I sit with management teams discussing Sales Execution Discipline and the importance of a regular coaching and review cadence. Inevitably, during the discussion, one manager has the courage to say what everyone else is thinking:
“How do I find the time to do this? I’m just so busy, I don’t have the time to sit down with my people to do these reviews and coach them!”
I hear the frustration in their voices, they know they should be doing this, most want to do it, but they are so busy, finding the time to do these on a consistent basis seems impossible. At best, they have short forecast discussion interspersed through their work week, they may take a quick look at a pipeline, or ask what’s happening with an account or opportunity. But they struggle to find the time to do reviews.
Some of you may be asking, “Why is a consistent review/coaching cadence important?” It’s a great question, hold it for a moment, I’ll work my way to answering it. But let’s focus on the issue of “How do we find the time?”
When manager tell me they are just too busy to do reviews, I generally ask, “Tell me how you are spending your time.”
They go through the litany–it’s the same in each conversation–they are not in control of their own schedules and how they allocate their time. They are reacting/responding, firefighting. The discussions go something like:
“My boss is on my back asking me for a forecast update!”
“I’m consumed with diving into all these customers situations and deals, bailing my people out!”
“My boss is asking me for a another report.”
“I’m spending all this time in meetings about how we’re going to recover this quarter.”
“There are just so many crises with these deals, my people need me helping them.”
“There is so much going on, I have to get involved in everything to make sure we are going to hit our numbers.”
“I’ve got to spend time recruiting and hiring people to back fill my open territories.”
“My boss is asking me for another report.”
And the list goes on. In some ways, they are excuses, but often, it’s their reality, it’s what they feel forced to do because things are out of control and they feel their job is to get them back into control.
In one recent conversation, a manager was deeply frustrated. “I have 8 people, each is working roughly 100 deals a quarter (not closing that many), I feel I have to know what’s going on with at least the most important ones and get updated every week! Things are moving too fast, there’s just too much volume, and we are way behind plan…..”
I feel for these managers, I know they are working 50,60, 70 hour weeks. I know they are incredibly busy. I sometimes feel guilty for taking their time to have these conversations.
But then, I suggest, “The purpose of a consistent review/coaching discipline is to eliminate as much of that firefighting as possible.”
We get caught in these vicious cycles. Our time gets sucked into firefighting and managing our bosses, and we find no time to do the things we know produce consistent results. And the more we don’t do those things we know we should be doing, the more things spin out of control.
Sometimes I feel like standing up in these meetings with managers, screaming at the top of my voice, “Stop this insanity!”
It is insanity. And if we do nothing it just gets worse.
So the issue becomes not one of finding the time, but committing to make the time—and not just once or twice, but every week!
It’s tough to say, because most managers are very action oriented, but we have to force ourselves to say/do: “I just won’t spend my time fire fighting, I’ll invest my time in fire prevention.”
It’s tough to do, we always tend to get sucked back into the chaos. But it’s something we have to force ourselves to do, not just for our own personal sanity, but to do our jobs, which is to maximize the performance of each person on our team. And the only way we do that is through disciplined, consistent execution of those things we know to produce results!
But then we get into the next dilemma, the managers say, “It takes so much time to do these. If I just do reviews and coaching, that will consume my week!”
It does take time, but too often, these reviews take far more time than they should because managers don’t know how to do reviews effectively or efficiently. They are unclear about the objectives, they are inconsistent with how they conduct a review.
I recently sat with that manager with 8 direct reports, observing 8 pipeline reviews. Each was very different, plus in each one, both the manager and the sales person were unprepared. As a result, they wandered and took far more time than they should have.
Each review type has a different objective. The objectives of pipeline reviews, deal reviews, account reviews, territory reviews are different. But there is a way that we structure and conduct these reviews to maximize the impact and minimize our time. I won’t take the time here, but take a look at Chapters 20-27 in Sales Manager Survival Guide.
There’s another leverage impact in conducting high impact reviews. It’s about inspecting whether people are consistently doing the things we know to be effective and coaching them in how to improve their ability to do those things.
If we see our people, for example, consistently executing our sales process and sales methodologies in our deal reviews, we don’t have to review every deal, because they are probably doing the same things in each opportunity–not just the ones you review. Likewise with account, territory, and other plans.
Once we see our people doing the things they should be doing as effectively as possible, we free up huge amounts of time to coach, strategize, and collaborate on the most difficult things.
We started this post with a description of the chaos and feeling of being out of control with their own time that the majority of managers face. And if we do nothing, it just gets worse.
It takes courage, discipline (and support from your management) to break this self and organizational defeating pattern. If we are to drive consistent performance, if we are going to drive disciplined execution, we have to start with our selves in adopting a consistent disciplined approach to reviews and coaching.
Our time will never look like that of the fabled Maytag repairperson of past years. We will never have the time to do everything we want to do or even should do. But we have to focus on consistently doing the things that drive performance with each person on our team–that’s what we’ve been hired to do.
Earlier, in this post, I suggested you might be wondering, “Why is a consistent coaching/review process important?” Hopefully, I’ve provided some insight to that in the post.
The biggest issue I see with most organizations, particularly larger organizations or those that aren’t start-ups, is they know what they should be doing, they know how to do it, they simply don’t do those things. Consequently, they fail to produce the results they expect.
Year after year, they search for something new, something that will help them improve. They spend millions in training, tools, program and content. Thing they believe will produce results.
And the cycle continues, they fail to execute those new things in a disciplined, consistent manner.
I know I’m a broken record, but we will never drive consistent performance, we will never improve, unless we start creating good habits. We need to execute the things we know to produce results. We need to do this every day, every week, every month, every quarter. We need to learn and improve. Sometime adopting new approaches, which we must execute.
The review and coaching process is the cornerstone to helping ourselves and our people, develop and execute the best habits that produce results.