I Don’t Know Where My Time Goes!

This is a Sandler Weekly Sales Tip from guest poster Shulman & Associates.

I Don't Know Where My Time Goes! | Sandler Sales Training

The STORY:

“I know for a fact,” said Greg at the sales meeting, “exactly where I spend my time.”  Looking around the table for a moment, he went on.  “The only problem is I never have enough of it.”

Most of the other salespeople nodded their heads in agreement.

“I do everything I can to make sure that each day is productive.  I even list the things I want to accomplish that day, and five days out of five, I never get through the list.”

“Greg,” asked Joan, the Sales Manager, “do you think perhaps the things on your list just cannot be accomplished in one day?”

“No, “he replied, “That’s not the problem.  The problem is all the interruptions.  Someone stops by to ask me something, and there go fifteen minutes.  Someone calls, and there go another ten minutes.  At least five times a day for both.  And then you have the PIB problems.”

As all of the other salespeople chuckled and nodded their heads, Joan asked, “What do you mean PIB problems?”

“Well, that’s what we’ve all taken to calling them…Pain-In-the-Butt.  Like when the laser printer jams at least once a day and no one knows about it for five minutes.  What you’re printing then disappears into the never-never land of bits and bytes.  So now, if you send something to be printed, you head over to the laser and wait to see if it printed before you do anything else.”

“I see,” replied Joan, also smiling, “what other PIBs do you people have?”

The RESULT:

Joan is about to get side-tracked dealing with PIB problems.  While important, PIB problems tend to be simple to deal with because no one has to change his behavior.  Solving the laser problem requires nothing more than a simple technician’s visit.

DISCUSSION:

There are two basic types of problems that waste time.  The first are mechanical problems such as the jamming laser.  Other mechanical problems could be the office phone system, a person’s car, and so on. When the mechanical things don’t function correctly, time is spent putting up with them until, hopefully, a solution is found.  Usually the solution can be discovered quickly.  Money can buy a technical quick fix.  If the money is not available, then everyone involved is absolved from doing anything.  “Hey, it’s OK to waste the time because there is no money to fix it.”

The second type of problem that wastes time is much more difficult to identify and solve.  These types of problems are usually centered around the behavior of the person or persons involved.  Greg quickly listed two situations that waste time.  People stopping by to chat and people calling to chat.  By his estimation, 25 minutes are wasted when both happen.  And at five “chats” a day, Greg has just wasted two hours.

What’s difficult about solving Greg’s two time wasters is that he may actually look forward to both occurring.  Or he may view them as “a necessary evil” of doing his job.  Either way, he knows time is wasted and does nothing about it.

APPROACH:

Mechanical time wasters are easy to identify.  “If I spent (fill in the dollar amount), I could do this more quickly.”  You, and perhaps others, have to determine if spending the money is worth it.

Personal time wasters require you to recognize them for what they are.  Jot down the two that immediately come to mind.

Drop-ins?  Unexpected phone calls?  Drop-ins can be dealt with by simply stating, “Can this wait until (time)?”  Nine out of ten can wait.

Unexpected phone calls are similar.  “Appreciate your calling.  Let’s make a phone appointment at (time).”

What others do you allow to happen?

THOUGHT:

You do know where your time goes.  You have to decide if you want your time to keep going there.

About the author:

Shulman & Associates is a professional development firm specializing in sales and management training and sales force evaluation. Visit their website and sign up to receive the free sales tip of the week. Learn how to increase sales, improve margins, and accelerate new business development.

Don’t Show Them How

This is a Sandler Weekly Sales Tip from guest poster Shulman & Associates.

Coworker asks for help. Do you say "Let me do it for you." | Sandler Sales Training

The STORY:

Katie had just finished her first week with her new firm and by digging right in, she had her first two orders.  As she looked at the form to fill out for ordering product, she wondered who could have possibly come up with the five-part maze.  The form was impossible to decipher.

Glancing up, she saw Greg, one of the other salespeople.

“Greg,” she asked, “could you give me a clue as to what goes on this customer order form?”

“Sure,” he replied, “but why bother?”

