The recent Labor Day had me thinking about salespeople and the work they do. Quite often I hear workers from other departments complaining that the sales team does nothing but play golf, eat expensive meals and take award trips to exotic locations! While these perks can certainly be part of the life of many sales professionals, there is also the challenging, labor-intensive part of selling, the part that if they don’t do it consistently, will limit their commissions, their perks and their award trips. I remember a boss I had early in my selling career who told me, “You have to do the 20% of selling activities that you hate, so that you can do the 80% that you love.”
So what are these 20% of activities that most salespeople would rather not do? Here is a list that I’ve compiled based on 30 years of experience in sales, as a sales manager, and in training people to sell more effectively. I have also added some reasons why these tasks are so challenging.
1. Making prospecting calls – For most sales people this tops the list. Making prospecting calls, especially to cold contacts, can be frustrating and soul- stealing, and the initial results can seem insufficient based on the time expended. Just getting through to the person you want to talk to can take weeks of calling, and when you finally do reach them, they won’t give you an appointment. Of course, you know it’s a numbers game, but you are often left with the feeling that the numbers just aren’t working out for you. How can I get through all of these calls and get my other work done? Eventually, many sales people stop making new calls altogether and just focus on their current contact list.
2. Networking – Meeting new people in social situations is difficult for most of us, and sales professionals are no different. It is uncomfortable to break into conversations, introduce ourselves and make small talk. Because of this, most people avoid these situations and when thrust into them, glom on to someone we know slightly and they become our best friend for the duration.
3. Asking for referrals – Does this not happen because of reluctance, because they forget or because the salesperson doesn’t know how to do it effectively? Whatever the reason, most sales professionals seldom ask for or get referrals from their current customers, even though we all know that satisfied customers are one of the best opportunities to get qualified leads.
4. Conducting pre-appointment preparation – While everyone wants to increase their chances of a successful client conversation, not all are willing to do the work that it takes. I find that the more experienced a salesperson is, the less likely they are to do this important task. Perhaps they feel that there’s nothing to learn that is outside of their experience, or perhaps they are really busy (a friend of mine spells this as L-A-Z-Y). While it takes time to research the prospect and their competitors, learn more about the person you are meeting with and develop a good set of questions to ask. It is well worth the seller’s time to do so.
5. Planning and record keeping – If you ask any sales manager, they will tell you that this is an area where their sales team is weakest. I think it is because the personality types that make effective salespeople are naturally poor organizers. However, this is no excuse for not doing better planning and record keeping. It means that you may have to “labor” at it a little more.
Getting Motivated and Achieving More
So those are just some of the areas that sales professionals seem to shun as part of their work. Perhaps your list is different, but I know that we all have tasks we enjoy and those we avoid. No matter what your challenges are, here are some suggestions for moving them forward.
1. Set SMART goals – One of the reasons we don’t accomplish much is that we don’t consistently set goals and strive to achieve them. Our managers usually set some kind of quota that we need to meet, but we can and must do more in order to maximize our effectiveness. Here is what a SMART goal means:
• Specific – You need to express exactly what you want to accomplish.
• Measurable – It must be done in some numerical way so you can compare your performance and determine if you are reaching it.
• Attainable – If you don’t believe that you can achieve the goal, you will quit before you start.
• Relevant – Hitting the goal must be important to you.
• Timed – You need to set a date for its attainment or your measurement will be meaningless.
2. Determine the crucial tasks – Based on the goals you set, you need to determine which tasks are most important to do to meet this goal. You will often find that many of the tasks you avoid are on that crucial list.
3. Make a daily task list – To keep you focused you should write out a daily task list and prioritize them, A-B-C. The A tasks are the most crucial and you must get them done each day. Each day you should rewrite this list (not just add to yesterday’s) so that you can see what you are avoiding and put special emphasis on getting those things done early.
4. Monitor your weekly results – Finally, take a look at what you are accomplishing each week and determine how you can better use your time. If you are failing on certain important tasks, you must find a way to supplement them. Weekly reviews will be frustrating, but will also make you better.
You can only achieve great things through intentional actions. These tips will help you accomplish those 20% of task you hate, so you can revel in the 80% you love to do.