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(SALES) How Many Bells Are You Ringing?

12-14-2012

I noticed something interesting recently, and Im wondering if you might be seeing it too. Its about the innocuous greetings we share with others all day long.

Hi! How are you? is a pretty standard greeting, wouldnt you say? Ive been asking and answering that question for decades. But it seems as though the answers I receive are different today from what they once were.

There was a time when the question How are you? elicited a response centered on feelings. People would say things like, Oh, Im doing fine. Thank you. Or, Feeling great! Not anymore. Now, if you ask someone how theyre doing, you learn about how much they have on their plate. The number of tasks on their to-do list, or the number of hours worked that week. Dont believe me? Give it a try.

So let me ask you this: How are you doing? Admit it. Youre thinking, Busy! Or, I have so much going on. Maybe even, Just trying to keep my head above water.

Rest assured, you are normal. These days everyone has more to do than hours in the day, and no one ever seems to feel caught up. We cant even get through all of our e-mail!

Think of each new focus that screams for immediate attention as a ringing bell, and recognize that this is why, as a sales manager, you need to be very cautious about how many bells are ringing in your sales department. Ring too many, and nothing will get accomplished! And you will frustrate everyone.

Bell-Ringing: Why Does It Happen?

If we are all so busy, why do we continue to pile more and more stuff on our plates? And why do we
incessantly create distractions for our salespeople by ringing a new bell for them before theyve even completed the task theyre working on? Each new bell rings in another set of tasks and an additional layer of stress, and pretty soon you have a big, loud mess, with nothing getting accomplished.

Heres the problem: Each new bell represents a new product, initiative, or important area of focus. Each one has a goal, and perhaps even a budget, attached.

What if there was just one bell?

Imagine the wall-shaking collective sigh of relief everyone in your office would heave if there were just one bell ringing in the sales department. Each seller would have a clear understanding of what they needed to do, a crisp vision of what success would look like at the end of their mission, and, finally, the ability to focus. As new people joined the team, they would quickly lock in on the goal as well and would be able to plan their days and manage their time to ensure success.

What to do about all the bells?

Here are the things I bet you are wondering about:

Will limiting the bells I ring really make a difference?

You bet! Think about your own experience. If you had only one thing to focus on, would you be more productive? Of course. You would know exactly what you needed to do, and, assuming you had the talent to be successful, you would feel stronger when focusing on this powerful mission.

If its not realistic for me to ring only one bell at a time, is there still a way to limit the distractions and achieve noticeable results?

Yes. And the truth is, it probably isnt realistic to think you can have only a single, loud bell ringing at any time. But significantly limiting the bells is critical. Make sure you have only one big bell ringing at a time, even if you do have to ring a few small ones along with it. It will be important that you send a clear signal that, while there is one big focus, there are other things that also matter.

What about everyone else in the building ringing bells that affect my sales department?

I think you need to lead a meeting with the leaders of all the departments to discuss how many bells might be ringing at once. Use that time to make some decisions about how important each area of focus is and whether it warrants a ringing bell. You will find that you can hold people accountable for doing business the right way without having to constantly remind them to do it properly.

What should you do now?

The first step is to make a list of all the bells you are currently ringing in the sales department. Then go through your list and prioritize those items against what is most important in achieving your overall goals. You may find you are ringing some bells that actually arent really that important. If that is the case, you can throw those bells away. Other items on your list will stand out as worthy of the bell.

The second step is the most important. You have to actually focus on the priorities you have laid out, and limit the noise coming from the rest. Increase your focus, and you have found the key to performance and success.

Matt Sunshine is EVP of the Center for Sales Strategy.
E-mail: mattsunshine@csscenter.com




(12/15/2012 5:18:43 AM)
Sure does kick the crap out of the long-approved concept of "multi-tasking" -- as well it should.

- Ronald T. Robinson

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