Welcome to the other side of 2020. For those glass half full people, “Woot! Woot! This year is going to be awesome!” For those half-empty folks, “Well, maybe it will be a bit better.” And for those who don’t see beyond the exterior of the glass, “Hey, who knows — maybe 2020 was the best it’s ever going to be.”
To set the tone for this article, let me be clear on my perspective of the glass. Empty, half-empty, or full, it doesn’t matter because I’m a big boy, and I know how to fill up my cup, mug, stein, whatever. To put it another way, I will deal with what is under my control (walk to the faucet and fill up the glass) and waste little time engaged in esoteric debates. Nothing I do is going to change the global situation in 2021. But everything I do or do not do will significantly impact my family, teammates, and those around me. Therefore, I will choose what I think and what I do. Call it clear and intentional focus. Call it using what time and gifts I have been given. Call it spending your resources on what’s under your control, or at least can be. Call it being ridiculously productive.
If you’re up to the challenge, here are some practical tips to get going, stay on course and possibly even chart a brand new and better course throughout 2021 and beyond.
I wanted to title this article “Why I am Productive, and You are Not,” but that seemed a bit arrogant. Additionally, I genuinely wish to speak to those people I believe face the biggest challenges during these times — salespeople and sales leaders. Hence, the title change. I say that because there are so many posts about how or why a salesperson can’t (prospect, meet, sell) in 2020 and how companies aren’t (buying, changing, available) in 2020. While some of the authors of these excuses are honestly sharing their pain, they end up only helping others buy into excuses and a dangerous set of beliefs. I know from personal experience that if I believe something, I will do everything in my power to protect my view and prove I am right. What I read and who I talk to will be in alignment with my beliefs — confirmation bias. Just look at the political division! A friend recently started a political statement with, “I don’t know if this is true or not, but they say …” Come on, people, we are better than that!
Contrary to what you may have read, thought, or maybe even said, if you have something of value and know how to articulate it:
- People are still making purchasing decisions about what you are selling
- You can still get in front of prospects, even if it’s virtually
- Your job is to produce revenue
With that out of the way, let’s focus on becoming productive; ridiculously productive.
Step 1: Know your role
Are you a direct producer (salesperson), or do you drive others’ production (sales leader)? Producers produce. Leaders guide the output of others. It seems so clear and evident that I feel like I shouldn’t waste the word count on this step, but a quick review of your calendar (what you actually do versus what you claim to do) may tell a different story. Mine used to. Your role determines the drivers. Producer or leader, you have to understand your role before you step into your new Super Productivity cape.
Step 2: Know the drivers
What moves your needle? Producers, how many hours of prospecting did you log last week? I am not looking at your production (sales revenue) but your activities, because they tell the story of where your results will be in the future (leading indicator). Leaders, how much of your time was invested in your people — driving, coaching, supporting, training — and how much was administrative activities? If you are unclear about what moves the needle, consider a salesperson’s job: produce sales.
What drives revenue outcomes?
- Finding a piece of business to work on
- Moving pieces of business forward
- Finding people who can help you with 1 and 2
Sure, there are administrative duties you must do. But imagine for a moment that your calendar showed you spent 30 of your 50 hours a week engaged in selling (what you are paid to do). That’s only three-fifths of your time. If you do nothing more than that, you will be at the top of the pack. Why? Because the average amount of time spent selling by a professional salesperson is less than 35%. That’s right; they spend only 3.5 hours a day doing the important stuff! Some studies suggest it’s not even a full 60 minutes a day. And sales leaders, don’t think this is their fault — it’s yours! You are the ones who set the standards and requirements. If you have your reps are so bogged down in administrative tasks that they can only spend a third of their day selling, that’s on you. I know some of you sales leaders will bristle and say, “I don’t put too many non-selling burdens on my people. They choose to waste time.” Well, that’s on you too. Coach them, correct them, or move them. Your job is to drive the producers, so they create the results.
