In sales? Two things you must guard with your life

You know what’s amazing? Most businesses achieve more sales at the end the quarter, or the pay period, or at the end of a contest, or a fiscal year.

Why is that? Because the urgency level is higher, of course. The focus is on getting things done. But why wait until the end to get it done? Customers sure don’t buy differently at the end of your quarter. Their buying cycle trumps your selling cycle all day long. But we have the tendency to focus on the right things when our backs are against the wall.

Here’s the thing: What kind of results could we achieve if we focused on doing the most productive work all the time, versus the busy work we get caught up?

You see, there are two things that you as a sales person must guard with your life: your time and your attitude.

These are your two most valuable assets, more so today than ever, because we are in this “got to have it now” world.

There’s overnight shipping, the Internet, and access to all sorts of information 24/7, so our customers want us to be able to provide the same thing. And like it or not, we’ve got to be there.

Now, because of that, we find ourselves putting put a lot of fires. We find ourselves not being sales professionals, but being firefighters. We’re jumping from task to task. But it’s important not to confuse activity with productivity.

Have you ever had a day that’s just full of activity, and then you go home and say, “I didn’t get anything done!”

Now, what do I mean by anything? It’s anything done that you had defined that you wanted to get done.

Not that anybody else had, or your boss or your manager, your colleagues, your assistant, your customers, past, present, or future. “To do” lists turn into “don’t” lists because we’re not focused on the right things.

This is about productivity versus activity. Maybe you’ve got a lot of things going on,  emails, voice mails, text messages, maybe some proposals, some bids you’ve got to work on, some filings, some meetings, and more meetings, and more meetings. And maintenance calls on customers.

There’s a lot of stuff that a sales professional has to focus on. But let’s break it down to the essentials.

First, think about getting an assistant. It’s one of the best things I did, years ago, as a salesperson. Not as a CEO, not as an executive, or as a sales professional working for another company. I got an assistant, who I pay for out of my own pocket.

Now I’m not telling you that you’ve got to do this. But I’m going to tell you right now that it’s one of the best ways to focus on your HBU, your highest and best use.

Think about it, your highest and best use isn’t:
•    Filling out paperwork.
•    Tracking things down and putting them on an Excel spreadsheet.
•    Writing proposals, and bids, and offers.
•    Answering irrelevant email.

Your highest and best use is being in front of prospective customers and clients, driving top line revenue to your organization, and hopefully bottom-line profitability through spending the right time in the right place so you earn the right margins.

Anything that stands in the way of that activity is work for a support person. And I’m going to tell you right now, if you don’t have an assistant, you are an assistant.

You’re an assistant to your company’s profitability, not your profitability. Now I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. And for many years, as I said, I treaded water. I did good, but I was so busy. And I came home and I said, “Jeez, I’m working these 80-hour work weeks,” and I’m wandering around like it’s a badge of honor.

It’s a badge of crap. Because 30 of those hours I was doing stuff that was not conducive to my success. Sure, I had to justify it to myself. I had follow-ups to do, I had some different stuff I had to do to make sure that the sales were complete. But it wasn’t stuff that was my highest paying, my highest and best use.

When you really look at it and boil it down, it was $5 to $10 an hour activity. Now if you’re doing $5 to $10 activity, and you’re spending 30 hours or even 30 hours a week doing it, think about where you could be investing those hours at your real rate.

Would it make a difference in your numbers if you stopped doing the work of an assistant?

Photo: RambergMediaImages, via Creative Commons 2.0

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