15 Habits to Supercharge your Field Coaching Days (Part III: Habits 11-15)

Part III Title Graphic

While we find ourselves at the beginning of yet another school year, we are coming to the end of our 3-part series around 15 habits to help supercharge pharmaceutical field coaching days (insert sarcastic “awwwww” and #sadface here.) 🙁

I truly hope you’ve picked up something useful from each post – I know it’s given me a lot to reflect on.

We’ll finish up our discussion starting at #11 this week and work our way to the end of the list.   As a reminder, these practical habits come directly from some of the best pharmaceutical district managers I know, taken right from the field and delivered in this post.

Some of my thoughts are sprinkled in as well.

For a refresh of habits 1-5, simply click here and for habits 6-10, click here.

Let’s get right to it.

  1. Get up early with purpose
  2. Morning workouts
  3. New meeting spot
  4. Wipe the slate clean
  5. Tailor the day
  6. Review prior coaching reports/e-mails:
  7. Set Clear Goals
  8. Slow Down
  9. Learn on the commute
  10. Put your phone down (Be present)

Habit 11 headerIt might not be tagged as the most fun part of a field coaching day (for either party…), but the habit of practicing relevant skills with the folks on your team is without question a powerful way to generate results.

The concept of “deliberate practice” from the book Talent is Overrated by Geoff Colvin was brought to my attention by a friend and DM in New England as support for developing this habit.  It makes total sense and the most successful people in their field are relentless in their practice.  We should be no different here in pharmaceutical sales land.

Drop the formality and unrealistic stiffness of traditional “role playing” and just take the time to practice with your team!

Habit 12 HeaderThere could probably be some healthy discussion on this one but I’m a firm believer that DMs should actively (but appropriately) participate in the sales conversation with customers during a field coaching day.

Being the dude holding an invisible clipboard, staring silently over the shoulder of a sales representative makes everyone uncomfortable, drains energy from the day and brings little value to the table.

I accept that there are times when taking a backseat is necessary for coaching purposes but a truly energized day unfolds when the DM and representative feel like a TEAM working toward the mutual goal of serving the customer.

And it’s less creepy. 🙂

Habit 13 headerThis one is very much related to habit #8 from last week (Slow Down) shared by Tony Ramy from New Hampshire.

I remind my team regularly that my goal is to help them succeed in business and in life…NOT check the box on having done a field ride so I can write a coaching report.

That said, intentionally carving time into each field ride for a discussion of personal and professional development is a habit that can supercharge a field coaching day.  It keeps the focus squarely on the person you’re with and ensures that they have every opportunity to achieve their goals.

Not to mention, it makes for a much easier mid-year and year-end evaluation process…for everyone.

Habit 14 headerSales leadership doesn’t need to be all sunshine and rainbows, but DMs who have a habit of staying positive, building up and encouraging the folks on their team create supercharged field coaching days.

Tom Rath, in his book How Full is Your Bucket?, uses this analogy to describe this idea beautifully, “Each of us has an invisible bucket. It is constantly emptied or filled, depending on what others say or do to us. When our bucket is full, we feel great. When it’s empty, we feel awful.”

A full bucket means a great day in the field.

So fill it.

Habit 15 header OK – debate me on whether or not this is an actual habit but it is SO worth including to wrap-up this list either way.

The most sure-fire strategy for creating supercharged field coaching days?  Make sure the right people are on your team.

A DM from Massachusetts shared this one with me and it really makes sense.  Invest the time in hiring positive, hungry  and hard-working folks and awesome days in the field are sure to follow.

For more insights into the ideal healthcare sales candidate, check out this post from my friend John Crowley and be sure to follow his work – he’s on point.


So there you have it…15 Habits to Supercharge your Field Coaching Days!

I hope there was at least 1 idea included in this series that challenged you to think (and ultimately act) differently in order to make the most of the time you have in the field with your team.

I’m also hopeful that this isn’t the END of a discussion, but rather the BEGINNING of an on-going dialogue in which we can all continue to learn from each other.

Please leave a comment with your thoughts!  What habits have you decided to implement in your field coaching process?  What OTHER habits do you think supercharge days in the field?

Special thanks are in order for Tony Ramy, Steve Soderlund, Amy Parillo, Alan Bundy, Kevin Holtz, Brian Mastrianni, Lisa Angwin, Wendy Keppy and Ian Aisenberg…all excellent DMs whose ideas and insights were used in this series.  I’ve learned a ton from you all and appreciate the help!  The same can be said for many other great leaders who have influenced me over the years…keep up the inspiring work!

Until next time,

Dave

15 Habits to Supercharge your Field Coaching Days (Part II: Habits 6-10)

Habits Part 2 Title Graphic

Welcome back!  If you thought Moe (our family’s English Bulldog, first introduced in this video) didn’t care for going outside, just image how thrilled he is when it’s time to take a bath.  That’s him in the tub pictured above.  Not amused.

This week we pick up our discussion of 15 habits that can supercharge pharmaceutical sales field coaching days at #6.

