How to Prioritize Your Top Priorities

When everyone is asking you to do something and everything seems important, where do you start?

In sales, you have endless reminders pinging your desktop, a never-ending list of people to call and email, follow-ups stacking up higher than your commission checks (amirite?), and on top of it all, you have to devote time to revising and improving your process. It all gets overwhelming, and at times, paralyzing.

There’s nothing worse than staring at a long list of tasks and feeling a loss of where to start. We’ve all been there, but particularly for those of us who usually procrastinate in ordinary life (will the Real Chronic Procrastinators please stand up?), a nonspecific, yet urgent task list can send productivity spiraling:

procrastination-large-e1331292437432

Whether you’re an SDR or full-stack AE, your to-do list is at great risk of becoming unruly; I get it. Your day is a never-ending stream of choices. Oftentimes it feels like everything is business-critical (and sometimes it really is), but even if that’s the case, you still won’t be able to do everything you want to in the same moment. You’re left with no choice but to pick your “first fire” to douse.

Here’s how our team at LeadUp does it. No one gets anywhere without asking questions, so we’re giving you our best prioritization questions to put in your toolbox:

1. TOP PRIORITY: Which one (or ones) of the items on my list is business-critical?

Business-critical scenarios resemble something like losing a deal you’ve been working on closing for months, or realizing a client is on the brink of churning. These kinds of tasks should not be put off just because you have something else due EOD or because you are supposed to follow up with someone (this is when having perspective can be one of your greatest strengths). Business is not a game of fate; it’s a game of determination. Meaning in order to win, you have to make your own luck, but not excuses. If a high-risk event is happening, putting off your other tasks will not cause your to-do list to explode; it will simply move things around. Don’t be afraid to place some things above others. Business-critical items are always your top priorities.

2. SECONDARY PRIORITY: Which items have immediate impact?

It’s important to note the difference in questions 1 and 2. If something business-critical is happening, then you have a fire to douse as soon as possible. But something that has immediate impact could be getting a meeting on the calendar by making a quick confirmation call with a hot lead. Things that have immediate impact don’t necessarily take a long time to complete, but they will change the game, making them your second highest priorities.

3. TERTIARY PRIORITY: Which client is at the greatest risk?

If you have a client in the red zone (no, not the football kind), then you have a spark that could do one of two things: (a) turn into a fire or (b) be stamped out. It’s up to you to tackle a problem before it turns into something business-critical. So train your eyes to identify these based off of your personal responsibilities and your overall business priorities. Address these issues next so you can stay on top of them.

4. Are any of these risks/business-critical situations lost causes?

Hopefully this doesn’t happen often, but it does happen. If you know something is non-recoverable, don’t waste time being a hero. Accept the situation and move on, just be sure to analyze the scenario without bias so that you can be confident in your decision.

5. Does anyone on your team have info that you don’t have?

There’s no way to tackle a problem without all of the information. Your team can be your resource and your competition at the same time; that’s why it’s so important to cultivate relationships as you go. Ask for advice and gather all of the relevant information before you try to put out a fire; otherwise, you will probably fail.

6. What will take the least time? The most?

Some of us take great enjoyment from striking a line through something on a to-do list (dare I say it–some of us even add unexpected tasks to our to-do list, just for the sole purpose of being able to cross them out…yeah, I see you guys). But even for those of us who don’t, tackling a simple and quick task can be just what you need to clear your head before getting to something bigger. Unless something business critical is happening, try to get one of these small items crossed off if you’re feeling a block. The fact of the matter is, these kinds of things rarely make it to the top of your priority list, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t important. Whenever you feel your mind slipping and you’re trending towards procrastination, at least procrastinate productively.

It’s helpful to start off every day asking yourself these questions. And if tasks seem to be stacking up all at once midday, take 5 minutes to readjust so your priorities are logical. It’ll make much more of a difference in your daily effectiveness, and it will also give you the headspace to believe in yourself enough to finish it all.

