The most common thief of sales growth is distraction. Based on my experience, I estimate that on average, employees lose 40% of their time to distractions. This number ranges between 30% and 60%, depending on the company they work for, and can reach as high as 70%, depending on the individual. Distractions can be classified into two types: 1) leadership and organization; and 2) individual-specific. The leadership and organization distractions can be categorized into poor sales support, customer service mishaps, products that do not meet client needs, bad sales management, and poor communications. “Individual-specific” distractions refer to daily mental or situational conditions faced by the salesperson. Part I of this article dealt with the leadership and organization, and this article will focus on “individual-specific” obstacles.
There are two facets to “individual-specific” distractions: 1) state of mind, and 2) quality of activity. State of mind is the primary culprit. To complicate matters, a person’s state of mind changes constantly. It is important that a sales manager stay in touch with their sales staffs’ lives and how they are feeling. As people transition through the different stages of life, their motivations and distractions change. In addition, daily, their emotions will dramatically affect their ability to become distracted.
I coach some million-dollar producers. It is my job to help keep these salespeople from being distracted by their emotions. Distractions hide themselves in many forms and often are invisible to the distracted individual. Everyone else can see them but not that person. You will have salespeople that are exerting half the effort and yet with much sincerity claim that they are killing themselves and could not possibly do another thing. They will blame the economy, their lack of experience in the industry, being recently inserted in a new geographic area, and a million other reasons why they are not performing. It is never their effort that is lacking.
While you may be content with your sales production, the following questions assist in maintaining that level. Also, it is important to have balance, and my list should not imply that you foul up your personal lives and neglect your family. Anything in excess is not good. In addition, timing is important. If you are at the beginning of your career, almost broke, starting a new job, or in some similar circumstance, your level of effort and personal sacrifice should show it.
The list below is designed to help a salesperson identify some of the common distractions that many of my clients have allowed to hurt their sales funnel:
- Do you have lunch and/or breakfast regularly with people who are not prospects and/or are not giving you referrals regularly?
- Are you scheduling personal activities (e.g. saleperson’s or children’s nonemergency doctor visits) at times that compromise your production?
- Are you taking family members or friends to doctor visits to make them (or you) feel good when someone else (that does not work on commission) can take them?
- Are you managing your meetings so that they are not longer than they should be?
- Are you allowing paperwork (e.g. expense reports) and organizing your office that can be done by others consume too much of your time?
- Do you work in teams, and do you allow all the deals the other people are bringing in mask the fact that you are not doing enough hunting, qualifying, and closing on your own?
- Do you have a favorite charity or committee that you allow to absorb too much of your time so that you destroy your return on investment?
- When you go to networking meetings are you spending too much time speaking with the same people instead of seeking out new ones?
- When you go to networking meetings do you spend your time talking, sitting and eating with people from your own firm?
- Are you meeting with too many people that are not really prospects?
- Do you target a prospect company’s decision-makers first so that you do not have to work your way up the organization?
- Are you on too many boards and committees and spreading yourself too thin?
- Do you work from home and allow things in the house to prevent you from doing what you need to do?
- Do you have friends that you like to exchange e-mail or phone calls with on a daily basis that are not helping you get any closer to making a sale?
In the end, your success can grow dramtically by managing distractions. We all have them and some avoid them better than others. The cost is great whether it is paid by a top or bottom producer. A career in sales is a tough job in any economy. While we cannot win every sale, every minute spent on a distraction is a guaranteed no sale.