It started off as a simple question. I asked a successful salesperson that I had not seen in a while the following question, “So, how are you doing?” His response was something like this, “I am so crazy-busy right now that I don’t even know where to begin. I hardly have time to even stop and do any planning for 2015, which I know is important and that is causing me to have a lot of stress. My manager expects that I will have a full plan ready to present by the end of the month and on top of that I have proposals that I have to get out to clients, I have my weekly dial-for-dollars sessions that I have to do or I’ll get in trouble, and of course I have my end-of-day report and I have my weekly pending report that all needs to be turned in by COB on Thursday. All of that while at the same time I am trying to renew clients for next year and close out this month as I’m just a little bit away from my budget.”
What’s most interesting to me about this real-life situation is that my question was not at all focused on how busy this person was but more about how he was doing, as it had been a while since I had seen him and I was genuinely interested. However, the amount of pressure he is feeling from all of the things he currently has on his to-do list is so overwhelming that it leaves him no choice than, at any opportunity, simply pour it all out and look for some empathy.
While it’s not exactly the ideal situation, and certainly not the feeling that most folks want to have, it is a reality for many and one that is destined to lead to lack of performance sooner or later. Seeing as lack of performance is not really something any of us want to happen, I thought I might take the opportunity this month to address this and offer a solution.
There is a better way. The overall lack of focus in any one specific area is sure to cause the biggest issue at some point. As the famous quote says, “focus is key to economic success” – that same theory would certainly apply to this situation. In sales it is commonly known that the more focus you apply to something, the more likely it is that you will see success. So why not apply this concept or strategy to not just the sales process but to the sales job as a whole.
The importance of the big rocks. Perhaps you have seen the big rocks demonstration but in case you have not here is a quick summary. You have the job of placing in a jar all of the items on the table. The items are big rocks, pebbles, sand, and water. It seems nearly impossible to get all these items in the one jar. In fact you try and try but in every attempt it just does not work. However there is one way and only one way that it actually all will fit and that is if you start first with the big rocks. The lesson that this teaches is while there are many things that need to be accomplished in a day or a week, if you focus first on completing the big rocks (the most important items to accomplish) and then work your way to your pebbles, sand, and water (your less important things to do) you could actually get it all done. And even if you are not successful getting everything done, at least the things that don’t get finished are the least important. You will have successfully accomplished the most important things.
How to define your big rocks… Big rocks are defined as those items that are important but not necessarily urgent. In the example above, it would be the job of building the annual strategic plan for 2015. While this is not urgent, as it is not due this week, it is very important and something that needs time and attention. Once you set your three to five big rocks I recommend that you post them and make them visible, as that is a great way to hold yourself to them. It’s not enough to just establish your big rocks, now you have to apply the right amount of focus to get them done.
Matt Sunshine is EVP of the Center for Sales Strategy. E-mail: [email protected]