What are your drivers? Now, let’s be clear, drivers are not the goals. Drivers are the activities that push you toward the goal. For a sales rep (producer), they may be the number of outbound touches, number of conversations, discovery calls, proposals, reviews, negotiations, closes, etc. For a sales leader, drivers are one-on-one coaching meetings, pipeline reviews, sales meetings attended, etc. The point is, you have to know what moves the needle you are in charge of moving. Know your drivers and then …
Step 3: Track the drivers
By now, you have identified your drivers (there should be three to five), so it’s time to set up a tracking system. I once worked within a sales organization that tracked 16 metrics per rep, assigned a weight to each number, and then came up with a unique value for each rep. Compensation, rewards, and punishments were all based on those metrics. The hilarious part of that was that the reps with the top score were never the ones who had the best growth records. I remain absolutely convinced that if they wanted to impact the overall outcome (productivity), they would have focused on prospecting, servicing (retention), and actual sales. Just because you can make it more complicated doesn’t mean that you should. Once you ruthlessly whittle things down, you can’t help but be more focused on the things that matter. Lower the level of the pond, and the stumps stick out. If I may be so bold, here are a few things that you might consider as drivers for tracking:
- New sales conversations (awareness)
- Discovery conversations (opportunity identification)
- Proposal review conversations (flushing out and dealing with the real objections)
- Closing conversations (win/loss)
- Lessons learned log (I’d better be learning something new every day)
- One-on-one coaching meetings (leaders)
- Pipeline review meetings (leaders)
Your tracking system logs the numbers and the trajectory over time. It is that simple. You can do it on a single sheet of paper.
Let’s say you’re a sales leader who manages 10 reps and barely has time to do a single one-on-one coaching meeting a week. Productivity is about momentum, not quantum leaps. Next week, go for two. The following week, four. Then eight and finally 10. Your reps deserve your best – and that is one coaching call with each rep each week. Every week. Please do not tell me this does not scale. Frankly, I don’t care if you have 40 reps, you do 40 one-on-one coaching sessions a week! Oh, and the same for pipeline reviews! Suddenly you’re at 80 meetings a week! Egads, you can’t do everything. I must be crazy, right? No.
Do the stuff that matters and let somebody else do the other stuff. By the way, the better you get with this, the less time these take. You can do pipeline reviews in five minutes IF you know how to do them. Coaching is 30 minutes. Period. Let’s make this real, OK? You have 10 reps; that’s 10 30-minute coaching calls. That’s five hours a week. Ten pipeline reviews, five minutes each, that’s less than an hour. If it takes you 10 minutes, that’s still less than two hours a week. Seven hours a week to do what matters! And you didn’t think you had the time. Shoot, this is easy — if you have a system.
Step 4: Take action
Start. Stop. Do more. Producer or leader, we all drift. Take a look at my calendar over the holiday season – it’s pure, embarrassing drift. And yet, I was still more productive than most. That’s why we must have some type of GPS that shows if we are off track or on track. Like your car’s navigation system, a sound selling methodology will help, but the real power is integrating with the vibration warning that comes when I get too close to the edge of lane I am supposed to be driving in. If I start to veer just a few degrees off course, the car begins to shake, so I HAVE to take corrective action immediately — not a week later.
Step 5: Eliminate distractions
Anything that doesn’t pull, push, or move you in the direction of accomplishing that which needs to be accomplished is merely a distraction. We could go into depth about social media, Netflix, fantasy football, whatever, but we are all grown-ups here. Recognize what pulls you away from doing the things you know need to be done and stop doing them. There, simple. Hard as heck! But doing good work is never easy.
The simplest and most effective way to put this into action is to know your role, the drivers for your success, have a plan in place to track progress, and then be ruthless about what you need to stop doing, start doing, and do more of. Ask yourself, “Why am I not doing what I know needs to be done for me to be successful?” If your answers are, “I don’t have time,” “The company makes me,” “No one answers the phone,” “I’m too busy doing something else,” then you should ruthlessly challenge your answers. If they are because there is truly not enough time, realize the folly and make changes. You can’t create more time; you can only create the best return on your time.
What I have briefly shared is a set of superpowers. Now, not everybody wants to be a superhero, but if you do, for yourself, your family, your team, your customers, if you want superhero success, you have no choice but to pick up the keys, open the door and step through.
The best producers and leaders I know aren’t living the 100-hour workweek grind. They make conscious choices to do what matters and ignore or delegate everything else.
One last thing — and maybe the greatest superpower of all — find some accountability, partner up with someone ahead of you on this journey. Then be transparent and vulnerable enough to not only share how you’re doing but also to invite them into the journey in all of its highs and lows.
As this changes your life, help somebody else. One of the things that this season has shown us is our need for community. Start your productivity revolution and invite others into the adventure. Create a productive community that supports and serves others. That, more than governments, political leaders, or self-help pundits, will enable us all to bring hope into a hurting world.
To co-opt a saying by the great American philosopher, Spock, who said, “Live long and prosper,” I would say, “Go forth and serve others so that all may prosper.”
I’d love to hear from you about how your adventures go. In the meantime, prioritize self-care. Hydrate, get sleep, quit watching the news, and turn off the social media distractions. We need your best.