Getting physically fit and shedding excess weight is a lot like getting your sales team fit for business. We know what we need to do:
- Follow a regime of activity and exercise
- Eat plenty of wholesome food, and cut out the rubbish
- Mix with likeminded folks to share ideas and tips
The problem is, while it all sounds fine in theory, maintaining such a regime over a period of time can be difficult. The first few days, buoyed by our enthusiasm for this new healthy lifestyle, we wake up early to do a 5km run on our new treadmill. We poach our eggs, grill our bacon and swap buttered toast for crispbread and low fat spread.
But then, the weekend arrives. We reward ourselves with a lie-in, followed by fried breakfast and maybe some pancakes on the side. Over the course of the weekend we revert back to our old bad habits and undo the good work we did the previous week. Monday morning arrives and, instead of reverting to our healthy regime and heading out for a run, we decide it’s not worth the hassle and throw in the towel.
Compare this with the actions we need to take to follow a tried and tested sales process:
- Only pursuing the right deals
- Carrying out the right tasks and activities at the right stages
- Collaborating in teams to share knowledge and get expert input
Time and time again, we see companies start off the year with a resolution to ‘do sales better’. So they roll out a new internal sales process with great enthusiasm and fanfare. But, similar to our fitness drive, we see a strong uptake in the early days as strict controls are in place. But, as time goes on, shortcuts are taken. The CRM isn’t updated as exhaustively as it should be. Account reviews get less frequent as other priorities jostle for attention. Reports become less frequent as data becomes less reliable. And, pretty soon (often by the end of Q1), the new sales process is in tatters before it has been given a chance to prove its value.
So what can be done to solve this problem? And what lessons can we learn from a sustainable health regime to achieve and maintain long term sales success?
Lesson 1. Set realistic goals
Be realistic about both your ambitions and your performance. Hitting your annual sales target in Q1 is about as likely as losing 25kg in 28 days. The aim is to have sustainable change and improvement. The goal isn’t to lose 3kg in a week and put 5kg back on a week later, any more than you want to hit your Q1 target and miss Qs 2, 3 and 4. Sustainable and continual improvement is critical for long term success.
Lesson 2. Do your research
What food is healthy? What exercise is most effective for you? When should you eat/exercise? All this takes time and effort to research, but those who do are significantly more likely to succeed than those who leave it to chance. To really succeed in sales, you should make it your goal to get to know your customer, understand their challenges and what they are trying to achieve. Once you do, your welfare, health & success will relate directly to theirs.
Lesson 3. Collaborate
Millions of members of healthy living/weight-loss groups and communities meet up, or chat online, to compare thoughts and tips on what works and what doesn’t. Morale and practical support helps maintain momentum and ensures you don’t feel isolated. Similarly, look around your business (not just the sales team) and consider how much knowledge and expertise you have access to. What hints, tips and suggestions can they offer you to remind you of the right path and help you explore new directions you hadn’t even considered?
Lesson 4. Stick with what works
When you find a formula that works, apply it consistently. If your regime consists of a healthy balance of protein, fat, carbohydrate and enjoyable exercise, stick with it. Once you effectively combine proactive account/territory planning with structured qualification and execution (in the right portion sizes), your business development and closing will take care of itself. Don’t be afraid to try new things of course, but systemize the process.
Lesson 5. Get back on the horse
We all crave the odd chunk of chocolate or glass of wine, and that’s OK. In fact it’s important to earn the occasional reward to avoid feeling deprived. But, it’s crucial we don’t overindulge and allow these to destroy all the good work we’ve done. It would be folly to suggest we get every campaign right or that we achieve 100% win rate. We all suffer setbacks but, like gorging on a late night burger or failing to prep for a meeting, we know it’s wrong and we should learn from our mistakes. The trick is, not to let bad habits become the norm.
Lesson 6. Stamina
This is probably the most critical aspect of change. Stamina on the treadmill or diet is a lot like stamina in behavioural change – we sometimes need help, or a kick up the backside. Maybe something to aim for or aspire to. But it’s the ability to keep at it that makes good practice part of our DNA. When that happens, staying fit is as natural as breathing. It’s a lifestyle change, not a once-off event!
So that’s it. They’re my views on the sales lessons we can learn from following a sustainable, health & fitness regime. I’d be interested to know how you got your business/sales performance fit and healthy. And, more importantly, how you keep your sales figures in ‘beach body’ shape all year round.
Please leave your comments below.