As a reminder, these practical habits come directly from some of the best pharmaceutical district managers I know, taken right from the field and delivered in this post.  Some of my thoughts are sprinkled in as well.

If you’d like a refresh of habits 1-5, simply click here to check out last week’s post.

Let’s get right to it.  My hope is that you’ll find just ONE habit from this list that will inspire an adjustment to your approach and help you create a wildly successful team.

  1. Get up early with purpose
  2. Morning workouts
  3. New meeting spot
  4. Wipe the slate clean
  5. Tailor the day

Habit 6 header

While this one seems obvious, I think we can all check our ego at the door and admit to times when we’ve arrived for a ride day less than optimally prepared.

A DM from New York pointed out to me that his habit of reviewing at least the last 2-3 field coaching reports, and even scanning through recent e-mail communications, has helped him stay focused on his team’s needs and create true progress / continuity in his travel days.

What caught me on this one was the word “review.”

We all have a system that captures ride along information – and we might even LOOK at it – but are we really reviewing it and carrying actions forward?

I can do better on this one.

PS:  a cool new technology built for pharmaceutical DMs to capture, track and measure their field coaching interactions recently hit he market.  Slick iPad app with an awesome visual interface and loads of useful tools – check it out here if you geek out on that stuff!

Habit 7 header

This is another core habit that can easily slip away in the craziness of day-to-day life but was mentioned by several excellent DMs.

Imagine just how supercharged a field ride can be if you’re working together with your team, getting things done and achieving real goals!

This a great place to get creative because you can develop fun, interesting and useful goals in the most difficult part of any territory – but, you have to develop the habit of DOING IT.

A DM in Connecticut put it this way,

“Having a common goal that you are working on together alongside the rep you’re working with tends to make the days more productive and fun.”

That’s the idea, right?

Habit 8 header

This habit comes from a DM in New Hampshire and could easily apply to life in general but is an excellent reminder for field coaching days.

“I was driving 75 MPH down Interstate 89 just wanting to get home.  At some point my attention was drawn to the right and the beautiful, snow-capped Green Mountains.  I had driven on this stretch of road dozens of times but had never really taken note of the beauty that was around me.  This is when the thought came over me:  ‘Am I asking my team to drive 75 MPH? And what are they missing because of it?’”

He has since created the habit of carving time out of EVERY FIELD RIDE, at least 60 minutes, to slow down and simply focus on what is important to the person he’s working with.

Literally anything.  Period.

He calls it “Coffee with the Coach.”

Make mine a Venti, please 🙂

Habit 9 header

This one comes from me and stems from a blog post I wrote a few weeks ago that you can check out here.

The bottom line for me is this:  when I spend my commute listening to and learning from motivational content I am ALWAYS in a great mood and ready to have an awesome field ride.

My creativity level rises and I’m engaged in the coaching process more than ever.  So, I’ve developed the habit of turning off the sports radio (…tough during football season, not going to lie) and listening to a podcast or audio book playlist that supercharges my day.

Click here to download an overview of what I’m listening to right now.

Habit 10 header

This habit from a DM in New Jersey punched me right in the gut because I have BAD habits here.   Here is how she describes her habit of handling the phone during a field coaching day:

“I set times throughout the day to make phone calls to the team either in the morning or afternoon and also set up time in the day to check emails or text messages.  I make the team or representative aware of those times.”

This process of chunking or scheduling time with the phone for communication is so powerful and can help increase engagement and energy.

I’m guilty of snagging my phone between sales calls and firing off a message or two – and in those moments I am not present.

Not fair.

Our teams deserve our attention on field rides and the habit of scheduling time with our phones can help that big time!


So there you have it – 5 more field-tested habits from district managers out there who are making it happen each day.

Any of these smack you around the way #10 did for me personally?  Have you given thought to putting any of habits 1-5 into practice?  Have any other habits you’d contribute to the list?

If so – please let me know in the comments section.  I’m eager to learn from you.

Until next week,

Dave

15 Habits to Supercharge your Field Coaching Days (Part I: Habits 1-5)

15 Habits Picture - Part 1

In last week’s blog, the topic of identifying and cultivating habits for powerful field coaching days was addressed with the help of my family’s bulldog Moe, who provided a useful (and funny…) example in this video.

Today, we’ll take a natural and important next step in this discussion and look at some the SPECIFIC HABITS that successful pharmaceutical sales leaders have in place to set the stage for supercharged field rides with the folks on their team.

How do I know what some of these habits are?  Well…I asked.

What follows are the first 5 (of 15) habits that were shared with me by successful sales managers out there in the field today along with a few thoughts of my own.  Not academic or philosophical ideas, either.  This is actual stuff that DM’s are doing before, during and after jumping into the passenger seat of a freshly washed and vacuumed fleet vehicle and having an awesome, productive day.

Is the idea that someone might try and implement ALL of these to be successful?  No way.  Hopefully, there will be just ONE habit that jumps from this list over the next few weeks that you can implement into your daily life to fire up your field rides.  Refer back to last week’s blog for some ideas on how to implement a habit successfully, too – since that’s where the magic really happens.