It’s important to remember that your process is yours, and yours alone. You have to find what works best for you and take advice where it applies. We are sharing a system that works well for us in the hopes that it frees up time to find a long-term solution that works best for you.

Good luck finding your first fire today.

this is fine gif

 

Chapter 6: How OCD Will Help my Career

I’ve been watching a collection of Monk reruns recently, and as charming as Adrian Monk’s ingenious, quirky character is, I can’t help but cringe along with his castmates when I look up to see him straightening the shades of every single lamp occupying the room of a murder scene.  This is not because his obsessive compulsive tendencies make me uncomfortable, it’s actually quite the opposite: I see a little too much of myself in him.  I know exactly how it feels to need to tap surrounding objects in a given pattern an exact number of times.  I, too, have obsessive compulsive disorder, and contrary to the condition’s portrayal on Monk, it has helped me on a regular basis.

Playing competitive collegiate tennis is stressful.  You push your body as hard as you can for hours every day, and then have the pressure resting on your shoulders of making it pay off.  There will be times the match is all tied up, you’re the last one on court, everybody is depending on your win to feel that pay off, and you’ve got to close.  My mind deals with that stress by thinking compulsively.  I’ll say to myself, “If you don’t tap the back fence with your right shoulder twice, touch your forehead to your strings, and tap right in front of the baseline with the edge of your racket three times, you’re going to lose this point.”  Yes, I have absolutely received time warnings from this process, but I have also refined it.  I’ve focused my energy on transforming “if you don’t do this you’re going to lose,” into, “if you do this, you’re going to win the point.”  I might have to complete a series of ridiculous looking tasks, not without drawing some whispers from the sidelines, but by the time I walk up to the baseline and start the point, I am fully convinced that I am meant to win that point.  Each person has to find their own way of dealing with that stress.  I’ve got it covered: my coping strategy is built-in.  I might have to listen to my compulsions and deal with judgemental stares in the process, but I was also the clincher in the finals of the NCAA tournament to win Emory a national championship.  There’s clearly something to it.

I’m graduating this year, and inevitably, my tennis career will come to an abrupt halt.  I’ve made the decision to channel my competitive energy into a career that requires it, and I am confident that having OCD will help me be successful in my sales career.  Having OCD will keep me in a continuous state of keeping my act fully together, because that’s the only option I have.  I’ve had to close out a match hundreds of times; I can, and will, use the same strategies to close out a sale.

Some of the key trials of the sales process I’ve learned thus far from my sales development internship at LeadUp are: staying calm and level-headed, being relatable, preparing sufficiently, adopting a customer-centric model (CCM) rather than a sales-centric one, and inspiring passion in your champion.  So, let’s address those one by one:

  • The solution to staying calm and appearing relatable is founded in stress management, because the only way to exude a relaxed persona is to really be relaxed.  While everybody else is searching for their tick, like I said before, my stress-coping mechanism is built in.  I’ve found what keeps me calm when it matters, and I’ll continue to utilize it.
  • Doing the pre-call preparation and incorporating the CCM are two things you just need to get done; that’s really all there is to it. From having OCD, I am very familiar with what it feels like to be overwhelmed when you fail to just get things done, and the solution is developing a refined routine, something I have all too much experience with.  Adopting the CCM and completing the necessary research will become part of my pre-call routine, and I don’t stray from a routine, trust me.
  • Finally, the secret behind inspiring a passionate champion is coming from a passionate standpoint.  My experience with positively directing my thoughts will translate directly to being passionate, because my results truly mean everything to me.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder may be defined by having intrusive thoughts, but those thoughts can be proactive if utilized positively.  By the time I’m through with refining this method, it’ll be as close to perfect as I can get; anything else would irk me to no end.   I know what you’re thinking, “Wait, does this mean that if I don’t have OCD I’m doomed as a salesperson?” The answer is no!  Well, even if you weren’t thinking that, tune into my future blogs to find out how all you non-compulsive-regular-people can succeed in sales ;).

