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Early into one of my sales positions, my boss informed me that the operations manager was upset with me. I was too focused and task-oriented in my dealing with the company’s internal personnel who made things happen in the business. I’d come into the office, drop projects and requests on everyone’s desk, and head out again.
My task-oriented behavior was upsetting people. As a result, they were balking at cooperating with me. My projects were being left on the bottom of the pile, and other salespeople were getting more cooperation. I had better change my attitude, he told me, or I’d find it very difficult to succeed in this organization. My lack of good relationships with the people who could make things happen for me was hurting my performance. Eventually, I came around to understand that. I swallowed my pride, bought each one a six-pack of premium beer, apologized, and started focusing on building positive relationships with everyone inside the company. That was a turning point for me.
From that point on, I could accomplish far more because I had gained the willing assistance of a number of people. In so doing, I stumbled onto a powerful time management principle: Creating relationships that result in people gladly working to assist you can be one of your most powerful time management strategies.
What seems like an obvious conclusion to a lot of people took me a very painful experience to see. I, like so many field salespeople, was accustomed to working pretty much by myself. No one else in the car with me. Most of the time I was alone when I made a sales call. When I was in my home office planning for next week, I was doing that by myself. Most of what I did, I did by myself. So, naturally, when faced with any task, I did it myself. Just like you, and the vast majority of field salespeople.
Its part of our mindset to think of ourselves as lone rangers – masked good guys out there in the field doing battle by ourselves.
So, we don’t think about enlisting the aid of other people. That mindset can be a major obstacle to our effective use of time. Here’s a poignant example from my experience.
At one point in my career, I was the general manager of a rapidly growing custom-packaging company. The materials manager was a key position in my organization. This person made sure that all the hundreds of items we needed for our custom kits were in stock when we needed them. But she had attendance problems, and after months of trying to help her establish good work habits, I had to fire her.
This brought on a crisis. The position was critical and I couldn’t go even a day or two without someone performing the task. In my rapidly growing organization, there was no back up for her. So I took over and did her work. After the end of the workday, I’d then stay and work till midnight or so, doing her job of ordering sufficient materials. This went on for a month or so, until I was able to hire and train a replacement.
Later, I met with the president of the company, to whom I reported. As I told him the story, he said to me, “Dave, why didn’t you call here and ask for help? We have several people in the home office who could have stepped in temporarily and done her job.”
I was stunned. “I never thought of it,” I answered. It just never occurred to me to ask for help. The problem was me! My lone ranger salesperson mentality cost me hundreds of hours over those several weeks.
But I’m not unique. Most salespeople have burdened themselves with a similar lone ranger mentality. That mentality is a major obstacle to over come.
There is yet another obstacle to implementing this powerful time management principle. Salespeople generally do not have authority. No one reports to them. No assistants, and no secretaries. No genies in magic lanterns.
If you are going to enlist the aid of people around you, you cannot, therefore, just delegate and rely on your management authority to make it happen. You have none — no management authority. No one has to do what you ask them to. If you are going to get people to help you, you must influence them to do so willingly. You must sell them on helping you. Which you can do, because, after all, you are a salesperson!
Almost everything you do, with the exception of meeting face-to-face with your customers, can probably be delegated to someone who can do it better or more efficiently than you can. Here are some of the things that I have passed off to other people in my career. I offer them to you to stimulate your creative thinking about what you may be able to download to someone else.
And yes, believe it or not, I have even delegated sales calls! This is a long story. Better left for the next book.
This litany of possibilities is designed to stimulate your creative juices. Once you get into the mindset, you can make all kinds of things happen.
About the author
Dave Kahle has trained tens of thousands of B2B salespeople and sales managers to be more effective in the 21st Century economy. He’s authored nine books, and presented in 47 states and seven countries.