When stress overcomes you, it can hinder your ability to move forward. I have often been so stressed by noon that I wasn’t hungry for lunch at work. A splash of cold water at the sink was required to revive me. One time, when I was in my mid-forties, I found myself looking in the mirror, and saw not my face, but my father’s 65-year-old aged portrait! I knew then that something had to change. I had to learn to manage my stress to live a happier, healthier, and more productive life.
Too Much to Do
Do you ever find yourself feeling overwhelmed by the demands on your time? The constant barrage of emails, texts, and appointments can leave you unsure of what to prioritize next. With so many tasks to complete, people to connect with, and places to go, it’s easy to feel like there’s never enough time to plan ahead. It’s no wonder that feeling panicked can become a common occurrence.
Lack of planning is often a root cause of stress. Photo #1 depicts a young man who welded a crossbar into place before realizing that his head was on the wrong side. When I speak at events, I often show this picture and ask audiences for their opinion on this man’s predicament. On a scale of one to ten, audience members say his stress level is 15! I ask how they think he ended up getting stuck. Most reply that he failed to plan ahead.
Photo #2 is a clip from a video that shows a man chipping a golf ball over a pyramid of beer cans. In so doing, he topples over a bottle of beer. The tipped bottle pours beer into the cup. The golfer picks up the cup, straightens the bottle, and enjoys a drink of the beer. This is a man with a plan. When I ask the audience to estimate his stress level, the consensus is zero.
What created the difference in the stress levels of these two men? The welder was disorganized. He did not think ahead. The golfer had a perfect plan. In business and in life, to reduce stress we need to operate more like the golfer.
Manage your stress with better work habits. Replacing bad practices with good organizational skills helps you live a more ordered life and achieve success.
As a consultant to small- and medium-sized distributors, I often focus on project management. I generally begin an assignment with the question, “How are you progressing with your top projects?” Most respond that they have difficulty meeting deadlines and completing projects in a timely manner. This leads to high levels of stress and a loss of enthusiasm for the sale. “Too much to do, and not enough time to do it,” is a recurring theme.
Most of the business executives I work with do not keep a written record of active projects. While they may record one or two, another 10 to 15 projects are not laid out on paper. As a consequence, the team often bounces from one project to another at random. Tasks and schedules are not managed and this leads to inefficiencies.
It’s time to take charge. Here are some suggestions on how to better manage your projects.
Record all projects – In Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (the-7-habits), he suggests you start with cultivating these habits: First Things First and Begin with the End in Mind. Create a mind map (illustration) to differentiate the projects between Important and Urgent and Important but Not Urgent. Then, list all projects currently under consideration.
Prioritize projects – Prioritize your top 5 projects. Consideration should include time to completion and return on investment. Patrick Lencioni, author of The Advantage, (the-advantage), advises that corporate projects should receive special attention. However, all of your top 5 do not need to be large projects. Smaller short-term projects sometimes yield faster momentum and build morale.
Review weekly – Establish a consistent review process. Each week date your mind map, review the order of the top 5, and list next steps for the ensuing week. Include your executive team in the review as it highlights the company’s direction. Engage the team in refining the review and solicit support by delegating responsibilities. Each participant should review their departmental mind maps.
Record all completed projects – Your team will accomplish more with greater results if a year-to-date recording of completed projects is maintained.
Management = Growth
Lastly, these four steps improve communication and allow you to manage your projects more efficiently. Meeting weekly with my clients to review projects enables them to accelerate their company’s growth.
As digital transformation reshapes the sales process, it is crucial to establish a good balance between technology and personalization. Also, the speed at which new technology is being introduced makes this challenging. Here are some actions that help ensure your digital tools are working in harmony with personal solutions for your customers
Accept and Adapt to Change
If you expect to be successful in sales today, you need to remain mindful of innovations as they are introduced. Additionally, the highest-performing sales teams must be learning and using emerging digital resources. Stay on top of these new solutions and leverage them to your advantage. Be willing to navigate applications as they gain momentum. Accept and adapt to change.
It is essential for salespeople to recognize and access the growing field of AI-related resources. AI enables you to effortlessly handle data consolidation, hone customer profiles, and select content for leads with the next steps. Time-consuming tasks, like updating CRM data, generating quotes, and responding to proposal requests, are streamlined using AI programs. When you adopt AI for sales, you achieve faster results.
Provide Personal Relationships
Even in the digital era, sales continue to thrive as interpersonal interactions. Amidst online and direct channels, distributor sales hold a paramount edge in offering personalized relationships. In addition, to sustain ongoing triumph, it’s imperative to excel in constructing and nurturing these connections. Ultimately, purchasers gravitate toward those they trust and those who consistently meet their expectations.
Lastly, it’s important to acknowledge that technology presents opportunities to elevate the sales process. However, it’s crucial to maintain a focus on relationship-building. While AI possesses numerous capabilities, it falls short in replicating personalization and empathy. Striking a harmonious sales strategy necessitates embracing the enterprise sales model. Finally, this approach seamlessly combines digital analytics with genuine personalized communication.
