional salesperson, your time is your most valuable resource. How you spend your time will impact on your income.
It is a fact that the the greater your success in sales, the greater the pressure will be on your daily activities. For this reason you do need a plan of control.
Here are some tips to help you with managing your business activity and your sales opportunity.
- Each weekend, review the activities of the last week to identify the current opportunities moving forward. They will need to be carried into the next week with the correct amount of focus and commitment.
- Plan the week ahead so that at least 1/3 of each working day is under some form of personal control. In that time frame, you can do the things that are most important and that will have impact on your growth of market share and client connection. When you believe you are under some control, you make better decisions and take the action. That is why at least 1/3 of the working day is so important to your momentum.
- From the previous point, the other 2/3 rds of the working day can be set aside for those reactive issues and pressures that arise each day. Clients, fellow staff members, and managers will impose on your time so move them into the remaining 2/3 rds of the working day.
- Spend 15 minutes at the beginning of the day planning the activities that you need to get to. Write them into a written diary as a process of organisation. Prioritise the main and important issues that must be done on that day. This has been proven to be highly effective as an organisational tool in business. The success of the process has a lot to do with how the human brain deals with pressures and time.
- Allow for some slack time in the day where you can relax and regroup. The best time to do this is around the middle of the day as part of your lunch break.
- The circadian cycle is part of the biological clock of human performance. It shows that you have two peaks of effectiveness during the day. The first peak is between the hours of 7.00 AM and 11 am. The second peak is usually between 2.00 PM and 6.00 PM. Use these windows of time to do the most important things in your business day.
- When you get involved in a complex and time consuming issue, it takes about 20 minutes to get deeply into the task and committed to the process. Keep people away from you so that this 20 minute momentum is not broken and reset. After the initial 20 minutes, you are good for the next 2 hours of focus and dedication to the task.
- As you achieve things during the day, cross them off the list in your diary. This single process gives you the feeling of momentum and completion. At the end of the day you will have a number of things that have been crossed off the list. This is a success process and valuable to the mind as you struggle with work pressures.
Don’t equate being busy with being efficient. They are totally different things. In professional selling, efficiency is far more important than anything else. Don’t attempt to do more than you are capable of in the time frames available. Recognise the time has to be used wisely.
When it comes to sales team effectiveness and your results, your time is the most important resource that you have available. It sounds so simple and yet so many salespeople waste time. In an average group of 10 salespeople, only a few would have time optimised for the tasks at hand. It is common to see 50% of the working day being wasted.
If your salary or your commission is based on performance and outcomes, you simply cannot avoid the time management rules and controls. Everything that you do every day should be well considered.
Here are some rules to help you get your business and your activities under control:
- Set some goals for yourself. In this way you will know where you are headed and why. Make sure those goals are based on specific outcomes and time. Each week you can track your processes and adjust where necessary.
- Identify the 3 things that are critical to your business growth. Those things should be done every day to allow you to improve your market share and client outcomes.
- Control your telephone both in the office and on mobile. When people ring you they put other tasks and focus into your day. Preserve a period of 3 hours each day where you get key things done. During that time the message bank on your telephone can take messages.
- Tidy up your desk, car, and briefcase. Nothing is more off-putting than a desk area that is out of control. If you see the clutter you will feel that you are getting nowhere fast.
- Use a written diary to control your time in manageable chunks. Work in chunks of 2 hours. In this way you will get 4 or 5 things done each day.
- Use a system to get the basics and everyday things under control. This will normally be a computer and a database. Record the important things and get back to them later.
- Set priorities in your business and for you personally. Some things are more important than others and you are the best person to know what the priorities are.
- Audit your use of time so you can identify the weaknesses and remove them.
- Do the hard and difficult things done each day first up. In this way those issues are likely to be done. It is a known fact that most business people put the hard things off and wait until the very last minute to do the job.
- Exercise each day to give yourself some personal time. This will help you feel less stressed and remove some pressure from your life.
We tend to forget that we are the ones that are in control. Seek to get yourself under control and optimise your business outcomes. These rules will help you do that.
