I had an interesting chat with a client last week. We were reviewing their progress on specific things we agreed on. She mentioned that she had not made progress on a specific task, and was honest enough to add “I am not sure if I am making excuses or if there are other real factors preventing me from getting it done.” While it may be easy to just default that they were just making excuses, that will do little to get them to change their ways. It is better to approach it in a way that leaves them open to change, and will get them to take ownership for the outcome, which will drive the activity. In this case the outcome is more sales and earnings, so let’s look at the litmus test and how will then to execution rather than excuses.
In this case the task was to prospect in sufficient amounts to ensure a given number of new opportunities per month. The method was not an issue, they can cold call, socialize, referrals, whatever, the measure was new opportunities. Since all activities take time, and time is the currency of sales, how you spend or invest it will dictate your success. Based on that I asked this rep to sit down and carve out 30 minutes each day specifically for prospecting. To be successful, I insisted that they block out the times for the following week the week before. On Thursday, block out times for next week, this way you are doing it before getting caught up in the moment, when it is easy to rationalize not doing something when something that seems bigger (at the time).
After the first week we can explore empirical evidence as to how the half hour a day impacted all other activities. Did they still get all the other “important” things done, or did their universe fall apart, and they can’t show their face at the club any more. If it was the former, then we just keep carving out incrementally more time, till we get a balance of getting all the things we need to done. This works best when you chunk time for all the important things that you need to do, and focus on just the activity you have allocated the time for.
If the result is that you are not getting all “important” things done, then we need to look at a couple of things. First, are they all “important”, or are we doing some things to be able to legitimately avoid others. One thing that takes work but delivers results is looking at your habits, auto routines, you’ll need a partner in this one as few of us are objective enough about our habits to work this alone. They say that 40% of our daily activities are habits, we do them without thinking. Some good habits like working out, others bad, like a smoke with every coffee. If you can identify, or have someone help you identify “bad sales habits”, you can then focus on changing the habit, which will change the result. If you can swap out a bad habit or two, and replace them with good habits that will get done automatically, you will change the impacts and outcomes.
Best to do this slow, and one specific habit at a time. Small victories lead to big results. Change=pain=gain, trying to change all bad habits at once, will usually lead to being crushed under the weight of the challenge, giving up, and staying the same, and clearly the same is not good in this case.