Chapter 3: Finding Your Champion

 Professional inspiration and subsequent execution stems from passionate foundations.  After listening in on a couple of sales presentations, the take-away I’ve drawn is this: I should seek to inspire a passion for success within each and every one of my clients.  Passion offers the most direct route to motivation.  In the context of sales, connecting with a passionate employee-advocate means that you have found your champion. This particular kind of champion is a rarity.  They have the power, internal drive, and motivation to take your product through the tedious bureaucracy of their company, to upper management, and ultimately put in the work it takes to integrate it into their system.  All it takes to achieve that goal of making a sale, is awakening a passion in each client for the product that you yourself are passionate about.

The presentation that drove this idea home was done by a representative from one of our most successful clients. During a whiteboard debrief of their internal sales process, he explained that nearly everyone they contact shows initial interest in their product. Even so, there is a drop off from from 70 percent interest to 40 percent execution in the transition from stakeholder demo to pitching to decision makers.  This could be caused by a variety of things, but one of the more probable is a lack of passionate champions.  Going from thinking a product would benefit your company, to actively fighting for it by presenting it to management is a dramatic progression.  If passion is lacking as these steps advance, particularly if there is pushback from management, the drop off of champions will be dramatic, as exemplified by this particular client.

This got me thinking, how can I instill passion into my champions?  From what I’ve learned thus far, instilling passion can be broken down into two separate processes: staying relevant and exhibiting devotion for your product.  As an account-based sales agency, we have the resources to stay relevant by utilizing a continued contact approach.  If we can hit the decision maker’s emails, create a buzz, and maintain interest throughout the sales process, then the likelihood of client’s investments in our product sustaining over time is much higher.  The second half of this equation is showing a client that they should be passionate about our product because primarily, it solves their problem: our passion is the most powerful tool we can use in conveying that.  People can relate to excitement, hence the telling phrase, “interested people are interesting.”  If I can inspire the same faith I feel for the necessity of my product or service in my clients, I will be infinitely more successful.  So, how can I find the most passionate champions? For now, all I really know is that if I talk the talk, I’ll be more likely to connect with clients who can walk the walk.

Why CSMs should be your Secret Sales Weapons

When I first started at LeadUp, I was equipped with 6 months of cold calling experience, an idealist attitude, and a burning desire to impress my new bosses with my drive and curiosity.

I worked hard, closed a few deals, and ultimately realized that I thrive in customer success rather than sales (anyone else with a  “bleeding heart” will understand). So in order to utilize my strengths, we figured out a way to make customer success the bulk of my role.

Since transitioning from sales to customer success, I’m beginning to see some irony. It’s clear in my new role that customer success has helped my remaining ties to sales thrive. A few cold leads from last winter have since heated up (whoop whoop!), and I have been able to use my new perspective in approaching them.

But don’t worry – I’m not going to make you listen to the story of my resurrection as a sales rep. Instead, I want to share a couple reasons why CSMs might be your best bet for closing rockstar deals, or at least a few reasons they should be involved in order to accelerate the sales process:

CSMs can sniff out a good (or bad) deal a mile away

In customer success, we have the snout of a bloodhound when it comes to clients who have mismanaged expectations, bad tempers, or hard-to-sell products. This means that even if a prospect is ready to sign a check on the spot, your CSM will be the first to say “…let’s pump the brakes.” CSMs know they’ll be left feeling like this if they rush a deal:

marcie's blog

Equally as valuable, we can point out the deals that we should be fighting for. The ones that we know we can take under our wing and make our new golden goose.

The point is: CSMs seek the lifetime value of the deal above the initial payday, so you should seek their expertise when weighing whether it’s a good idea to push your hottest lead to sign on the line that is dotted.

The level of trust and loyalty skyrockets

As I started talking to potential clients while in my customer success role, I realized that I was using anecdotes from my best clients in my pitch to them. This tactic was instantly more attractive than a standard value prop because the potential client could mentally plug themselves into the story – with me still at the steering wheel. Their trust in me was already miles ahead of where it would normally be because they knew I was talking to them as their advocate and their partner.