In business and in sales today, things change on a regular basis and you need to see that change. For this reason you need a personal business plan and a process to keep you on track. High performing salespeople develop a plan that keeps moving them forward.
Here are some tips to help you develop your business model and plan.
- Once every quarter, it pays to review your market for changes and pressures. Look at the opportunities of change that can provide you with more clients or sales. Compare each quarter to that of the previous quarter. Look for the trends over time. Pay particular attention to the seasonal sales activity and patterns in your town or city. Generally most salespeople have a window of 10 months each year as a core selling period. That is the time frame where you really need to work hard and with focus. That is where your plan will be most important.
- Your product or service will require knowledge, skills, and market updates. That should be an ongoing process of tracking and improvement. The clients that we serve like to see confidence and relevance when we do our sales pitch or presentation.
- Considering the current market and your services, ask yourself the following question. Why do people need you? The best answer to this question will be your unique selling point. The answer that you give needs to be quite specific and all of your marketing efforts should be centered on those facts.
- Determine where you are right now when it comes to market share, clients, sales, and income. All of these things should be part of your business plan and improvement model. Targets should be set when it comes to each of these categories. The target should be realistic and yet also optimistic. Set the rules so that you know exactly where you are headed with your sales targets this year.
- The targets that you set should be established on a timeline given your core 10 months of market activity. If you are starting your selling career in a new area or business, you will need to stagger the growth of sales over the 10 month period. The first three months of the period are likely to be devoted to the establishment of market share.
- From all of the above items, you should be setting your action plan in motion. That action plan will require resources to support the systems that you create. A database will be part of that process. The client connections that you make should be tracked in the database so that ongoing customer relationships can be built. In many respects, the success of a salesperson is largely based on trust.
- On a final note, always track your progress on a weekly basis. In this way you will quickly know when things are improving or slowing down. Your plans and actions can then be easily adjusted. Pay particular attention to your prospecting processes, conversions to meetings, meetings to sales, and customer service. Providing everything moves well, you should have the opportunity for ongoing referral business and repeat client activity.
The results that you get as a professional salesperson are largely driven by your mindset and your actions. Protect and support both of these processes with the right attitude and consistency. Over time you can build your market share and income.
When it comes to being a top salesperson, your fitness is something that you should seriously consider. Your fitness will help you drive through difficult times and do the work that is required.
A lot of people will say that they are fit; however there are two parts to the fitness equation. That is ‘mental’ and ‘physical’. Here is why that is the case:
- You need to have a good mind and focus on the things that need to be done. Attention to detail and creativity are all needed.
- When you strive for more sales, you rise earlier, you work later, and you do the things that other people overlook.
In any industry you will find opportunity to get more clients and better sales. It all comes down to what you do and what you think. Your fitness will underpin both of those things.
It is an interesting fact that many salespeople are quite ‘random’ when it comes to getting the job done. The comfort zone is a dangerous place for a salesperson or sales team.
When you look at the average working day, you will have peaks and troughs of performance. It is a fact that the principles of the ‘circadian cycle’ apply in what we do and hence will impact our workplace. The cycle says that you have about 5 hours each day where you are working at best efficiency; but they are not continuous hours. They are split in about 3 and 2 hour time windows.
The first time window extends from about 7 am to 11 am, and the second time window extends from 3 pm to 5 pm. Outside those windows of time, things are quite ordinary from a personal performance perspective. It is in these low periods where you rest your mind and charge your mind for the next endeavour.
Given all of this it is a known fact that you can extend the circadian ‘windows’ or make them ‘stronger’ by exercise. If you exercise in the morning before work you prepare the body for better action and momentum in your ‘circadian cycle’. You then get more done and you have better outcomes.
So I go back to the point of all this; if you are a salesperson, take a serious look at how you can improve your fitness. Build a routine into your working day where you can do the exercise and prepare the mind and the body for better quality work and focus. If you are a salesperson that works on commission or similar reward system, this fact is essential for your income.