By Paul Reilly
“To be everywhere is to be nowhere.” — Seneca (Roman Philosopher, 65 AD)
Seneca could’ve had the summer months in mind when he said this over 2000 years ago.
Is it just me, or is it harder to focus during summer? You’re pulled in multiple directions. You have a quota to hit, but you want to play that round of golf. You need to attend that conference, but your kid has a weekend tournament. The client can only meet this Friday, but you were planning a long weekend at the lake. It’s harder to focus during the summer.
Maybe it’s harder to focus because we take on so much. Focus is more challenging when facing abundance (of anything). Barry Schwarz alluded to this in his ground-breaking book, The Paradox of Choice. Schwarz claims that we love to have choices but hate to choose. Herbert Simon, the Nobel-winning economist, warned that too much information consumes our attention, stating, “…a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.” Simon would likely agree that an abundance of priorities creates a poverty of focus.
This summer, improve your focus by focusing on less. Simplify your summer by remaining hyper-focused on these three areas:
Focus on the right business. Too often, sellers focus on what is shiny and new versus what’s tried and true. Be crystal clear on what is good business. Review your weekly calendar. Something needs to change if you’re not spending at least 80 percent of your time focusing on the right business. Remove the worthless activities that derail your sales efforts. If you’re overloaded with administrative tasks, remove them from your calendar. If someone (including your manager) piles on non-selling activities, challenge them.
As the economy continues to slow, it’s even more critical to focus on good business. During tough times, sellers lower their standards for good business. We get desperate, so we go after more opportunities—even if they’re not viable. Tighten your focus in tough times.
In Selling Through Tough Times, I challenge sellers to avoid the call of the Siren. Like the Sirens of Greek mythology, Siren opportunities lure you off your intended path. Profile these Siren opportunities. Siren opportunities are easier to avoid when you know how they look (and sound). Focus 80 percent of your selling time focusing on the right business. The tighter your focus, the greater your performance.
Focus on the customer (not yourself). Albert Einstein offered sage words that apply to salespeople. In 1955, William Miller, of Life Magazine, interviewed Albert Einstein and asked him to comment on success. Einstein responded, “Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value. He is considered successful in our day who gets more out of life than he puts in. But a man of value will give more than he receives.” By that standard, would you be considered a person of value?
Over the next three months, set aside your ambitions of winning President’s Club, hitting your quota, or closing that deal. Be customer-obsessed, not quota-obsessed. Focus on serving your customers’ needs, solving their problems, and helping them become more successful.
Focus on your free time. When you are on vacation, focus on relaxation and fun. When you are with your friends, focus on your friends. When you are with your family, focus on your family. Don’t the most important people in your life deserve your 100 percent attention?
YOU HAVE EARNED THE RIGHT TO TAKE A VACATION!
It’s alarming how one phone call, e-mail, or text message quickly knocks you back to reality. Completely eliminate the distraction. Don’t check your phone. Better yet, leave it at home, with a colleague, or with your boss. Unplugging allows you to reset completely. You will experience a deeper state of peace and happiness. And when you return, you will have a deeper sense of motivation.
Commit to making the most of this summer. Your playbook is simple: focus on the right business, focus on the customer, and focus on your free time. Be ruthless with your time—dedicate 80 percent of your selling time to pursuing the right business. Obsess over your customers, not your quota. Step outside of yourself and be a person of value. And finally, enjoy the free time—you’ve earned it!