“Well, I have two orders, and I’d like to get them out.”

“Hey, congratulations.  I meant why should you do the forms?  Give them to Mary up front.  She’ll take care of them.”

“Aren’t we supposed to fill them in?”

“Well, that’s the theory, but Mary is the only one who knows where everything is supposed to go.  I don’t think a salesperson has filled out an order form for the past four years.”

“Oh,” responded Katie.  “What happens if Mary gets sick or when she goes on vacation?”

“We just leave them on her desk.  When she gets back, they get done.  She gets ticked-off at the pile, but if you try to do one yourself…well, Mary will give it back to you, telling you how screwed up it is.  And she gives it back to you a week after you put it in.”

“Why doesn’t she just show us how to do it correctly?”

“Have no idea.  It’s been like this since I was here, and you know the phrase, ‘Go along to get along.”‘

“Have orders been late?”

“Sure, but I’d rather deal with an irate customer instead of an angry Mary any day of the week.”

The RESULT:

No salesperson has any idea of what a “correct” order form looks like.  Additionally, the salespeople have learned not to ask.  And when orders are late, the salespeople would rather deal with an angry customer than a fellow employee.

DISCUSSION:

Is Mary a good employee?  She has taken over the task of filling out the order forms so that the forms are done correctly.  You can hear Mary saying, “What’s wrong with having such an important form filled out correctly?  If it’s not done right, the wrong product will be shipped and make customers angry.”

And then when Mary is sick or out on vacation, well, it’s just a day or two at most, a week.  “Besides,” continues Mary, “the form is complicated, and salespeople never get it right anyway.  The first thing I do when I get back in is make sure that the order forms are done.  You want it done right, don’t you?”

Mary isn’t wrong to want to make sure that the form is correctly filled in.  What is wrong is that she has not taught the salespeople how to do the task correctly.  The salespeople are wrong because they have not insisted on learning how to do the task themselves.

APPROACH:

Are there tasks you do which you refuse to teach anyone else?  Before you quickly nod “no,” answer this question.  If Katie asked Mary how to fill out the form, do you think Mary would refuse or instead just say, “Let me do it for you.”

You should pick a week, and during that week make a one-line note every half-hour of which tasks you are doing.  At the end of the week, go back over your notes and see what activities you did alone.

Once you know what the “solos” are, you then need to determine if someone else could have done them, if you showed him how.

Guard against talking yourself out of showing someone else how to do what you do.  Mary has a ready supply of answers for any objections.  So will you.  Fight the urge to give into them.

Decide on a solo task that you do and then find someone and show him how to do it.  As long as you don’t make it his solo task from then on, you will now have a co-worker who will be able to help the next time.  And in most instances, a co-worker who will be flattered to help.

THOUGHT:

Make the best use of your time by showing someone how to do something you do.  And then, if appropriate, let him do it.

About the author:

Shulman & Associates is a professional development firm specializing in sales and management training and sales force evaluation. Visit their website and sign up to receive the free sales tip of the week. Learn how to increase sales, improve margins, and accelerate new business development.

Haven’t Got Time To Explain It

This is a Sandler Weekly Sales Tip from guest poster Shulman & Associates.

Late Shipments.. Angry Customers.. How can I fix this? Sandler Sales Training

The STORY:

Harold, in charge of shipping product, was known throughout the company as always complaining about how salespeople screwed up their orders.  According to him, as a result, clients got shipments later than expected.  This had been going on for close to a year.

The salespeople complained to the sales manager who complained to Harold’s boss.  Rumor had it that Harold’s boss agreed with Harold, so what started as a complaint ended up as a compliment.  So much for effective company communications.

But this didn’t solve the problem.  If anything, the lateness of the shipments was becoming the rule rather than the exception.  When Melinda found out her last order to Memorial General had been four days late, she was ready to hire a man with no neck to rearrange the shipping department.  Instead she got into her car and drove over to the shipping building.  Not sure what she was going to do, she headed in to look for Harold, whom she had never met.

Harold had a small office with literally hundreds of handwritten orders everywhere, scotch-taped to the walls, the windows, the door.  There, buried underneath the pile of orders on his desk was a computer keyboard and screen.