Let’s get started:

Habit 1 header

This one has some managers cringing right out of the gate, but a purposeful early morning ritual was mentioned as a killer habit by more than one person I talked to.  It has the power to set the tone for an entire day of coaching through increased levels of energy, focus and attitude .  Hal Elrod’s book The Miracle Morning had a profound impact on me personally and since reading it I have built my own 60 minute morning routine around: hydration, exercise, journaling and writing.  (And coffee.  Just saying.)  While I’m certainly not perfect in my application, I have formed a consistent habit and the results have been amazing.  Give it some thought, get up early and be sure to read Hal’s book.

Habit 2 header

The habit of exercise in the morning was mentioned by several managers as key to a supercharged ride day and is a natural fit into the early morning ritual mentioned in habit #1.  The type and duration of exercise varied but the result was highly consistent.  One leader I spoke to described his early morning running this way, “That alone time among the trees and along the water allows me to organize my thoughts and make better decisions. Ultimately I feel it puts me in a better place both physically and mentally to have a successful coaching session.”  Sign me up!

Habit 3 header

OK…this one is mine.  Simply meeting in a new location the morning of a field coaching day can have a powerful impact.  Nothing against that Panera Bread or Starbucks that you love to meet at (yes, I know… the parking is great) but the habit of switching things up can change the entire tone of your day.  Pick a local place with cool artwork on the walls, an interesting coffee menu or some kind of weird history.  Use your iPhone (the YELP app is excellent if you’re not already using it) or a simple Google search for ideas or delegate the selection your team…the results will surprise you!

Habit 4 header

A manager in New England shared his personal success with a habit of starting every field day with an emotional clean slate – wiping clear any negative carryover from a prior field coaching visit or anything challenging from his own personal life.  This DOESN’T mean forgetting important coaching content that must carryover to each travel day – but rather lose the negative baggage that can get in the way of progress.  “It’s hard to do every day but I make a conscious effort each day to ‘clear my lens’ and put myself in a positive frame of mind.”  Imagine how this level of self-awareness and mindset management might impact the quality of your next field ride.

Habit 5 header

When discussing habits we often focus on rituals that can be done same way over time – and for good reason.  But how about a habit of purposefully changing up the structure of field ride days to meet the needs of the person you’re working with?  Like, literally doing the day completely different based on who you’re working with.  A DM I spoke with put it this way, “each of my representatives has different strengths and areas of opportunity to work on so I tailor each field day to the individual rather than a set structure.”  Just like a good suit,  a field coaching visit feels better when it fits right.  One size does not fit all.

So, what do YOU think?

Are you already doing some of these things?  If so – share some experiences in the comments section below!

What other habits have you identified and developed that help drive the success of the field rides with your team?  Share below!

Stay tuned until next week when Habits 6-10 will hit the blog with some further food for thought.

Until next time,

Dave

How to Identify and Build Powerful Habits into your Field Sales Coaching Days

How to Identify and

Over the weekend our bulldog Moe taught me a really interesting lesson about habits.

You see, Moe hates to do just about everything except sleep.  He particularly dislikes going outside to take care of his business.   Just utter the phrase “let’s go outside, Moe” and he’ll give you a look and growl.

That is, unless you put his leash on.  Actually, if you even grab the leash and place it on or near his back (like in the quick 0:41 second video below) he’ll gladly comply and take care of business.   Check it out – you won’t be disappointed. 🙂

Somewhere early in Moe’s training – long before we rescued him several years ago – he developed the habit of going outside on a leash.  And now, unless he’s on a leash, he’s just not going outside.

As pharmaceutical sales managers, that’s how habits work for us too, especially when it comes to our field coaching days.  Consciously, or more often unconsciously, we get used to operating a certain way and create habits that simply become part of how we do things.

Like most things in life, leadership habits can be value GIVING (that work out before hitting the field each morning that leaves you feeling energized and positive) or value TAKING (that hour lost each morning down the social media rabbit hole that leaves you feeling zoned out and tired.)

Here are a few ideas that can help you become more aware of the habits that create the fabric of your field coaching days and some steps you can take create value GIVING habits that supercharge your leadership and life:

