Make no mistake, selling is an extreme sport. 80% of your workday is actually wasted. 20% is valuable. The Pareto Principle is an inexorable universal power distribution law to fight. Assuming you're lucky! The distribution is more likely 99 to 1 of waste to efficiency in your output. I don't care how aggressively you sell. Time will slay you before you slay the dragon.
"It is not enough to do your best; you must know what to do, and then do your best." - W. Edwards Deming
But you're not a machine and it's very hard to Six Sigma your way into optimal productivity. You could call 50 prospects and get nothing from it - just going through the motions. You could spend the entire day commenting in LinkedIn groups and have a few other interesting narcissists poke you back. You could research the perfect business case to high heaven! If a Bear researches in the woods... You get my point!
Time is the enemy in sales. For many of us, selling truly is an exercise in futility.
We are all allotted the same cosmic clock, so why then do some optimize this time for better results? This has been dogging management consultants, thinkers like W. Edwards Deming and Peter F. Drucker, throughout the ages since the days of Aristotle and Plato.
We live in deeds, not years; in thoughts, not breaths; in feelings, not in figures on a dial. We should count time by heart throbs. He most lives who thinks most, feels the noblest, acts the best. - Aristotle
How does one solve for this, really? Is it virtue as per Aristotle above?
I mean, you can have the perfect Domo dashboard pulling your Salesforce CRM data in. You can use Predictive Intelligence to suss out whom you should prospect next with your auto-dialer featuring local presence (area codes for the area) and optimal time of day. You can use Marketo lead scoring to see which prospect is hot based on rules. It's truly a mystery sandwich actually what to do tomorrow that's most effective. C-Levels are getting to Emperor's New Clothes levels with this cosmic puzzle:
There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all. - Peter F. Drucker
So here are some areas where I would look to find the answer:
- Leading vs. Lagging Indicators. Very little has been written about proactive sales management but it's an important science to understand from rep level all the way to the corner office. There are myriad KPIs to measure but precious few smart actions that actually move the needle on revenue. Revenue itself is a lagging, "rearview" metric, and not one that can be moved by the SVP of Sales barking at the team to walk through the pipeline strategy again each week. (Check out Cracking the Sales Management Code by Jason Jordan to go deeper into this idea.)
- WIGS (Wildly Important Goals). These are literally daily goals you set that are massive. By focusing in on them, they gradually lever the boulder forward toward overarching objectives. "4 Disciplines of Execution" by Chris McChesney, Sean Covey and Jim Huling is a stellar book that looks at Execution as a management science for confronting the "whirlwind" of our day. For most sellers, just handling their email and getting to Inbox Zero is unfathomable.
- Pick a major action that scares you to do before lunch. Look at your pipe and think from the gut, who is the one person you could call today to truly move the needle. Who can sign? Who can say, "yes?" Who can only say, "no?" Who do you really need to phone in that account who you're petrified of calling? Board member? Time to go to the CEO? CTO? CIO? Are you scared to get too technical?
- Make strategic "warm calls," InMails and text. These are simply smart actions that no-one is taking. Literally, most of the 3 million sellers on planet Earth are either not contacting net new prospects at all, or just blasting templates in email. Sad state of affairs!
- Dial and touch better data. Use sales data intelligence services like LinkedIn Sales Navigator, ZoomInfo, DiscoverOrg and Data.com to make sure you're building lists of prospects that are "similar to your best customers." - Mike Weinberg.
- Prioritize "Interactivity" as the highest leading indicator of success. Who is returning your call, could be with an email, responding on LinkedIn, interfacing with your LinkedIn Publisher post, willing to have subsequent calls with you, inviting you on-site and asking provocative questions? "Interactivity" is the litmus test for prioritizing a book of business. When the prospect starts to drive the sales cycle from the front, you know it's going to close. Prodding with carrots and sticks as the conductor of the symphony injects unnecessary margin of error into your closing probability.
A few interesting quotes to share with you on this topic you may find valuable:
The number one trait of successful people is a bias toward action. - Dan Forbes
Have a bias toward action - let's see something happen now. You can break that big plan into small steps and take the first step right away. - Indira Gandhi
“ Today I will do what others won't, so tomorrow I can accomplish what others can't." - Jerry Rice
The bottom line is few people are going to furiously protect their calendar to make 30 targeted prospecting calls happen in a 2-hour block, followed by VMail, InMail, Text or Email in Executive ADD shattering, rapid combos.
The bottom line is most salespeople enjoy the coffee klatch and like to check email and their Facebook. Most salespeople have less than 3 on-site meetings in their territory per week.
If you're willing to take 30-50 smart actions per day, every day, you'll kill it. This is like a commitment to brushing and flossing. If you have a beautiful smile and no cavities late in life, you get it!
To paraphrase the Rock, "It's simple. I just worked out 6 hours a day for 20 years."
Make a commitment to A/B test everything: email length, message delivery medium, script, UVP, subject line, time of day, cadence, length, message style, downtones, up tones, relevant clients, social, SlideShare, networking events, even how you dress in meetings: you'll crush it.
Fortune favors the bold and iteration is bliss.
Start testing a ton of combinations. The strongest triple I've ever found is Direct Dial, Voicemail, Email (in 90 seconds flat!)
Action is like a muscle and you can build it. To get going, shut down distractions. Get to inbox zero in the afternoon. Get a blank sheet of paper out and write down the Wildly Important Goals or WIGs when you arrive to work... or even better, before you leave work each day have the next lined-up with crystal clear clarity... stick the list on your computer screen.
Mike Weinberg has a pretty phenomenal rule of splitting the day. You hit 33.3% of the pipe top funnel, 33.3% mid and 33.3% lower. This is quality food for thought because the biggest action you'll ever take, per Cardone is: "follow-up, follow-up, follow-up!"
I can't make you stop being a two or three toed sloth. I can't tell you that you can do what you did today and start to exceed quota. It will take a commitment to understanding what the smart actions are that lever deals forward and truly produce leading indicators.
You've got to drive progression rather than accept continuation.
Let me give you a pro tip: Next time management jubilantly dumps a carcass of an RFP on your desk, push back with gusto! Even flat out reject it. As Lee Bartlett mentions in his fabulous book, No. 1 Best Seller, "Furiously protect revenue-generating activities." This means you have to be willing to check out of the glad-handing and internal corporate politics of your sales organization. Let the other yes men and women go get coffee with your GM. Trust me, you're better off getting one more discovery or on-site in that week. Commissions are worlds better than backslapping and a hangover.
These tactics won't make you well liked, they'll make you successful. Once you're incredibly successful, well then you're untouchable. Your actions protect you and so does your revenue. But rest assured, Sub-KPIs matter - pipeline cures all ills.
To pull off all the above will take a tremendous amount of focus. Commit to three cups of coffee per day or simply shut out the noise of all the social networks, mobile phone blips and beeps, and intra-office spam email.
Execute. Act. Get addicted to the hustle, flow and grind! You've got to move from wasting 80% of the day or 20% of the day driving 80% of the output to a reverse Power Curve. Make 80% percent of the day drives 80% percent of output. You will thank me!
If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website: www.TonyHughes.com.au.