Last week we talked about two behaviors that could hurt a salesperson’s career growth opportunities. I received good feedback from some of our readers and this week I want to focus on three qualities that successful salespeople and sales managers share. All three of these qualities are not only important in the world of sales…in fact, I believe they are important in just about any business field. They are also particularly important in sports. They are:
- Keeping Calm
- Staying focused
- Working your plan
When I think about keeping calm, I think about the opening lines of the poem “If” by Rudyard Kipling:
“If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs…”
For a sales manager, it is important to help your sales team keep calm. I always want the salesperson to do their best to resolve whatever issues come up without having to get me involved. Of course, I’m available if needed but it is better for the salesperson to learn how to effectively solve internal or external problems themselves. They will gain more credibility with both co-workers and clients if they don’t always have to go running back for ‘management’ approval. It is also good career training for the salesperson who has management aspirations to learn how to problem-solve themselves.
For a salesperson, nothing is more disturbing than to work for a sales manager who is always agitated and panicky about ongoing sales challengers that are just part of the daily ‘business as usual’ of the sales world. As a VP leading a sales team, I viewed one of my job requirements to be the filter between the “stuff” rolling downhill on me from my management to my sales team. I want them to have a sense of urgency about the business, obviously, but I wanted them to know that I was calm about things and that they needed to stay calm to achieve their goals. Both salespeople and sales managers will be far more effective in their roles if they “keep their heads.”
Now, more than ever before, there are multiple distractions for the successful salesperson to deal with. Technology alone can kill one’s productivity for hours at a time. Keeping yourself and the entire sales team calm will help greatly in staying focused. I find that it is helpful for me to block out, on my calendar, blocks of time to work on a presentation deck, compose emails to clients, review research specific to my business…or just to think. If I don’t actually block out the time on my calendar, that time slot will get highjacked by someone, or something, that will interrupt my focus. As I’ve written before, each client meeting needs to be carefully planned and prepared…this is going to take some time in your schedule. The challenge is that all of your effort to plan for time to focus on your goals can be blown apart like a tornado when you forced to respond to something urgent. So, if you have already blocked out some ‘focus’ time, you can use that to respond to the inevitable fire drills. Unfortunately, you start moving into the ‘Catch-22’ world in that now you have to find other time to focus. We all have to deal with this, but I’ve found that blocking out specific time slots to focus, and think, helps enormously in keep myself focused on a specific task.
Working Your Plan
“A goal without a plan is just a wish.” , Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Planning is critical in being a successful salesperson. Each of your accounts, or at least your major accounts, should have a detailed account plan. Every salesperson has a revenue goal for their list…I like to break that total goal into smaller goals for each of my accounts. After assigning that account revenue goal, I will put down in writing my plan to achieve the goal. That may include the number of meetings with various decision makers at the account or number of presentations I want to make each quarter. If it is a larger customer, I will definitely include some client entertaining as part of the plan. Be sure and check your progress weekly, or bi-weekly, so you can see how you’re doing and if any changes need to be made.
Just as a quarterback begins a football game with an offensive plan for that game, most of the time the circumstances will change, and he will have to change his offensive game plan. This is very true in sales since so many factors will change for you and your customer during the course of a year. But, because you have already created your plan, you have the basic strategy for achieving your goal and you can pivot as needed to still be successful.
The best salespeople and sales managers I’ve worked with are masters at keeping calm. They have a determined sense of urgency but, at the same time, the project a strength and stability that benefits the entire sales team.