  1. Take an inventory: for one full week, use a paper or digital journal and keep track of everything you do on a field coaching day.  Start from the moment you wake up until the time you go to bed.  Don’t try and change anything, just simply make note of what you do and how much time it takes.
  2. Sort: with a week’s worth of field coaching days logged, take a few minutes and identify which category your activities fall into:  value GIVING or TAKING.  Even if you just did that activity on Tuesday – write it down.  Was there something missing on the GIVING list that you know would improve your coaching?  Make note of it.  Be brutally honest with yourself in this process.
  3. Start Small: using this list, identify just one small activity you’d like to break as a habit (TAKING) or one you would like to make a habit of (GIVING.)  Don’t go for a big one first – just look for one that can give you a small, early win in the quality and effectiveness of your field coaching!  If you’re looking for some help with more formally setting goals, take a look at this post I wrote a couple of months ago.
  4. Track it: now that you’ve got a goal in your sights…time to track it.  You’ve got to make this easy and aligned with how you like to operate.  If you’re attached to your phone, an app might work (Michael Hyatt reviews 7 great options here…check them out.)  Still prefer paper?  Check out The Habit Journal, it looks awesome and was funded by a Kickstarter campaign.  Let’s face it, we’re district managers so we love to track things.  Have fun with this 🙂
  5. Persist: we have all heard it suggested that it takes 21 days to create a new habit.  Quick research on that idea shows that it’s not exactly that simple.  A study from 2009 in the European Journal of Social Psychology showed a HUGE range from 18 to 254 days for subjects to “automate” an eating, drinking or exercise behavior.  It will be different for every person depending on the habit being worked with…so persist.
  6. Pick a partner for support: once your system is in place, find someone you can lean on for support and accountability.  A peer district manager that you trust might be a great choice since they understand the world you operate in and can easily see the importance of making field coaching days as valuable as possible.  Set up a system to stay in touch formally and  encourage them to hold you accountable.
  7. Celebrate: changing the way we do things is hard work, so find ways to celebrate successes along the way.  Set up milestones and rewards for rocking the habit in advance.  Make them fun and something to truly look forward to.
  8. Leave the leash: just like Moe responded to the leash in the video, we often need triggers or reminders to stay in place for the long haul, especially as our days in the field can change all time.  So even when you feel comfortable that you’ve nailed down your habit, don’t feel bad about leaving these cues in place to help stay on target.  In fact, it might just be the tactic that matters most for long term success!

I’d love to hear from you on this topic in the comments section below!

From your experience…

  • What are some of the most valuable habits that help create excellent field coaching days in the pharmaceutical industry?

In next week’s blog, we’ll continue this conversation with some of your ideas around field coaching habits, insights from thought leaders in the area of productivity and some ideas I have from time spent in the field.

Until then have an excellent rest of the week,

Dave

3 Important Benefits of Self-Inspection for Sales Leaders

leadership

At church over the weekend, I had the pleasure of hearing an excellent discussion around one of the most well-known (by Christian and non-Christian folks alike…) passages in Bible:

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged.   For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?  How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

Matthew 7:1-5  (NIV)

While I have heard this passage discussed many times, what struck me was the pastor’s observation that it does not really suggest that as a blanket approach we should never judge anyone (as it is often interpreted.)  Rather, the primary message is to make sure that before we address an important matter with someone that we first inspect ourselves with the same standard to ensure that we have clear vision going into that conversation.

An eye-opening reminder for important matters of faith, as the sermon continued to explore – but it also got me wondering how it might apply to the daily life of a leader.

Think about it.

As a sales leader, a large part of our job description is built around evaluating (or, “judging” if you’d like) the team we work with.  Nearly every day we are coaching selling skills, analyzing performance, conducting competency reviews, addressing problems, giving advice…the list is endless.

Given that fact, how much time do WE spend in self-inspection mode – measuring our own performance with the same standards that we expect from those we are privileged to lead?

The answer for me:  not enough.

While I believe the value of introspection is likely endless, here are 3 important benefits that self-inspection can bring to our leadership approach and coaching interactions:

  1. Clarity

    The passage from Matthew 7 suggests that by inspecting ourselves first, we’ll be able to see clearly to then call someone else out on an important matter.  Nothing brings clarity to a coaching situation quite like putting yourself into the other person’s shoes and measuring your own performance.  It provides a 3-dimensional picture of the situation versus the 1-dimensional view we often have looking in from the outside.  How have you felt in that same situation?  What challenged you when dealing with it?  How did you overcome it?  While leadership is never about YOU – this kind of inspection provides a level of clarity around what THEY are going through which has incredible value.

  1. Humility

    With 3-dimensional clarity often comes a degree of humility.  Humility is a word that can be taken many ways, especially in the world of leadership.  For this discussion, I’d suggest it’s a posture that lacks false pride or arrogance.  If you’ve identified a selling skill that someone on your team needs to improve, a time of reflection around your own challenges and success with that skill (currently or in the past) allows you to approach the coaching table with a grounded and potentially modest mindset.  This does not mean weak or wishy-washy coaching – quite the opposite.  It means that you’re able to identify with the person you’re working with in a very human way that can help your message be received openly and powerfully.

  1. Patience

    While a sense of urgency and drive are clearly needed in the realm of sales leadership, this can quickly and easily turn into impatience and frustration in coaching situations without self-inspection.  As with humility, this doesn’t imply being soft or tolerating underperformance for endless periods of time.  Performance needs should always be addressed right away and directly.  It means that we are able to set appropriate expectations and timeframes on skill or competency development from a point of having first looked at our own development for clarity.

