What Does a Salesperson Who’s ‘Really Trying’ Look Like?

Hold yourself personally accountable and micro-manage yourself during work days.

My father was a big fan of Broadway musicals, and “How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying” was one of his favorites.

He was a salesman for most of his working life, ultimately becoming a partner in the last company he worked for, a commercial office supplier based in Boston. And even though that added some management responsibilities, he was still a salesman at heart. He always had an office in the house, and my childhood memories include many evening hours of seeing my dad working at his desk, writing up orders he’d taken during the day.

Thinking back on that now, it’s kind of funny how primitive the process was. A typical order might involve 10-20 items, some of which his company would have in stock, but others which would have to be ordered from a local wholesaler or directly from a manufacturer.

This was back in the 60’s and 70’s, so there was no computer at his desk and no internet at his fingertips. The whole process involved a lot of catalogs and individual purchase orders and tracking of acknowledgements which arrived in the mail while he was out making sales calls every day. About the only thing he didn’t have to do was send out the invoices, although he did sometimes have to go out to collect the money.

What’s the point of all of this? It wasn’t easy for a guy like my father to do his business and make a good living back then, just like it’s not easy for you to do your business and make a good living now. And the chances that you can be successful in business “without really trying” are somewhere in that slim-to-none range.

Try This

So, here are a few things I suggest that you try.

Try to be more personally productive. If you’re working 10-12 hours a day, try to make sure you get at least 8-10 hours’ worth of important work done every day.

If you’re only doing 4-5 hours of important work during those 10-12 hours, you’re just putting in time. If you only have 4-5 hours of important work to do, get it done in 8 hours rather than 12 and I’m pretty sure you’ll feel better. Better still, try to get 6-7 hours of important work done in 8-9 hours. That would meet my definition of a productive and effective day.

A big part of the problem is that most small business owners don’t know where the time goes. So here’s something else to try: Set your phone to sound an alarm every hour, on the hour. When the alarm goes off, stop for a minute and think about what you did during the last hour. Write a quick summary of what you did, and then look at the day as a whole at the end of the day. I’m pretty sure you’ll see some patterns of inefficiency and non-productivity, and seeing those patterns is the first step towards doing something about them.

Set your phone alarm every hour and review how much work you got done in that time frame.

And This

If you can cure some of your own lack of productivity, you’ll have time to address everyone else’s. Who else is a likely candidate for this sort of exercise? Probably everyone who works for you!

Now, it wouldn’t surprise me if you’re thinking about the negative implications of micro-management. If so, I would address that concern in two ways.

First, if you start this process by improving your own productivity, you can present that as an example of what you’re hoping to accomplish with an employee. “I micro-managed myself for a while, and I think it paid off. Let’s see if I can help you to be more productive too.” That’s called leadership!

Read Next: Why Transparency is Any Salesperson’s Best Friend

Second, let’s do one of those “scale of 1-10” evaluations on each of your employees. I would consider 8 or better to be an acceptable score, although I really want 9’s and 10’s.

I would consider 7 or lower to be an unacceptable score, which means something needs to be done. And if you accept that something needs to be done, your choices are training/management or termination.

Very few people have died from micro-management. Quite a few people have been turned into better and more productive employees. If you’ve got problems – especially employee problems – do something about them!

And This

I was also thinking about telling you to spend some time thinking about the direction of your business every day. I decided to take that one step further, though, and to tell you to do something about it every day.

I have a couple of clients who are suffering from “analysis paralysis” right now, and I’m talking about things that range from long-term direction to much shorter term concerns. I spoke with one of them recently, and she’s spent the entire previous week trying to decide between two vertical market segments to focus her sales efforts on. I’m afraid that I raised my voice when I told her that it doesn’t matter which one she chooses. They’re both good market targets for her business, and whichever one we start with, we’re going to get to the other one eventually.

This is reflective of a bigger problem, of course. She’s been hoping to succeed in business – although in this case, survive would be a better term – without really trying. That’s not very likely to happen!


Bio: Dave Fellman is the author of “Listen To The Dinosaur” which Selling Power magazine listed as one of its “10 Best Books To Read in 2010″ and “The Small Business Book: 10 Ways To Improve Your Small Business.” Contact him by phone at 919-363-4068, or by e-mail at dmf@davefellman.com. Visit his website at www.davefellman.com.

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