Originally published in Forbes
By Randy Illig
Sales leaders fall into the same trap over and over: being busy for busy’s sake. They’re often chasing their tails with all kinds of non-essential, low value-add activities—updating forecasts, hounding people about numbers and close dates, validating data in CRM systems, going from one recurring call to the next.
They are completely consumed with activity, at the expense of more productive ways to invest their limited time.
Here are five ways to break out of that trap and keep your focus on higher value-add activities.
Concentrate on the right metrics. Lag measures are our results, which we can’t influence directly. In sales, lag measures are typically expressed as revenue or profit numbers. Lead measures, on the other hand, are the activities we undertake that predict the lag measures and we can directly influence: time with clients, number of new prospect meetings, presentations delivered, etc.
As sales leaders, we usually have great clarity on our lag measures. But we usually lack focus on what we’re going to do every week to lead us to that desired outcome. How would you know you were too focused on lag measures? Go look at your company’s weekly or daily flash report. I’ll bet you there isn’t a single lead measure. Just lag measures, and that’s the dead wrong thing to pay attention to.
Have the mindset of a builder versus a doer. Great sales leaders are developers versus task executers. So many sales leaders became leaders because they were good sales people. So they look at the world through the eyes of someone doing the job. But that’s not actually their role as sales leaders. Their job is to create more leaders, mentors, and coaches. Not to dothose jobs…but to create people who can do those jobs.
Create a culture of coaching. Sales leaders should set the expectation that their team members don’t interact with customers without getting and giving coaching. Now that doesn’t mean it needs to come from the sales leader. It’s an expectation that individual contributors all coach one another. This activity has been proven to create high performance in many, many environments: business, sports, music. When we get coaching, the likelihood of success grows by an order of magnitude. We all grow by sharing our thinking and giving feedback around it.
Help your people figure out “the one thing.” Make sure each of your salespeople is clear on the one thing they will do this week that will make the biggest impact on their business. I was with a client earlier this week, talking about this idea, and he said, “Yeah, I actually have 13 of those.” I smiled and said, “And how many do you think you’re going to get done?” He said, “None. But my boss feels better that I have this piece of paper with 13 things on it.”
Good leaders realize that yes, you may actually have 13 tasks on your to-do list, and other people may add even more as the week goes by. The trick is helping your team stay focused on the one thing that will make the biggest contribution to their business, out of all the things they could do this week.
Lead from the front. There’s no substitute for being with your people as they call on customers, whether in person, online, or on the phone. I recently worked with a group of ten sales leaders, and I asked them how often they follow this advice.
One of them said, “I haven’t seen a customer in four months. But don’t tell our chief sales officer.” And the rest of them agreed. Coincidentally I later had a call with the chief sales officer, and I asked him how much time he would like his sales leaders to be spending with customers.
He said, “They’re already doing that well. If they could continue meeting with customers weekly, that would be great.” I didn’t have the heart to tell him that his leaders hadn’t met customers in months.