Our lives as leaders are full of opportunities to take the time for self-inspection.  Not beating ourselves up or over-thinking everything…just good, solid reflection on the topic at hand from our own perspective.  Give it some thought this week and feel free to share some comments from your own perspective…

  • What have your experiences been with taking time to reflect or self-inspect as a leader leading up to important coaching situations?  How has it helped or hurt?
  • Do you have ways of doing this formally that work for you? Informally?
  • Do you totally disagree with me? 🙂

Thanks always for taking the time to stop by the blog.  I appreciate it more than you know and value your insights.

Until next time,

-Dave

5 Easy Ideas for Crushing your Commute

ULE

I stumbled upon a cool interactive map over the weekend which shares the average commute time to work, by zip code, across the United States.  I’m easily amused. 🙂

According to the tool, the average commute time to work in the US is 25.4 minutes.

Almost an hour in the car/bus/train each day.

I punched in my zip code here in Sussex, NJ (07461) and came up with an average commute to work of 40 minutes.  While my drive time is quite a bit longer each day, that’s probably a pretty close number locally from what I can tell.  Give it a try by clicking here and entering your zip code or simply hovering around the map!

If you’re in field sales, you add to these figures the drive time between customers and you end up with loads of windshield time each and every week.  And since time is truly our greatest resource, it’s fair to evaluate what we’re doing with that time and what we’re getting in return.

I subscribe to the idea that we shouldn’t waste the time we’re given on the road – it can be a gift.  So, here are just 5 ideas to think about to help crush your commute and make better use of your time on the road:

  1. Subscribe to Podcasts: Podcasts are digital audio files made available online to download to a computer or mobile device.  There are TONS out there right now covering every topic you can imagine.  If you’re new to this technology and using an iPhone, you can simply download the free podcast app, search for content you might like and subscribe.  Once you’re subscribed, new content from that podcast will hit your phone when published and you can listen away during your commute time.   A few that I subscribe to are pictured below along with the free podcast app icon.Podcast Pic 1
  2. Listen to audio books: I love to read books but find it really difficult to find time to do it these days.  I tried reading before bed recently and realized quickly it would take me 6 years to finish because I fell asleep with the book on my face in about 5 minutes.  A solution to this dilemma is audio books.  Again, not exactly a new phenomenon but if you haven’t leveraged the technology right on your phone to listen during your commute yet – try it!  I’m using the Audible App on my iPhone and just finished up Bob Burg’s Go Givers Sell More, which my team and I are using for a book club discussion.  I highly recommend it!Audio Book Pic 2
  3. Convert your online reading to audio: I’m just trying this out now.  There are several apps which can not only help collect and organize online content for you (news articles, blog posts, etc.) but will convert it into audio format for consuming on your drive to work.  I’ve been trying out the Pocket app which is quite simple to use and has worked well so far.  I’m struggling a bit with the voice over, which is a little clunky / robotic, but it does the job.  I would love any other suggestions on this one from you techies out there!Pocket Pic 3
  4. Schedule your phone calls: Catching up with folks during drive time is another excellent way to make the most of a long commute and one I’d guess most of us do pretty naturally.  A simple suggestion here is to be intentional with some of these calls and schedule them in advance to manage the time more effectively.  I can do better with this one for sure.Phone Pic
  5. Crank up the tunes: Finally, let’s not disrespect good ‘ol music!  While I haven’t done research on the topic, it is clear that music has a direct impact on our emotional state (one reason we used to make mix tapes for the special people in our lives back in the day…)  Use part of your commute time to play music that suits the state of mind you’re looking for at work.   Through the technological wonder of such tools as satellite radio, iTunes, Spotify and Pandora you can literally tailor your musical experience and rock your commute!pandora pic

A couple of questions I’d love to hear some feedback on in the comments section of the blog if you get a moment:

  • How long are you “on the road” each day for work?
  • What are some ways you find useful to make the most of your commute time?

Have a great rest of the week and thanks always for taking some time to check out the blog!

Until next time,

Dave

End the Detour: Getting Back to What Matters Most

End the Detour

I was taking a walk early one morning last week and ran across the sign that you see in the title picture above:  End Detour.

I drive by that little orange sign every morning on my way to work and never notice it.  But that day it caught my eye for some reason.

This detour (and the sign, apparently…) has been in place since Hurricane Irene rumbled through our town back in August of 2011, rendering a nearby bridge unusable.   It’s been so long that I don’t even think of my drive as part of a detour.  It’s just how I do things now.

It got me thinking about how often in life we find ourselves on some kind of detour away from the things that matter most, or the way we should be doing things, and then forget we’re off track.  We create and accept a new normal.  Think about it…

RELATIONSHIPS
FullSizeRender

Another view from my walk last week…

We end up on detours in our personal relationships all the time.  As a married guy, I’m reminded of this every year when my wife Kristine and I take our annual wedding anniversary trip.  We spend a couple of nights at a B&B in a cool town, go out to great dinners, go for hike or walk and just re-connect.  It pulls us off the detour of daily family life: coordinating calendars, household projects, cleaning and fixing stuff, taking the kids to practice, helping with homework (you get the idea.)  If just for a couple of days, we begin to remember what our relationship is all about and what road we started down in the first place.  Taking the time away reminds us both of what matters the most at the core of our relationship.

