Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Power of Planning - 10 Minutes A Day!

I'll admit it.  Sometimes its all I can do just to fight the commute home, spend time with my family and crawl into bed.  Same with the morning.  After barely getting enough sleep to survive the next day, I'm in the car the moment I'm done getting dressed and when I arrive at work - it's one emergency after another.

Unfortunately, this pattern isn't the norm, and all of us as sales professionals can stop this behavior with some simple PLAN.  Let's discuss some really key principles of planning and allow me to humbly make a few suggestions to dramatically change your effectiveness at work (or home):

  1. Did you know there are over a thousand scientific studies on the effectiveness of short, simple planning methods?  A PubMed search reveals these easily and should be enough for even the most skeptical salespeople to realize there's something actually happening here.
  2. Planning for your success in work or at home is an age-old concept, going back way before there were personal computers, task managers, PalmPilot's, Day-Planners or even hand-written accounting journals.  Planning can be as simple as two things:  1) A little bit of time;  2) a piece of paper and something to write with.  With today's modern computerized tools, it makes it even simpler.  
  3. Have you heard this age-old wisdom:  Failing to Prepare is Preparing for Failure.  True today just as it's always been.  If you don't invest time in preparing for your life, it will go wherever it wants to.  Sometimes this isn't the best road to travel.
  4. I believe in the practice of planning for:  tomorrow, next week, next month, next quarter, next year and 3-5 year strategic planning.  You can do this for your work, but it works wonders for your personal life as well.  Need a tool to help?  Franklin Covey makes it easy.  So does plain-old calendaring (like Outlook).
  5. The 5/5 Rule for day to day planning.  The last five minutes of your work day, stop and plan the next day.  What needs to get done?  What item has priority over others?  What resources will you need to accomplish your daily tasks?  The first five minutes of your work day is more of the same.  If you invest the 5/5 each day, you'll increase your productiveness about 20%.  Pretty sweet for ten minutes.
  6. Monthly, Quarterly, Annual Goals.  These need to be a bit more scripted based on your specific career and job.  As salespeople, we can certainly understand what we need to sell for these time-frames  but there are other tasks and projects that require more thought.  Here's some examples:  What career education needs to be accomplished?  What books should be read?  What training classes do I need to attend?  How do I plan to get to a higher compensation model?  What requirements need to be met for me to get promoted?
  7. Three to Five Year Strategic Planning.  This is the one that most of us put off.  Unfortunately, this type of planning is really some of the most important time-spent to accomplish longer term goals.  When I ask sales candidates this question in the interview process, 90% have not thought this through.  "Where do you envision yourself in 3-5 years?"  I always follow-up with the following question:  "What planning are you doing to realize these goals?"
Do more with less.  Be more productive.  Create efficiency in your sales and personal life.  Get what you want by planning it in advance.  Take the time today to sharpen Covey's proverbial saw.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Email Down? It Really Is The End of the World!

My fellow Business Leaders:

Last week something horrible happened, and it wasn't associated with the normal Halloween Horrors.  The corporate email for my company went down.  When I say "down," perhaps I should be more specific.  First, it started as a massive slow down.  Emails were delayed 6-8 hours.  The next day there was the perfect Trifecta:  compete disconnections, lost email and corruptions of databases.  The total impact was about three working days.

While my company learned valuable technology lessons and had the right resources to mitigate the problem, the whole three day experience allowed me to come to some interesting conclusions regarding how email has impacted our lives in the business world.  Here's the revelations that took me by surprise:

  • Emotional Frustrations Skyrocketed:  While I've experienced email outages for brief periods of time (and certainly when I artificially create one by going on vacation), the sheer level of panic and turbulence was far greater than I had experienced before.  In looking back over the years, email traffic has steadily increased in my work life.  While it was easy to pick up a phone or send an Instant Message (IM), the loss of traditional email practically stopped my day.
  • Multiple Devices, Multiple Problems:  It was amazing to see how much I relied on the seamless integration of email for all three of the devices I use in business:  laptop, iPhone and iPad.  While ten years ago, this was a Palm Treo synchronizing via an old file server in my office, today, we simply ignore the massive complexity and coordination that synchronizing provides us.  I think I was most frustrated when away from my laptop and I saw emails deleted elsewhere still there.  What was sent? What wasn't sent?  What am I missing?
  • Attachments Drive Business Processes:  Also a surprise was the way I took attachments for granted.  Gone are the days of Journal entries, hand-written notes, faxes and snail-mail.  I came to the realization that attachments were the one thing I could not substitute with another form of communication.  While some IM systems allow attachments, it usually doesn't work with the outside world and  only gets by in a pinch.
  • Cover-Your-Ass and Document:  Probably the biggest item that took me for a spin was how many people utilize email to create a documentation trail to be used later.  To be fair, this is more about showing a clear pathway on a complex issue, but the real point here is that I wanted to point to a specific communication with somebody else, and when email was down - I was screwed.
With this said, it only reinforces the challenges going on in the Northeast part of the US, with Hurricane Sandy.  We take so many things for granted, only when the simple things are removed do we appreciate what technology brings us.  For millions of people, there is no electricity going on ten days and even longer.  They are freezing cold, without food and depending on the rest of the world to survive.  In the business world, email is technology that acts in the same capacity.  Without the subtle distinctions of the email system, we are indeed starving.

Let's keep the candle lit.