Greg Lhamon and I were talking sales, leadership, productivity and baseball recently. His passion and insight prompted me to ask him to guest post here. Enjoy:
My best salespeople are fearless communicators. They know how to work a room. They’re great conversationalists. They laugh easily. They have an insatiable curiosity that leads them to ask great questions.
But there’s a dark side to extroverts. An Achilles heel that must be managed: They have a tendency to waste time.
Exceptional sellers rarely do it intentionally. They just enjoy a great conversation with anyone in earshot and on virtually any topic. But when goals are on the line, it is vital that leaders manage sellers with a sense of urgency.
Here are six specific ways in which you as a leader can impart a sense of urgency to your team. Several of these principles are taken from John Kotter, professor of leadership at Harvard Business School and New York Times bestselling author of, A Sense of Urgency.
You Must Be Determined to Win NOW
Great sellers know how to read people. They’ve learned to match their manner to the personality of a prospect. As a leader, you can use this to your advantage. If you move leisurely, they will too. But if you are determined to win now – today – then your team will catch that vibe and adjust their efforts accordingly. Try this: remain standing when a seller enters your office. It subtly communicates that this is not a time to relax. It’s “go time.”
Purge & Delegate
In order to instill urgency in your team, you must first have margin in your own day so that you can spend the time needed with each rep. This means stripping your calendar and to-do list of irrelevant activities that don’t immediately help achieve top-line goals. Delegate less critical tasks so you can focus on your sellers. Remember, doing something unimportant well does not make it important. Focus on being productive, not merely busy.
Don’t Let Your Salespeople Delegate to You
As you’ve purged your schedule in order to keep your team focused, some sellers will still attempt to bog you down by persuading you to take on their work. I’m sure you have someone on your team who – in the guise of asking for your help – is really trying to offload his work on you. I do. She routinely walks into my office with a monkey on her back. In the course of the conversation, she tries to transfer the monkey from her back to mine. But I can’t allow this rep to put extra work on my plate which may keep me from maintaining momentum with the rest of the team. I’ve learned to coach her on the problem and then adjourn the meeting, all the while making sure she leaves my office with the monkey squarely back where it belongs – on her shoulders.
Think about a period of time when you and your team were the most effective. Chances are good that you had a critical objective that needed to be completed with a short deadline. And your team responded. In his must-read book, The Four Hour Work Week, Tim Ferris said, “Identify the few critical tasks that contribute most to income and schedule them with very short and clear deadlines.” Short deadlines typically generate high quality work because they force us to focus.
Every Meeting with a Seller Must End with a Plan of Action
A meeting without a resultant plan of action is a get-together not a sales meeting. End each discussion with, “OK, what are your next steps?” Whether it’s developing a strategy for upselling a current account or creating his plan to increase the number of new business calls, the seller must have a clear plan of attack before leaving the room.
Over-Communicate with Your Team
You’ve created a culture of urgency. Your reps hit the streets with fire in their belly. But time away from you tends to throw water on the inferno. One method of keeping the flames stoked is to maintain regular contact with your reps when they’re away from the office. Call each rep in the field and ask, “How did your meeting go? What objections did the prospect raise and how did you handle them? What must we do to close them this week?” This is a subtle yet effective reminder that you expect every seller to never lose site of the goal.
Managing with urgency doesn’t mean trying to instill panic or fear of reprisal. It’s about maintaining focus and determination. As John Kotter wrote, “A higher rate of urgency does not imply ever-present panic, anxiety, or fear. It means a state in which complacency is virtually absent.”
These principles will help remove complacency among members of your sales team. And when that is achieved, there’s no limit to what they can accomplish.
Greg Lhamon is Vice President of Interactive & Digital Media with Salem National, a division of Salem Communications (NASDAQ: SALM). When he’s not leading sales teams, you’ll likely find him standing waist-deep in a trout stream, fly rod in hand. You can keep up with Greg here…Blog: BlueHandleChannels.com. LinkedIn: Greg Lhamon. Twitter: @GregLhamon