  • What relationships in your life are traveling in detour mode?
  • What’s just one small thing you might do this week to move back toward what matters most?
SALES

The detours we take in the world of sales are endless!  It’s so easy to get caught up in piles of sketchy data, peripheral noise and administrative nonsense that we forget that our actual job is to have quality conversations with customers.  Instead of drilling into important matters that might actually lead to a solution we can offer, we get comfortable chasing strings or offering canned presentations.  How about that customer you’ve been discussing price or coverage with since the day you started in the field.  Detour.  And that message you’ve been “running with” for the last few months with all of your customers without a change in sales.  Detour.

  • What customer relationships do you need to end a detour with and get back to what matters most TO THEM?
  • What conversations are you having with customers that revolve around canned or packaged messages that seem “right” but just aren’t moving the needle?  How can you make them more authentic and real?
LEADERSHIP

The life of sales leader is prime territory for getting stuck on a series of detours, too.  It’s easy to begin thinking that your job is to send e-mails, write reports, approve expenses, attend meetings, attend meetings about the meetings, attend meetings to follow up on the meetings and to circulate spreadsheets of data.  All of these activities are certainly part of the job but they can pull us far away from what matters most.  As sales leaders, we need to develop and inspire the folks on our team and deliver results.  Period.  At least that’s how I boil the job down.  And yet we spend plenty of time focused on other, less important things.

  • What items on your to-do list are paving a detoured path away from the activities that matter most for developing and inspiring your team? How can you re-frame/remove them?
  • Are there strategies or initiatives in place that looked good on paper but really aren’t moving sales and now represent a detour? Should you drop or change it?

Life and leadership will never offer a straight path and we’ll always end up stuck on some kind of detour.  That’s just part of the process.  The hope we have is finding that sign which prompts us to examine our situation.  Seeing that orange sign last week was just the reminder I needed to examine the parts of my life where I can refocus on what matters most.

I’d love to know what challenges or detours you face in your daily grind and how you approach getting locked in to what matters most…share in the comments section below!

Also – if you think anyone else in your world would appreciate this info, I’d be honored if you shared. 🙂

Have a great rest of the week!

Until next time,

Dave

The 1 Powerful Leadership Skill you Might be Overlooking

The 1 Powerful Leadership Skill you

A zillion really good articles have been written about the skills that make an effective sales leader.

Some of the consistent themes from these articles include things like:  coaching, developing strategy, motivating, presenting and providing vision.  Legendary sales training and personal success guru Brian Tracy offers a strong list of skills and qualities here, which is worth a quick read for sure.

In recent years, I’ve come to believe that one of the most critical skills a leader can cultivate (and yet is often overlooked) is the skill of DESIGN.  In many ways, it’s the skill which gives all the others life.

Before you start booing or click to another tab on your screen, at least check out the definition of design that I’m working from:

Realization of a concept or idea into a

OK…there is some jargon stuffed into that definition, but the bottom line is this:  design is the process of putting serious thought behind an idea and then crafting it into a form that actually gets the job done.  At least that’s my translation.

So yes, a sales leader should (must!) have a strong vision, a well thought out strategy and ways to motivate her team but without the skill of DESIGN, or the ability to leverage design, these powerful elements may never reach the point of application in the field.  That’s because design is the vehicle that delivers all that good stuff to the customer – in this case, our sales team.

So if design isn’t on your leadership radar right now, here are some thoughts that might change your mind:

D

DAYS OF DISTRACTION

The amount of noise that is pumped into the average person’s daily life to today is insane and it’s only getting worse.  Research by the Radicati Group suggests that by 2018, the average business person will have 97 e-mail messages hit their inboxes per day…an average of around 12/hour.  Add to that Facebook, Twitter and Instagram notifications, text messages and maybe an old fashioned phone call or two and the fire hose of communication is officially open in the face of the folks on your team.

E

 EVERYTHING WE DO

Our visionary, strategic and motivational efforts flow directly into that stream of distraction…literally everything we do.  The list is endless:  meetings, e-mail messages, conference calls, presentations, field coaching reports.  While it’s easy to rest on the fact that “we’re the boss” so our team will always pay attention to and learn from what we have to say, it just isn’t true.  How we choose to design our initiatives (including if we choose to not think about it at all…) has an incredible influence on how our message is received.

S

SELECTIVE HEARING

In this world of information overload – which includes everything we do as leaders – our audience has developed a case of selective hearing.  Information is filtered (or scanned…another “s” word) and emotional connection only takes place with those things which stand out, speak directly to someone or have the most clearly communicated value. We all have this selective hearing today.  In short, we pay attention to those things which are well designed.  This isn’t just about aesthetics, either (though that can be part of the story,) it’s about the thought that goes into our efforts across the board.

