Why Do Sales Leaders Make Resolutions That Are Bound To Fail?
How did 2017 end for you? Did your team smash their goal, barely squeak by, or fall apart? As a sales leader, your success is based entirely on your team’s performance. So, no matter what happened in the past year, I’m willing to bet that you’re making some resolutions to be a better sales leader—to improve your team’s performance.
Benjamin Franklin said: “Be at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let every new year find you a better man.”
If you want improved performance (and what sales leader doesn’t?) you need to change something. But what will you resolve to change this year? What can you resolve to change this year that will have an impact?
Change is hard. The most common New Year’s Resolutions fall into three main buckets: being healthier, self-improvement, and better financial management—all worthy desires we can all attest to wanting. But research (and common knowledge) says that 88% of us fail to achieve our goals, illustrating that the desire to change alone is not sufficient to actually achieving goals. What do the 12% do that the rest of us don’t? Read on.
For sales leaders, change is an even more daunting task. Every year (and quarter, and sometimes even month) is Groundhog Day. Remember Bill Murray? Wake up and go knock down the number all over again…
For many sales leaders, this pressure gets handed down to the team and can make it feel like nothing else that matters. Hit the number. Hit the number… But while the number will be how you are measured, the process you follow to get to it is what you can improve.
So, did you resolve to be better this year? In the spirit of new beginnings, here are four resolutions I know you’ll have trouble keeping, and one that you actually can.
Sales Leader Resolution Bound for Failure #1
I will spend more time developing my team.
Don’t get me wrong, I am an absolute advocate for developing sales teams. It’s what I’m passionate about. But the pitfall with this common sales leader resolution is that, without the proper structure in place, you will eventually let sales team development slip as daily pressures and competition for your time intensifies.
Steve Jobs said: “The most precious resource we have is time.” We often don’t think about it that way, but time is scarce. To do something is to take away something else. What are you going to take away in order to spend more time developing your team? What will your managers and reps have to give up?
Here’s a list of stuff the average sales team does on a routine basis: Sales Calls, Field Travel, Forecast Reviews, Pipeline Reviews, Deal Reviews, Territory Reviews, 1-on-1s, Team Meetings. Then there are the fire drills that constantly derail everything.
Keeping all the trains running on time in and of itself is a significant undertaking. Finding more time outside of these settings to develop your team is not likely to be sustainable. Eventually, your focus will flounder and the time you put aside for development will revert back to old habits.
Sales Leader Resolution Bound for Failure #2
I will be a better coach.
Coaching is a skill that can be learned. Getting better, like any skill, requires repetition. You’ve probably read a lot about the multiplicative impact of coaching, so you’re ready to dig in. But how will you be better?
First off, you’ll need to carve out the time and space for coaching in an already chaotic schedule (see #1 above). You’ll need to be able to identify not just how to coach your team but, more importantly, what to coach them on. Your high-performing managers will need to develop different skills than those that are struggling with high turnover and under-performance. Then you’ll need a feedback mechanism to help you understand if you’re making progress toward becoming a better coach.
Better sales coaching is a critical need in today’s business, and working to become better is certainly a worthy goal; however, you’re likely to abandon it when it feels hard and the impact is unclear.
Sales Leader Resolution Bound for Failure #3
I will build a great team culture.
There’s a famous Peter Drucker quote that says: “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” You may be feeling like the key to success is a better team environment. There’s nothing more fun than being part of a team that loves coming to work each day. But cultures are lived, not made. Nor are they easy to measure and identify. How will you do it?
For many leaders, more time as a team outside of work is an answer, including team building events or everyone’s favorite boondoggle. These are time-tested tactics that can have an impact but may not necessarily change how your team performs on the job.
Culture means different things to different people, and building a great culture is certainly a worthy sales leader resolution. But it’s bound for failure if it simply revolves around happy hours and forced “team building” interactions. If you want to build a great culture, think about how your team interacts with each other every day. Think about what your people value, what their professional goals are and how they are empowered to work toward those goals.
Sales Leader Resolutions Bound For Failure #4
I will mint more stars.
Every sales leader has their stars. And every sales leader wants more of them. On the best sales teams, star managers and sellers push everyone else to be better. On the worst, the team’s performance is overwhelmingly reliant on them. So how do you get more of them?
There is a severe shortage of sales talent out there, so you can either hire them or you can make them. The problem with hiring them is that they are tough (and expensive) to find, and they often come with baggage. Making them is far better, particularly for growing sales teams, but it’s not like flipping a switch—developing stars takes time.
If you want to mint more stars, put a plan in place today but don’t expect anything to come to fruition overnight.
What Do These 4 Sales Leader Resolutions Have in Common?
None of these sales leader resolutions are bad goals to have. But remember we’re talking about resolutions here. And the #1 reason resolutions fail is because YOU’RE TREATING A MARATHON LIKE A SPRINT.
In the sales world, time is currency and managing it leads to long-term success. Small changes are more likely to be achieved because they aren’t so intimidating and they can happen within your sales team’s existing workflow. The last thing you want to do is shoot for something big, only to find out you don’t have a realistic plan to attain it.
So, what is the one sales leader resolution you can actually keep?
The One Resolution You Will Actually Keep
I will make my team better at one activity they are already doing.
Now hear me out. You can do this. There’s definitely something that’s gnawing at you coming into the new year. Has your team ever missed a forecast? Ever feel like you’re handing down a goal and praying the team can build enough pipeline to hit it? Have you ever joined a sales call, only to cringe at what you hear?
Whatever it might be that’s on your mind, your team can get better at it. Pick the one activity you want to improve and then go to work. Where do your people already do that one activity? Is it the forecast meeting or opportunity review? Perhaps the discovery call or demo? The most critical activities for your sales team to improve are already on everyone’s calendar every day, week, and month. Pick the event and start observing to understand what’s actually happening.
What you’re probably going to find is there aren’t clear expectations, leaving it up to each individual’s interpretation of what “best practice” looks like. Or maybe you’ve set those expectations but your team struggles to apply them, but now you know why. Either way, you’ve got a coaching path to solving the problem.
One final piece of advice and this is important. When you start showing up to meetings and calls that you never used to before, people are going to think its about performance. Nothing puts people more on edge than feeling as if they’re being evaluated and that evaluation will be used against them in a performance related discussion.
You can help alleviate this natural anxiety by communicating your positive intent. Your mantra is to pick everyone up, not bring them down. If you set it up right, you just might start to chip away at some of the other failed resolutions we explored earlier.
We will probably never stop making resolutions. It’s in our optimistic human nature to continually strive to be better. But why go to all the trouble of trying to change if you can’t actually follow through? Shrink the size of the change and create a clear plan to execute. Focus on making it as easy as possible for you and your team. If you have to think too hard or do too much, you’re off track.
Do you want to build a team that is capable of taking on bigger goals every quarter?
Do you want a great culture that attracts and retains the best talent?
Are you tired of taking your team out of the field for training with questionable impact?
Do you feel like you can’t add any more non-selling work to your team’s plate?
Do you want a SUSTAINABLE REVENUE MACHINE?