Sales leaders, are you feeling a little overwhelmed this time of the year? The fourth quarter is already speeding along with very little time to make any significant changes to the trajectory of 2016 revenue, and just when it’s time for that full-court, end-of-the-year press, prospects disappear into vacation and holiday season. Soon, reps will be starting to go into autopilot mode and the new budget for 2017 will be due.
Sometimes it seems as though the only people not taking time off to enjoy the upcoming holidays are the sales leaders! Yes, I recognize that the above statements include a number of generalizations, some of which may be accurate for your team and some may not. However, the one thing that is a fact and not a generalization is that the majority of sales leaders are behind quota and will be working on new budgets and will hear more and more about “prospects out of the office/not doing anything until next year.”
And here I come with one more project to put on your plate. I apologize for adding to your anxiety, but I believe that if you do this one thing, if you really put the following into practice before the new year starts, that 2017 will be your best year, the year you exceed your budget and do it more easily and with more enjoyment. Pay the price now and enjoy the rewards year after year after year. Fair enough?
Top professionals in any endeavor have a personal development plan. They know what areas they need to improve, they determine the best resources and the type of training they need and they schedule their plan to ensure that it happens. We are busy, overscheduled, overcommitted, and overwhelmed, primarily because we choose to be. We allow anything and everything to grab our attention. Attention is like time, invested or spent. May I suggest that you proactively and purposefully create a plan for 2017 to ensure that each of the four primary roles of sales leadership is addressed?
Gary Keller and Jay Papasan in their book “The One Thing” pose what they call a “Focusing Question.” The question is, “What is the one thing I can do so that everything will be easier or unnecessary?” The power of this question is that it must be answered with clarity and it leaves little room to become sidetracked working on things of less importance without making an explicit decision to do so. Recently I looked at my calendar and noticed a number of networking events. I thumbed through the calendar and began imagining just how many more would be coming up as the holiday season approached. I recognized how much of my most precious resource, my time, these events would consume. Because I have clarity in my One Thing, I simply deleted them and sent messages explaining I was otherwise engaged. My pitch to you is simple: if you are overwhelmed and frazzled already, maybe your One Thing needs to be defined or clarified. And at this time of the year, for sales leaders, I believe that the planning I am proposing should be in strong contention for your fourth quarter One Thing.
As sales leaders, you wear four hats. One or two may feel comfortable but at least one or two will feel like you are trying on someone else’s chapeau. These hats represent the four roles of sales leadership.
Take some time to work through the following six steps to setting up your 2017 personal development plan tailored to sales leadership.
Step One: Which of the four roles do you find yourself naturally drawn to and most comfortable in?
Step Two: Which of the roles do you find yourself least drawn to and least comfortable in?
Step Three: Review last month’s calendar. Where have you been spending the majority of your time? In which role(s)? Yes, there is some overlap but look at the outcomes of the activities and decide, was I acting as a leader, a coach, a manager or a recruiter? Don’t worry about perfection; simply get an idea of where your time is being spent. Where we spend our time (unless we have crystal clear purpose – One Thing) gives us an indication of where we are most comfortable. Quick note of warning, this planning exercise is going to take you into areas where you are not comfortable, but that’s OK. We grow only outside of our comfort zone.
Step Four: Now ask yourself for each of the roles, “If I say I am most effective or least effective in a specific role, how do I truly know?” Determining whether you really are effective or not effective in a specific role is probably the most challenging step.
Step Five: For each quarter in 2017, decide NOW how much time you need to devote to your personal development in each role.
Step Six: Mark your calendar. Execute.
Choosing to spend a couple of Saturday afternoons with a cup of coffee, pencil and paper to write out your 2017 personal development plan based on the four roles of sales leadership will make many other things either easier or unnecessary. After all, our plates are already overflowing; wouldn’t it be nice to move the brussels sprouts off to make room for something more satisfying?