At that moment, with Melinda’s mouth hanging open in sheer shock at the chaos, in walked Harold.

“Ah,” he said, “you must be Melinda.  Won’t tell you who, but someone called from the office and warned me to be on the look-out.”

Melinda looked at him and then back to the small section of the computer sticking out from underneath the blizzard of paper.  “Do you know how to use this?” she asked, pointing to the keyboard.

“Nope,” he responded, “Every time I ask someone from the data processing department to show me the ropes, I’m told they haven’t got time to explain it to me.  So I’ve given up asking.”

The RESULT:

One hopes that Melinda and Harold find a way to get the computer working in shipping.  Perhaps now that the sales department adds its voice to shipping’s, data processing will find time to train him.

DISCUSSION:

In this particular case, “not having the time to explain it” was affecting the company in a negative way.  The morale of the salespeople was being affected; the morale in the shipping department was non-existent; and customers were becoming unhappy with service.

And the data processing department certainly had its own problems.  Unfortunately, what it saw as its own problems did not include the shipping of product.  That was Harold’s problem, not theirs.

Consider for a moment how things would have progressed if Melinda had not driven over to shipping.   Customers, if annoyed enough at late shipments, would go elsewhere for product, further enraging the salespeople.

Of course, Harold could become more insistent with data processing, but that would take him away from getting the product out the door.  If it was late being shipped now, his absence would only make it worse.

All because someone didn’t have enough time to explain the computer.

APPROACH:

While in the story the fault lies with data processing, in every company the phrase, “Haven’t got time to explain it,” is uttered at least once a day.

If there is one phrase that should be banned, this is it.

Rather one should hear, “I haven’t got time right this minute to explain how.  When, in the next 24 hours, can we spend the time for me to explain?”

If you are on the receiving end of the phrase, your response should be, “Appreciate that you don’t have the time right this minute.  I’m ready to clear time in the next 24 hours so that you can explain it.  What do you want to do now?”

You will find the response you get to be interesting.  Don’t let the person leave you with anything but a firm commitment to a time for an explanation.

THOUGHT:

Always make time to explain.  You never know just how important that one explanation might turn out to be.

About the author:

Shulman & Associates is a professional development firm specializing in sales and management training and sales force evaluation. Visit their website and sign up to receive the free sales tip of the week. Learn how to increase sales, improve margins, and accelerate new business development.

What’s the good news? Where is the silver lining?

This is a Sales Question and Answer article from guest poster Dave Kahle author and leading sales educator. Follow Dave’s latest Tweets at @davekahle.

Silver lining in the clouds.. Learn how to see it. It's the mark of a truly successful professional.

Q: What’s the good news? Where is the silver lining?

A.  Great question.  So many of us have been concentrating on the clouds recently, that we haven’t noticed the silver lining around the clouds.  Certainly the economy is just limping along with no signs of a dramatic improvement on the horizon.  It is easy to become depressed and discouraged.

However, at the same time, there are unique and powerful opportunities for those sales people who choose to pursue them.

It really is the difficult times that distinguish the true professional from those who are merely in the right place at the right time.  One of the characteristics that contribute to success in difficult times is the ability to see the opportunities in almost any situation.  That ability is particularly valuable today.

As examples of how negative situations always contain the seeds of positive opportunities, here are three issues that you may confront as a result of the slow economy, but which really provide you unique opportunities.  Here are three clouds with silver linings.

1.  Your customers may have reduced staff.

We have all seen this.  What looks like a negative, however, holds the potential for a great opportunity.  Fewer staff generally means that some people are doing jobs that they have never done before and that fewer people are doing more jobs.  These are both opportunities for the creative sales person.

If someone is newly responsible for some category of product you sell, you have a great opportunity to educate that person on your product, on the reasons why the company has chosen to work with you in the past, and on the benefits that you have brought to this company.  Do this, and it will position you as a valuable resource to that customer.  Capture that opportunity by leveraging your position into opportunities to present more of what you sell.