Professional sales reps need to pay attention to what is new, particularly as it relates to Artificial Intelligence (AI) and enterprise selling. It is time to take action with AI.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is already having an impact on the business world. According to Forbes, OpenAI, the company responsible for creating the chatbot ChatGPT, is now valued at $29 billion and has raised $11.3 billion in funding through seven rounds. Recently, Microsoft announced a significant investment in OpenAI to further advance AI innovation globally as part of their longstanding partnership.
Furthermore, I recently asked ChatGPT, “How will sales be affected by artificial intelligence?” Instantly, I received a 377-word response noting seven categories of change. How you manage these changes is critical. As Mike Marks of Indian River Consulting Group, says, “The one thing to ensure distributor success in 2024 is the ability to manage change, and to integrate your whole team into doing things differently.” There is no question that changes in the hybrid sales model known as enterprise selling, which is powered by digital data analysis, will accelerate in 2024.
In conclusion, as digital transformation gains momentum, here are key actions salespeople need to consider.
Continuing education – AI is moving at a fast pace but distributor sales have been slow to adopt it. You and your team must be constantly educating yourselves on emerging digital resources.
The balancing act – Although digital transformation is fundamentally reshaping sales, salespeople must avoid depending on it too much. You need to establish a good balance between technology and personalization in your sales process.
Using the new tech stack –Welcome the benefits of the digital transformation: not taking advantage of them only puts you further behind. Be willing to fold new resources into your sales process.
Engaging the already informed buyer – With the changing sales landscape, reps must be ready to defend the company’s position diligently. AI helps you do this effectively.
We need to look for the opportunities often hidden within disruption. As author Barbara Kingsolver, says, “The changes we dread most may contain our salvation.”
Many great companies have been on the verge of extinction and recovered. Notable examples include Apple, Marvel, GM, AIG, IBM, Starbucks, Jack in the Box, Chrysler, and Lego. Among these, Apple stands out as the most remarkable case. Alyson Shontell’s article in Business Insider describes what she calls the “The Greatest Comeback Story of All Time”. In 1997, Apple was hemorrhaging $1 billion a year. Moreover, the media was predicting its demise. However, at the ’97 Macworld Expo, Steve Jobs humbly addressed the audience: “If we want to move forward and see Apple healthy and prospering again, we have to let go of a few things here. Specifically, we have to let go of this notion that for Apple to win, Microsoft has to lose.”
Finding the Opportunity
Steve Jobs wasn’t afraid to make difficult decisions to get the company back on track. He demonstrated to the world that you can adapt to change by finding opportunity within it. He and Bill Gates joined forces. They announced a five-year contract that would release an updated Mac version of Microsoft Office and Microsoft’s $150 million investment in Apple. In the end, both Jobs and Gates won!
Adapt to Circumstances
A wise businessman adapts to his circumstances. Lastly, the best leaders are continually developing a culture that enables people to find solutions to challenging situations. They embody active listening, attentiveness to ideas with an open mind, and the ability to respond without judgment or finality. Demonstrating understanding and respect is integral to their projection. Furthermore, they embrace lifelong learning, acknowledging the necessity of seeking chances for change.
Each business has a unique culture and it can be fragile. Changes within and outside your organization can threaten the culture of your company. Firstly, a merger or acquisition may alter your existing cultural landscape. A respected leader may go astray, upsetting the company’s cultural trust. It is important, therefore, to be vigilant about building habits that maintain and protect your company’s cultural foundation.
Key Cultural Building Blocks
Here are three key ways to build a strong cultural foundation for your business.
A humble heart – A truly self-assured leader doesn’t need a pat on the back. He needs to be humble. I live in Denver where a local sports superstar leads with a humble heart. The Denver Nuggets basketball team won a national championship this year. Nikola Jokic is their superstar yet consistently attributes his success to plays made by other team members. In his sincere and humble way, Jokic demonstrates that the Nuggets are a team, not a group led by one superstar.
Personal accountability – Authentic leaders must assume responsibility for their decisions, including their failures. A leader does not inspire confidence if he demands that others take the fall when his idea fails. In the event of a merger or acquisition, a good leader doesn’t say (as I have heard many times), “Nothing is going to change.” A true leader empowers change by taking personal responsibility for necessary actions, even when there is the possibility that these will be unpopular.
Aim for virtue– Pay attention to the moral positioning of your company’s leaders. Does it make them, and those around them, more courageous? Furthermore, a leader needs to be confident and resilient in the face of stress. She needs to be able to meet unexpected challenges and adjust quickly to change. People who aim high in the virtue department model their integrity for others in the workplace. This enables a company to build and maintain a strong cultural presence.
Build a Strong Cultural Foundation
People want to join a company with a clear mission that aligns with their idea of a strong cultural institution. Lastly, they want to be led by humble, accountable people and demonstrate strength of character. Your business will profit from building a solid cultural foundation.