To Win at Sales Put First Things First.
(Editor’s note: This article is a compilation of an incredible seminar led by Stephen R. Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, and an interview conducted by Rod Smith with Roger Merrill, coauthor of First Things First with Stephen Covey and Rebecca Merrill.)
Are you climbing the ladder of success only to find that you have leaned it against the wrong wall?
The majority of salespeople live under the tyranny of the urgent. Putting out fires, dealing with crises and otherwise pulling our hair out (see my photo for proof). All the while we are missing out on some of the most important relationships and opportunities in our personal and professional lives. Stephen Covey made this clear in The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People, and defines the solution in First Things First.
The Covey Leadership Center polled more than 50,000 clients on the use of the 7 Habits. They found that most respondents lacked expertise in Habit #3 Putting First Things First. They responded with a book, First Things First. At the heart of this book is effective, principlecentered time management.
“In sales, perhaps more than any other profession, time is money,” says Roger Merrill. “Salespeople are usually more in control of the decisions they make about the use of their time. They can goofoff or they can create the quality of life that they want. The real issue is the quality of life that results…Many salespeople guilt trip if they are not selling all the time. But, faster is not always better. Sometimes that drive can take the sparkle out of everything…The key to motivation is motive.”
The first step in putting first things first is to construct a mission statement (your motive) that reflects and defines your aspirations in all the roles that you play in life salesperson, family, community and personal development (Habit #7 “Sharpening the Saw”). A focused “discipline and clarity” will come through this process.
Mission Statements can also provide motive and motivation when focused on specific aspects of your professional life:
A mission statement for a business.
A mission statement for a big project.
A specific mission statement for your sales career.
A mission statement for your relationship with your customers.
Merrill recounted an instance where he was consulting with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. He said a typical multimillion dollar construction job takes three years to build, and the next five in litigation. That litigation is expensive in both financial and human terms. Merrill helped the Army construct mission statements with their suppliers and subcontractors. The result has been a virtual elimination of litigation. Can you imagine a similar improvement with the customers you serve?
The Merrill/Covey system says: after your mission statement is complete then you can begin effective planning. Most planning systems (daytimers and the like) that focus on daily planning, keep us always in the urgent instead of the important. To keep ourselves focused on the activities that will bring us the most long term benefit, Covey and Merrill suggest that we plan weekly, not daily and focus on “mission” oriented tasks.
The Seven Habits Planning System works like this:
You reconnect with your mission statement.
You reconnect and write down each of roles you play in life.
You pick a weekly goal(s) in each of these roles. To pick these goals you ask yourself the following question: “What is the most important thing I could do in each role this week to have the greatest positive impact?”
You define and redefine priorities.
You then schedule time for each of these activities.
When the inevitable interruptions occur, the system challenges you to “exercise integrity in the moment of choice.” You connect with your conscience, make your choice and then act on it.
What makes this whole process work? Selfdiscipline. Many salespeople seem to equate discipline with torture. Merrill says, “It’s all in how you look at it. We can’t wait to get off of work and go play basketball or football where we’ll get bumped, scraped and bruised. The pain is a part of the success. We just accept it and keep at the game.”
The real issue of your sales career is not just the money earned, it’s the quality of life that results. When you plan your time, it’s your responsibility to realize it’s not just your time you’ll be planning it’s your life.
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“The key to motivation
I would like to acknowledge and thank J. “Rod”erick Smith, Jr. This article was prepared with his assistance.
Jeffrey Gitomer is the author of The Sales Bible, and Customer Satisfaction is Worthless, Customer Loyalty is Priceless. President of Charlottebased Buy Gitomer, he gives seminars, runs annual sales meetings, and conducts training programs on selling and customer service. He can be reached at 704/3331112 or email to firstname.lastname@example.org
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permission from Jeffrey H. Gitomer and Buy Gitomer 704/3331112