What Working As A Kid Taught Me About Building A Sales Operation

Over the weekend, I got to spend some time with family for Father’s Day. A group of us were talking about growing up in a big Irish-American family in the 70’s and 80’s just north of Boston. Weekends were spent with each other, at whichever cousin / aunt / friend / neighbor needed a retaining wall, front walk, patio or porch built. Saturdays were a mixture of hard work, life lessons and good deeds followed by rewards of an ice-cold Coke and popcorn at the Hibernian Hall. Of course, as a 12 year-old lugging bricks and mixing mortar in the sun, I didn’t realize it, but I was learning all that I needed to know about running a sales team.

Here are three simple principles that can be used to guide any sales operation:

1. Plan your work, work your plan.

The Uncles used to explain to us at the beginning of each day while they were gathering stock for the job about what was going to happen on the site. Exactly what we were going to do, how we were going to do it and when we were going to be finished. The activity that followed was focused, purposeful and always had measurable results.

Too often, as Sales Leaders, we let our teams stray from the planned objectives for the year – work in different markets, chase different solutions and veer off track. Good teams build a strong plan but great teams execute it at all costs and then are able to analyze those results.

2. Measure twice, cut once.

If you’ve ever worked on a job site and undercut a piece of stock or dug a hole that was too narrow, you know what comes next. Let’s put it this way: it isn’t constructive criticism…

Good Sales Leaders prep, then prep some more. In the current economy, buyers come in all shapes and sizes and the buying processes are all over the map. Sales Executives need to go into every meeting prepared for the unexpected – a new decision maker entering the mix, a re-org that causes a change in the procurement process or a shift in requirements. Nothing is cookie cutter anymore, so you need to be prepared for everything and anticipate the unexpected.

3. Never sit down.

If you sat down, you got yelled at. You learned it quickly and you didn’t want it to happen again. At first, I thought it was all about laziness (and at the time, it was) but now I realize that there was more involved. Construction, like sales, is all about efficiency. The more efficient you are, the more jobs you can complete and the more successful you become. “Never sit down” didn’t always mean raw effort, but working smarter and anticipating what’s coming next. Who will need a different tool or more stock when they finish what they are doing ? What trash pile can I clean up until the next time that I am asked to do something ? Thinking about what’s coming next but also making use of the dead time. Sales is no different. Being smart by using down time for networking to make more connections, building relationships with the right decision makers at prospective customers and getting educated on the latest industry trends of your market. Budgets are tight, competition is fierce and the teams that win will be the ones that never sit down.

The sales process is evolving at light speed these days. Customers are armed with more data and content that ever before in history. The teams that are successful have a good plan, are prepared in every situation and use their down time effectively. Winning is never better than when all of the planning and hard work finally pays off.

And it sure beats getting yelled at.

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