I was recently asked a great question while on a call with (an American) executive in Japan who is going through the Sales Management. Simplified. Video Coaching Series.
He asked what he could do in 15 minutes per day to sharpen his acumen as a sales leader. What a great question – and one I’ve never been asked quite that way. We kicked it around a bit and came up with the following four simple yet powerful ways:
1. Call a Customer not just to check-in on how your company is doing for them, but to gain insights and understanding about what’s going on in their world. Inquire about new opportunities, new challenges, new threats. Gain perspective about what’s going on in their markets and learn about new initiatives they’re considering or implementing. Also get a sense for what your competitors may be up to. And, of course, seek feedback on the value your company is delivering and the experience the customer is having with your salesperson.
2. Call a Salesperson. Unannounced and unscheduled. Just pick up the phone and call. Not for accountability reasons. Not for coaching. Call because you are curious and because you care. Share a word of praise for a recent success. Ask about their family or favorite sports team (because as a good leader, you certainly made it your business to learn these things about your people). Get a read on what they are seeing in the marketplace. What’s new or different? What are customers and prospects telling them? What are competitors attempting? Ask where this salesperson could use more support or help. And be bold (and humble) enough to ask for their input on where you or the company can improve to make their life/job easier.
3. Read or Listen to Sales or Sales Management Content. Read a chapter in a sales or sales management book. Scan a few sales blogs (in 15 minutes you could probably digest three or four posts from reputable authors). Listen to a podcast. And at the end of chapter, post, or episode, WRITE DOWN a few key takeaways in a journal or an entry in your calendar.
4. Read or Listen to (Non-Sales) Business, Leadership, or Productivity Content. Grab a bestseller on productivity. Scan a business magazine. Subscribe to HBR. Find an entertaining podcast on entrepreneurship or leadership. Get an industry publication that covers the markets your business serves. Growing your own business or leadership acumen can be as powerful as increasing your sales management skills.
Are any of the above groundbreaking? No. Not even close. But at the pace of life most sales leaders live, you wouldn’t be shocked how few frontline managers, and even higher-level execs, spend a frighteningly low percent of their time learning and gaining perspective to sharpen their sword. Just think about how much better equipped and more effective you’d be leading your team if you carved out even 15 minutes for one of the above high-value learning opportunities per day. And imagine the amazing new insights and material you’d have to share during sales team meetings!