Knowing that I’ll be with them through every part of their customer journey motivates me to take extra consideration to manage expectations and give advice on the most beneficial timelines to meet their goals. A successful client relationship starts with a very clear  explanation of what on-boarding, ramp up, and the contract execution will look like. Our comfort in communicating contributes to a feeling of loyalty, and ideally, this will translate to a longer and happier relationship between the CSM and client.

 

I hope for all you CSMs out there, this inspires you to take a proactive approach to becoming involved in your company’s sales process. For the account execs and sales reps still reading, I have the utmost respect for your process and hope these thoughts help you guys close the best accounts possible. Look out for more thoughts on Customer Success and Sales collaboration coming soon!

-Marcie

Chapter 2: Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

Sales is about developing connections: understanding what makes people tick and how to tap into that.  A salesperson’s job is to make someone feel like they need a product that they otherwise might not have known existed.  Developing the ability to see the world from a customer’s perspective is the first place to begin the process.  As Jacco Van De Kooij and Fernando Pizarro point out in their book, BluePrints for a SaaS Sales Organization, “The question to ask is not, ‘how are we going to sell it?’ but rather ‘how is the customer going to buy it?’”  This week, I’ve been reflecting on the differences between the sales-centric model and the customer-centric model.  As I begin my journey with sales, it’s my hope that I utilize the latter as much as possible.

If being a member of my tennis team has taught me anything, it’s this: the stronger our team chemistry is, the better we are.  When a team is collectively aware of the goal they are looking to accomplish together, and competing for one another instead of just themselves, they are infinitely stronger.  If I’m in the middle of a difficult conditioning session, and I look next to me to see a my teammates fighting their way through it, I’m going to try ten times harder for them than I would if I was alone.  That conditioning session might be the difference between clinching the finals of nationals in a tight third set, or losing because your body isn’t strong enough to make it through.  Talent obviously plays a role in this; meaning that if you have a group of talented  salespeople, they’ll get the job done, the same way that a talented team will inevitably win.  But if a salesperson can convince a client that they are on the same team and working toward the same goal, suddenly, they both have a greater personal investment in the deal. That common understanding results in their cumulative potential for success suddenly skyrocketing.  This propensity towards teamwork is the basis for the customer-centric model.

The sales-centric model, on the other hand, is incredibly controlled, moving through the trite stages from contacting, to demoing, and ultimately getting to every sales-guru’s favorite step: closing out the win.  In this model, there are simplified steps for the salesperson to follow, but the major challenge is to limit any drops in profitability due to “churn” (a measure of the number of customers who unsubscribe to your service after a given amount of time). Churn only happens when the customer does not see enough benefit in the continuation of paying for the service initially sold to them. The customer-centric model solves this dilemma

CCM eliminates the differing goals between salesperson and customer.  Their objectives merge, and the goal becomes solving the problem the customer is facing with your, the salesperson’s, product, and extending that solution over time.  As long as the salesperson is constantly looking to assist the customer, churn shouldn’t happen.

By explicitly addressing the client’s problem–the one the salesperson and the client would be solving together–and applying the CCM model to the period of time following the initial quick-fix, the customer sees value in sticking around.  Working as a team toward a shared goal creates good chemistry, and the better the chemistry, the more a team can accomplish together.  The team I am referring to forms between the sales force and their client.  Like I said before, I’m far from an expert in sales, but the importance and power behind teamwork has been a lesson I’ve learned time and time again.  Through my tennis career, I’ve seen what can happen when a group of people set their mind toward the same goal, and how much they are willing to do for each other (considering my shin splints, it’s a lot).  This concept can, and should, be translated to sales.  If I’m just trying to get my numbers up, there’s no way I will be helping a customer as much as I know that I can, because I’m more focused on the number than on their company’s success.  If we develop a give and take relationship, where I bring in a new customer and really do solve whatever problem his company is facing, he will continue working with me.  I will be able to sell more, and eliminate the churn I was at risk for previously.   The most successful teams develop when the vendors and the client realize they are playing on the same side, and build their relationship upon that assumption.