Friday, August 16, 2013

Should Every Employee Think Like A Sales Person?

I was 22 when I started my first full time job. I was right out of college and eager to make my mark on the world. My father, who had a very successful business career, has always been my mentor personally and professionally, so I wanted nothing more than to impress him, and help him see that all of his (and my mother’s) hard work in raising me was going to pay off.

And so like every other like-minded person, I was the first person in the office every day and many times, was the last person out. I was making ok money for someone my age and knew that because we were a small company and I was the lone sales and marketing person, there were a lot of people depending on me to keep the lights on. The place wasn’t going under if I sucked, but we certainly weren’t going to grow very fast if that was the case.

It took me a little while to get going, but once I did, we started winning a lot. We won so much, that we had to move into larger spaces (twice) and grew the company more than 500% personnel wise. But it wasn’t until I was a couple of years in that I realized the most important, career changing concept that altered my work behavior forever.

It’s not how long you work, it’s how effective you are when you’re there. Yes, it’s very cliché and I know I’m not the first person to share this thought, but it was a big, light bulb moment for me, so I’ll take it a step further. 

I believe that every employee should think like a sales person. 

Here’s what I mean. Sales people are compensated in a very clear and precise manner. Sell this much, earn this much, rinse and repeat. And great sales people generally become sales managers and know that whether you work 40 hours a week or 60 hours a week, as long as you’re hitting your numbers, you’re good. 

But other areas of the business usually aren't able to do as good a job clearly defining the goals for their employees. So, why can’t this concept be applied to other areas of the business? For example:
  • To the web developer, complete projects X, Y and Z. Just focus on these three projects. 
  • To the marketing executive, your target for the month is to drive X number of leads and get this number of attendees to the event. 
  • To the customer support engineer, your target is to close X number of cases each month. 
And so on. It seems simple, but so many businesses don't really have direct targets in place (or don't tell the employees about them) to help provide this kind of direction.

The point I’m trying to make isn’t that we should set minimums for every role in the company, it’s clear we have enough people trying to get by with doing the minimum. My point is that we should set more clearly defined goals for everyone in the company because so many people wander through their career feeling that as long as they’re busy, they’re doing their job. Unfortunately, that’s not how it works; when I realized that busy doesn’t equal productive, I became a much stronger member of the team.

For the next three months, I want you to try something. Set clear goals for yourself and really focus on them. Don’t get bogged down by all the other side BS, just focus on your goals, like a salesperson focuses on the deals they’re working that quarter. 

I promise you, you’ll be more productive, the results will be better, and you’ll be home for dinner much more often.

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  1. Jon, an interesting line of thought and I agree with your recommendation to set clear goals and focus, however I beleive it's not so much about thinking like a salesperson(because research suggests only 20% of salespeople actually do), rather recognizing the attributes of a well run organization. It starts with a strategic plan, that directly connects people to cash in their roles. How do you fit into the plan? (priorities), what do you need to do?(goals and processes), how do you know when you achieved your goal or measure progress? (KPI's), How the company communicates (daily, weekly, monthly huddles). Do you have an individual performance plan and discussion? (skills and feedback). I think you may see that Operations Groups and employees pioneered this years ago. Sales and Marketing are catching up. And there are other functions not quite as mature in their evolution. As well you will see differences between sizes of companies and leadership styles. So maybe more explicitly, what you are supporting is the merits of a well run, operationally excellent company, that sets and communicates strategy, sets realistic and challenging expectations, holds people accountable, develops and coaches their staff, and communicates frequently. And their compensation is tied to performance. Try this; everymorning ask yourself 1) what is my priority today, how am I doing against my most important KPI, what is my biggest challenge I need cleared and who can help me do that today.

  2. Determining a prospective customer is at the heart of it all, Salesperson Jobs since if you do not know what the consumer wishes and wants, you will be spending their time in any show.