I have had the opportunity to lead many types of organizations over my 33+ year career and there is not a more hectic and volatile one than sales.
Consider the daily dynamics sales must contend with: clients calling with demands and complaints, executives blurting out orders because THEY have a client on their tail, competitors disrupting client relations with new offers threatening client loyalty, internal fulfillment crises due to process breakdowns, suppliers running out of inventory, and marketing managers in sales’ face pestering them to push their personal product priorities.
Sales is a storm of activity much of which is “Incoming“; over-the-transom demands over which the salesperson has little control. All of these have the potential of putting salespeople off their game; of forcing them to deviate from the priorities they have in their sales plan.
How do sales contend with the barrage of incoming interference and stick to their sales game plan?
- The very first thing you must do is accept that Incoming is a fact of life in sales; and that you need to find a way to deal with it at the same time as you execute your sales plan. Denying the existence of Incoming won’t solve anything, quite the contrary. It will only increase your frustration and anxiety levels making it impossible to do anything well.
- Reduce the number of sales plan priorities you have. It’s impossible to have 20 “critical action items” and be able to respond effectively to Incoming. Spread yourself too thin and you not only are incapable of responding to Incoming, you won’t do a good job on any of your sales action items. Eliminate items until you have a handful that will satisfy 80% of your sales plan and open up more capacity for responding to demand activity.
- Develop a tactical plan to deal with Incoming. Don’t chase everything that comes in. Establish boundaries related to your sales plan and decide the outcome BEFORE you respond. If Incoming, for example, is related to a service issue for high value client, dedicate more of your time to it than if the marketing guys are hassling you on some product related issue that isn’t in your sales plan priorities.
- Track the time spent proactively pursuing your sales plan projects versus responding to Incoming. This will enable you to improve your ability to accurately estimate time available to do sales projects and the time available for demand work.
- Delegate as much as you can of either project or Incoming work to maximize the time you can personally dedicate to either. Save yourself for the high value tasks; delegate low value activities to others if you can. Create a “go to” virtual team across the organization to help you with Incoming; champions who “love” you and will do anything to help you. Tap them as much as you can.
I suspect your bonus plan doesn’t reward the volume of Incoming you effectively handle every month, but if you don’t determine an effective way to deal with it you’ll never deliver your sales plan which DOES drive your bonus.
Work on these 5 Incoming tactics; they will serve you well.