I

INVOLVES OTHERS

The cool thing about design is that it should be a truly customer-focused process.  And our sales teams are our customers.  So design begins by taking the time to understand where they’re at.  How do they prefer to receive information?  Are they visual or audible learners?  Do they like to consume information on the phone or computer?  What time of day are they most engaged?  What do they do for fun?  The more you involve your team in this process the better, more effective and easier your design challenge becomes!

G

GET HELP

If all this design talk is driving you nuts or scaring the crap out of you – no worries.  This is a great area to reach out to others in your company or network to get some help.  As a leader, it’s OK to not have every skill mastered (I clearly know this well) as long as we know where to go and get it.  Design fits this model perfectly.  I rely on a number of colleagues, friends and online resources get my hands around design challenges.  Here is just one online resource that might help get your wheels turning!

  • Canva.com:  an online tool to create cool visuals for use in your communication efforts.  Free to sign up and use with upgrades available for minimal cost.  The graphics used in this post were created for free with Canva!  They also have a “design school” with different tutorials and content to help guide you along.

N

NEVER TOO LATE

The beauty of being a leader is that the next chance to communicate with our team is right around the corner – so it’s never too late to work on the skill of design.  The opportunities are everywhere and endless!

In the week ahead, think about what small opportunities might cross you path where you can intentionally consider how design – look, feel, size, shape, timing and sound – might impact how your message is received?  Maybe just that next e-mail message you’re about to write.  Or that conference call on Friday.

I’d love any feedback you have and if you have any leadership skills that you think are overlooked?

Thanks always for reading.

It means a lot!

-Dave

12 Simple Tips for Crafting a Powerful Mid-Year Performance Review

Simple Tips for Crafting a

As we roll toward the middle of July, it’s fair to say that summer is in full swing.   There is so much to enjoy this time of year:  trips to the beach, lazy weekends by the pool, taking in a baseball game and mid-year sales performance reviews.

What’s the matter?  Not a baseball fan? 🙂

The mid-year review can be a powerful coaching and motivational tool if done well.  But the reality is, for many the process is just another administrative task that both the field sales leader and representative muscle through in order to move on with their busy lives.  And while I’m not sure there is anything that can be done to turn this process into a day at the beach, there are some actions we can take as leaders to help improve both the experience and impact of the exercise for our teams.

People with strong HR expertise and loads of academic research data have written extensively on this topic.  That’s not what you’ll find here.  What follows are 12 practical tips (of probably hundreds that could be written…) that come from spending time in the field on both sides of the table for a mid-year review.   Hopefully one or two will strike a chord and make a difference for you and your team this year:

PREPARING

  1. Mindset: early and often, remind yourself that you’re doing a mid-year performance review for a real, live person.  That person is not just a collection of sales data and competencies but rather a complex human being with goals, dreams and aspirations.  I respect that we need to anchor a review in observable, tangible examples – but never forget the person.  Less process, more people.
  2. Start Early: We all have a ton going on but don’t wait until the last minute to get started. The first thing we do under time constraints is cut corners.  The quality (and eventual impact) of work goes down as the amount of copying, cutting and pasting goes up.  Schedule blocks of time well in advance to craft thoughtful, well researched comments for the folks on your team.
  3. Gather information FIRST: I hate stretching before I run but I know it improves the overall quality of my training and helps me run longer and faster.  The same idea holds true here.  Invest time in collecting your performance examples first.  Don’t just jump in to start writing a review and THEN scramble for examples.  You’ll never get into a writing “flow” because you’ll be jumping around and searching through e-mail, documents, etc.
  4. Set clear expectations: It’s really important to set clear expectations for your team around what competencies are being reviewed, what powerful examples look like and precisely what they can expect from you in the process.  Also, it’s critical to proactively offer direction to your team around expectations for writing their self-evaluation (if that’s part of your process.)   I shamelessly borrowed language from a colleague this year which I felt hit the mark!

 WRITING

  1. Write offline: If you’re formally documenting mid-year performance review information in some kind of an online system, consider first using a simple offline tool, like MS Word.  This approach allows you to be flexible with your writing time (no need for Wi-Fi and no fear of a dreaded outage before you hit save), offers reliable formatting options and creates a copy you can save in your records.
  2. Limit the jargon: The language in the mid-year review you write should sound like YOU, not like a stitched together quilt of business clichés and corporate jargon.  Remember you’re writing this for a person.  It certainly needs to sound professional and include appropriate references to the list of competencies you use but it should still sound human.  Steve Woodruff offers some great insights on jargon here in a recent blog post.
  3. Be direct: No one loves to be flowery and long winded in writing more than I do, but it has no place in a performance review.  (There…I tried.)
  4. More results, less activity: Performance reviews are often just a long inventory of activity. The more stuff you can write down, the better.  But we’re in sales, so what really matters is the RESULT of activity not just being busy.  This puts the performance in performance review.   So, include fewer examples in your writing and instead focus on depth and explanation around the impact that a person’s effort had (or potentially, didn’t have.)

