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  • Brett Zalaski

Guest Blog: Proactive Approaches to Time Wasters

Updated: May 23, 2018

Sean Ream is the VP of Ticket Sales & Service for the NHL's Colorado Avalanche. Throughout his career, whether MiLB, the National Museum of Crime & Punishment, NHL, or MLS, Sean has distinguished himself as one of the top developers of sales talent in the sports business industry. His knowledge of the sales process is among the top I've ever been around, and dozens of his proteges have found their way to manager and director roles throughout sports. If you don't think those two things are deeply connected, you don't know sales. Sean uses his expertise of the sales process to advise both sales managers and sales reps on one of the deadliest diseases in sports business sales: Time Wasting in the Sales Process.

During my son’s three-year well child checkup today, we discussed an incident where my son hit a baby.  Yep.  That 100% happened.  The baby is okay.  No deep rooted emotional scaring that we can find.  If you are interested, you can find my other blog, “Help, my kid hit a baby” in upcoming online parenting forums.

As new parents we asked our pediatrician “should we be freaked out!?” She informed us that baby punching aside, this is normal for a three-year-old trying to figure life out.  That was both comforting and extremely disturbing all at the same time.

As we went through some ways to parent him through this phase she shared one piece of knowledge that spoke to an aspect of my professional life.  She said, “I believe kids inherently want to be good”. 

Recently, I found myself addressing time wasters in sales.  I’ve been in this business for nearly 15 years and this conversation will not quit me.  Time wasters live on a pretty wide spectrum of severity.  Some of these actions are fairly benign.  For instance, there is the sales rep who consistently calls the same fifteen dead leads every day for a month while pronouncing themselves to be the definition of persistence.  Time waster.  My favorite is the check-in call.  “Hey, I was just calling to check in and see if you were good.  You are?  Great!  I’ll call you at the same time next week to check in again.”  Time waster.  Then we arrive at the kryptonite of productivity: Instagram.  How does one get through the day without knowing what Julie’s lunch looked like before she ate it?  Time waster. Was I guilty of doing everyone one these same things as a sales rep?  Absolutely (It was Myspace instead of Instagram in my days).  That is probably why I’m so sensitive to them when I see them.

I’ll be candid for a moment.  Much like being a parent, when it comes to leading a team I often believe I know everything and some days wonder if I know anything. 

One way to handle these issues is to scream at everyone.  'Sure, that’ll work,' I think to myself!  So I climb atop my trusty soap box and begin aimlessly preaching as I often do.  Does this make a sales staff stronger?  Perhaps.  It sure does make me feel better for the moment.  But if I’m honest with myself, these are only short-term fixes.  Screaming does little to address the core problem.  It only inspires salespeople to modify their strategy to keep me from screaming more. 

So what is the core issue?  I’ve come to believe time wasters are a greater bi-product of uncertainty about their sales process at that moment.  If I look back at my own career, I had moments where I believed I would close on every call.  Then there were stretches where I asked myself will I ever sell something again?  Confidence can be fleeting.  Often, I misdiagnose the symptoms (i.e. time wasters) by saying it’s a function of laziness, when it’s really doubt holding salespeople back from their full potential. 

Is the best cure for time wasters a proactive strategy to build confidence and skill?  Could going on a sales appointment or role playing be the solution?  When was the last time that we as sales leaders went through someone’s pipeline and helped develop strategies that will empower our rainmakers?  Or we as salespeople pulled our manager aside to go through our pipeline and develop said strategies?

It’s here that I’m reminded of my pediatrician’s advice about my son.  I believe salespeople inherently want to be good.   If I operate from that point of view, it leads me down off my soapbox and to a more proactive, collaborative, and effective solution where no more babies are punched. 

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