If some of your key contacts are now responsible for doing jobs that they have not done before, they can use help.  It may be that by expanding the services or products that you sell to them, you can simplify their jobs and reduce some of the stress on them.  For example, a purchasing agent may suddenly become responsible for buying two or three new categories of product that were previously someone else’s responsibility.  Now is the time to make a presentation of why that account should buy more from you.  Stress that doing so will reduce the number of sales people that purchasing agent needs to deal with and will reduce the number of purchase orders, invoices, and all the ensuing time-consuming details. That’s a powerful attraction in these circumstances.

One of the most potent opportunities for a sales person is the customer who becomes overwhelmed with the details and complexity of his/her job.  If you can help simplify your customer’s job, if you can take over some of what that customer formerly did themselves, then you’ll have a powerful opportunity to establish a growing importance in that account.

Be particularly sensitive, over the near future, to the fact that your customers may have more to do.  Open up conversations about how you can make a positive impact on their time and stress levels by reducing the number of vendors with which they deal.  Find creative ways your company can do things for the customer that the customer was previously doing for themselves.

If you can more closely ingrain your company with your customer in these difficult times, you’ll become more important to that customer, and you’ll enjoy a growing portion of their business when the economy turns around.  It is a rare opportunity.

2.  Your competitors may have cut back.

Those companies that have reduced their costs to survive can represent a serious opportunity for you to prosper in the long run.  For example, if your competitors are cutting back on the number of sales people they employ, then relationships with their customers will suffer, and that is an opportunity for you.  Your competitors’ customers won’t see the competitive sales people as often, or maybe not at all.  That lack of attention is an open door for you.

As you call on your customers over the next few months, pay particular attention to anything you can learn about possible competitor’s cut backs.  Try to ascertain which of your customers or prospects may be impacted by that.  Give those people special attention.

If you can make an inroad into an account that was formerly committed to a competitor, that relationship you establish will work well for you even after the market turns around.

It may be, however, that your competitor has not reduced the number of sales people, but has cut back on service or production.  If that’s the case, then it is possible that some of your competitor’s accounts are having trouble with delivery, service, quality, etc.  Now is the time to get into those accounts and sniff around to find problems they may be experiencing.  Any such problem is an opportunity for you.

3.  Your customers close down, or move their facility to Mexico or China.

This one is a real challenge.  What possible good can come of a customer going out of business in your territory?  If you do your job well and are blessed with a little bit of luck, this could turn into two or three good customers down the road.

If you have done your job well over the past few years, you will have created positive relationships with several key people.  You know them personally as well as professionally.  You may have met their spouses or children.  You’ve gained their respect and trust.  Many of them are not going to move to Mexico, China, or anywhere else.  They are going to stay right where they are, which means that they will be looking for a job similar to what they are doing now.

Get their home addresses and phone numbers and copies of their resumes.  When you hear of a position opening up somewhere, let them know about it.  Try to help them find jobs in your area.  Whether or not they find employment because of you, they will recognize that you tried to help.  Keep in contact with them.  It is possible that they will surface in a position of responsibility for some other company in your area of responsibility.  What a great opportunity to leverage your relationship into a new account by calling on that individual.

With some luck, a couple of these displaced key contacts can open doors for you with their new employers.

One of the beautiful aspects of these three clouds with their silver linings is that it is unlikely that your competitors are even thinking this way. They are too busy feeling sorry for themselves and bemoaning the change from the way things used to be. Use these clouds as opportunities to expand the business or to find one or two more accounts, and you’ll be the envy of all the nay sayers around you. More importantly, take on the attitude of looking for the silver lining among the clouds in every difficult situation. It’s the mark of a truly successful professional.

About the Author:

Dave Kahle is one of the world’s leading sales authorities. He’s written ten books, presented in 47 states and ten countries, and has helped enrich tens of thousands of sales people and transform hundreds of sales organizations. Sign up for his free weekly Ezine. Check out our Sales Resource Center for 455 sales training programs for every sales person at every level. You may contact Dave at The DaCo Corporation, PO Box 523, Comstock Park, MI 49321, or dave@davekahle.com