DELIVERING

  1. Pick a creative spot to meet…Nothing screams “I mailed this in” as much as camping out at that same old Panera Bread again to discuss a performance review.  If you’ve taken the time to prepare and write a thoughtful review, have your meeting place reflect that same level of effort.  You’ll be shocked at how much more energy is in the discussion with a change of scenery.   Check out that cool coffee shop in town, grab lunch at a place you’ve always wanted to try or even take a walk and talk.  It’ll be worth it!
  2. Be present: We are all pressed for time and trying to juggle more projects than we can realistically handle.  But for the block of time you have to discuss a review with someone, they deserve your full attention and energy.  Don’t cram 5 meetings into one day if you can help it.  Consider doing it first thing in the morning so you’re fresh and fully caffeinated.  Put your cell phone in your bag. Make sure you have the time, energy and attention to show your team that you’re invested in them.
  3. Embrace candor: This is a really important time of year to let members of your team know exactly where they stand because there is ample time left to make adjustments, if necessary.  Avoiding tough conversations or glossing over strong performance will only hurt the progress of your team and make an end of year discussion even tougher.
  4. Stay future focused: Spend more time in your mid-year review discussion on the next steps versus the recap.  The “review” portion of the review should really just set the baseline for a more important conversation around what to do next.  If you’re direct and candid enough in your comments, there should be plenty of time to focus on the future.  Get your team involved deeply in that conversation and help them set a clear course for success.

If a bunch of mid-year review discussions are in your future, I hope this list got your wheels turning around ways you can prepare for, write and deliver a better overall experience…for you and your team!

Please leave any suggestions or thoughts you have on the topic of performance reviews in the comments section below and if you found this helpful, consider sharing it with someone who could benefit as well!

Until next time,

Dave

Why Leaders Need to Celebrate More

SCULPTURE & ART (1)

2015 will forever be an example of a great family vacation.

We spent a full week up in New York’s Adirondack Mountains near Lake George, piled into a great big house on the Schroon River, to celebrate the 50th wedding anniversary of my mother and father in-law.

Think about that.  Their 50th wedding anniversary.

Amazing, right?

Such an incredible milestone and a true testament to their commitment, faithfulness and true love through thick and thin.  I look up to them both more than they probably know.

Roller Coaster Great Escape

The 50th Anniversary Celebration takes the show on the road to Six Flags Great Escape!

And we celebrated accordingly.  Everyone in the family wore custom printed, bright red t-shirts with “George & Molly’s 50th Anniversary” boldly printed on the front all around town and on our trip to Six Flags Great Escape.  We announced the big news openly at every restaurant we visited so that everyone in the place could cheer and applaud.  And, of course, the kids were routinely threatened not to argue or fight on the trip since this was Nanny and Poppy’s big celebration (…we almost made good on that one.)

As I reflected on how much fun we had celebrating, and how special it made the occasion for my in-laws, it got me thinking:  how well do I celebrate the wins and milestones that are reached with my sales team?  I’m not talking about the casually forwarded e-mail message with a thoughtless “congrats” or “nice job” typed in.  I mean a REAL, genuine celebration of a worthy accomplishment.

Not very well.

I bet in an honest moment, most sales leaders would agree that they have room to grow in this area.  There are a million excuses we use for not celebrating success more regularly:

  • “Things are just so busy right now”
  • “The company already does something for that”
  • “We’re a virtual team so it’s hard to coordinate things”
  • “It’s not really my style”
  • “Hey…it’s sales. Get back to work and sell something!”

The truth is, as sales leaders there is NOTHING more important than inspiring and motivating the folks on our team.  And few things motivate a team more than celebrating both shared and individual successes in meaningful ways.  Jack Welch, the legendary retired CEO of GE, was famous for throwing pizza and beer parties for his team to celebrate big milestones.  That killer spreadsheet you’re working on can wait – take some time to:

  • Go out to great lunch to celebrate hitting a key market share goal
  • Skip the e-mail and send a hand-written note congratulating someone for hitting YTD high sales volume. Maybe even address it to the person’s spouse or kids so they can make a big deal about it, too.
  • Chop an hour off your next meeting to take the team out for a drink to toast someone’s big work anniversary or have a bunch of pizzas delivered to your room for an impromptu party.
  • Have a Junior’s Cheesecake delivered right from Brooklyn to someone’s house to celebrate nailing down a big deal
  • Use your leadership visibility to very openly bring attention to a great accomplishment to a broad, higher-level audience by creating an award, plaque or trophy. Go big.

This list could go in many different directions and the actual action has to jive with your personal style, budget and company rules – but you get the idea.  We can do better as leaders.  I need to do better as a leader.

We could have bought a cake, a card and went to dinner for George and Molly’s 50th Wedding Anniversary and it would have been fine.  But a 50th Wedding Anniversary isn’t an occasion for FINE – it’s a reason to celebrate.  And we did just that.

What opportunities exist on your sales team TODAY where a celebration is in order?

How will you use that celebration to inspire and motivate your team?

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.  Until next time, enjoy the view below from our vacation rental home on the Schroon River…a celebration indeed!

My view from vacation last week...what a celebration!

My view from vacation last week…what a celebration!