One of the things that will crush your results is something that sounds positive but isn’t. Many pride themselves on this activity, because it makes them feel valuable. Over time, as you do more of this activity, you do less of everything else, including the few more important things, like sales, growing the business, or leading your team.
What is worse is that the better you solve problems, the more problems will find their way to you. Soon you will find yourself in reactive mode, responding to others, and solving their problems. When you reach this point, you will find yourself in a firefighter role, rushing from one difficulty to trouble somewhere else, resting between urgencies. If this is you, consider this an intervention.
Sales Roles and Solving the Right Problem
The role of sales requires you to solve a particular set of problems that, when resolved, results in new opportunities, new clients, and better results for their clients and their company. There is no end to the problems you need to solve, starting with acquiring meetings with your prospective clients, a challenge you must solve to succeed. Once you are sitting in front of your dream client, you have to help them understand their world and the implication of maintaining the status quo if you are to help them move towards better outcomes. These are some of the problems of creating new opportunities, one of the primary responsibilities of a person with a sales title.
Later in the sales conversation, there are other obstacles you have to overcome, many of which require a high skill level, especially the ability to negotiate with your contacts. At some point, you might have to figure out how to convince your contact that it is in their best interest to allow you to meet with the people who are going to be impacted by any change you help them make, especially those who are going to get to weigh in on any decision. You will almost certainly have to solve the problem of justifying your higher price when you compete against other sales organizations with a model built on no additional value outside having the lowest price.
Winning big deals is the problem you were hired to solve. But it is easy to deal with the wrong issues when you are accountable for your client’s better results. You owe them the outcomes you promised them when you acquired their business, which means, if there is a problem producing the better results, you have to deal with the challenges that always come with execution, especially executing new solutions. What you are not responsible for are all the little transactional problems that show up along the way.
Even though it feels good to take calls from your clients, always being there to help them, you diminish your stature and your value when you spend your time on things like following up on a lost order, retyping an invoice, generating their reports, coordinating with your team on a mistake on their P.O., or a thousand other problems that someone else in some different role is responsible for that challenge.
You stick to the problems your company hired you to dispatch and let others keep the ones that belong to them.
Leaders and Solving the Right Problem
Your company hired you as a sales leader to solve the problem of providing leadership to a team of salespeople, ensuring they put forth their best effort and results, and reach their goals.
You have to solve many challenges, often without the necessary resources. Your first responsibility is to train, coach, develop and grow the individuals on the team, ensuring they have the capabilities required to sell effectively in a world where much has changed, and that requires much more of them than it did in the past. Many—perhaps, most—sales leaders don’t have the tools or resources they need to solve the challenge of improving each team member.
A sales leader’s second most crucial difficulty is the same as the salesperson’s first, opportunity creation to ensure they reach their goals. You solve the problem of incremental growth, which requires net new revenue after making up any churn in clients. Many hope they succeed, but those who are serious about this challenge start with structures, like territory and account plans, prospecting sequences, building insights that allow their team to position themselves as consultative salespeople and experts. They work on plays and role-playing to improve their team’s skills and abilities.
The third problem for the sales leaders is ensuring that they capture enough opportunities. They review opportunities with the individuals on their team, verify they have the resources needed to win, help them develop a strategy, and troubleshoot the challenges they encounter throughout the sales conversation.
One of the primary obstacles that show up for sales leaders comes from their leadership team. Things like the request for frequent updates on their forecast, as if looking at the scoreboard would have a more significant impact on the results than actually playing the game, resemble the salesperson’s client who needs a report. The need to resolve execution issues and operational failures and damage control with the client and the sales force takes time away from growth by moving people from offense to defense.
Sales leaders and salespeople solve the problem of acquiring clients and creating growth.
Not Your Problem Is Your Problem
Do not read this and believe that you don’t owe the rest of your team your support and help. There will be times they require your help in solving problems, mainly because you are highly competent.
Instead, prioritize your work by focusing on the primary problems you are employed to resolve. Reduce the time you spend on other issues, especially those that belong to someone else on your team.
The problem with spending your time solving the wrong problems is that you leave your real problems unaddressed and unresolved.
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