Developing effective self management skills to stay on course in sales, and in life.
In my book “Are You For Real?!” I talk about a time when I was living what I thought was the good life, doing well in sales and celebrating that success almost every night during the week. Of course, that didn’t last and when I had a sales slump, I wasn’t prepared.
That’s when I realized that I needed to apply some discipline to the troublesome employee in my company. Having my own business in sales, that meant ME. Self management skills may seem like such a drag, but they ensure your continued success through the ups and downs of sales.
Effective self management requires you to first sit down and have a hard look at yourself, identifying what may be your challenges or weaknesses. You know, those things that might steer you away from success. Here is a skills list important to
Emotions and impulses
Everyone has “hot buttons” that may trigger an emotional response. It’s important to recognize them, and come up with a strategy to keep you from reacting too harshly, and possibly damaging a relationship you have or are trying to develop with a customer. You may have disagreements with customers or colleagues, but don’t let that escalate into something more serious because you dug your heels in. When you see a conversation heading in a direction for disagreement, redirect the topic or find a point of common ground to focus on instead.
Likewise, impulses can derail your success because they can shortchange you from your goals. Literally acting on impulse is the opposite of being in control. In developing a relationship with a customer, impulse to get to the sale can trample on what they are saying, and appear abrupt or rude. Practice patience instead, realizing that it’s not about you when you’re meeting with a prospect.
Effectively managing time and priorities to meet deadlines
Time is not infinite. Use it carefully, thoughtfully and wisely. Time management generally is also stress management because it maps out exactly what you will be doing and how long you will be doing it, even before you head out the door. Take 15 minutes each day to plan the next, choosing what tasks take priority, budgeting the time you need to complete them.
With the tools of technology available, sales territory mapping can keep you on track as well, allowing you to reach as many customers in a day and preventing too much down time in between sales calls. Planning your day, thoughtfully and strategically makes each minute more valuable.
Presenting yourself assertively
When you walk into a customer’s office or place of business, how do you present yourself? Sales people often get stereotyped as pushy, but that’s not what we’re talking about here. Assertiveness is a confidence that should be reassuring to your customer, not intimidating. It says you know your product, and you present yourself as a resource for you client who can help them in problem solving and build trust along the way.
The more homework you do before you meet with a prospect, truly the more confident you become. And the more knowledge you are armed with, the more valuable you are to your customers. You don’t need to be pushy when the knowledge your customer needs is part of your presentation.
Demonstrate an ability to maintain composure in the midst of crisis
This same confidence can serve you well when things go wrong, and let’s face it, things do go wrong. Customers have emergencies, or complaints. Product doesn’t get delivered, or may be incorrect. It’s not the time to panic, but to project command of the situation and a calm confidence that it will be fixed. Generally, this also will keep your customer calm and reassured. If they see you panic, it might be read as a lack of confidence in what you’re doing. Relax, take responsibility and take action.
Striving for continuous improvement
My problem at the beginning of this blog was complacency. I got comfortable and I figured I didn’t need to improve because things were going well. Always look for a better way to serve your customers, manage your time, conduct business in general. Whenever possible, ask for someone to give you feedback. Many of my clients meet with me and review their business practices when we talk. It’s amazing what areas I find that can stand some improvement that they never realized was an issue.
It takes a little humility to ask for feedback, and it’s not a sign of weakness. I would hope you already ask your customers to give you ways to improve how you are serving them. It places their needs front and center, which serves to build your relationship with your customers.
Balancing personal and professional life
It’s great to love your job. Just don’t live there. In the long run, it will begin to affect you negatively. It really is true that all work and no play make Jack a dull boy. And no one wants to be around dull people. Remember that time management skill? That’s what will also get you to work life balance. If you need to, schedule your off time as seriously as you would an important sales call, and stick to the commitment to make it truly time off from work.
Sales in particular can be stressful, and having time that is focused on your personal life is the only way to restore your energy and focus. Your career is a part of your life, but place it in proper perspective.
Especially as you get to know your customers, make it your job to anticipate their needs. Think of sitting in a restaurant, waiting for your server to bring you a refill on your coffee. If you have to flag that person down repeatedly, it’s not likely they will get much of a tip. And if the service is like that the next visit, it’s not likely you’ll come back.
Don’t be the person who has to be chased down to provide service. Otherwise, your customers may stop chasing you and find someone else who’s willing to pick up their business.
Accepting responsibility for actions and results
Like I said, things can and will go wrong. However the measure of customer service lies in how well you respond to a negative situation. First and foremost when things take a bad turn is to own the problem. Customers don’t care if it’s not your fault, they just want to hear that your accepting the responsibility for the situation, and will take care of the problem as soon as possible.
These are just a few example of self-management skills, but they lay the foundation to keep you disciplined and focused. After all if you are your own boss, you want your employee to act in a manner that will ensure their success.