When was the last time you did some purging in your professional life, or personal life for that matter? There’s a reason I wonder. Recently, I helped both my mother and mother-in-law move. Each had accumulated over the years both great personal treasures and a lot of junk. Faced with helping them get rid of what they no longer needed (or perhaps ever needed), I reflected deeply both about the value of things, and eliminating things. And while I carried boxes, packed treasures and discarded junk, I realized that the process was completely applicable to the world of sales and sales leadership.

Getting too Comfortable

The whole experience brought me a greater appreciation for the impact of purging, not just of “things,” but of attitudes and behaviors. We act in certain ways and hold on to certain items because it’s what we’ve always done or because it’s comfortable to do so. Frequently, these actions don’t add or bring any value to our lives. For instance, I often find sales teams writing proposals without good reason; because it is just what they always do. They waste time, money and effort pulling together a document that may not be necessary if only they had asked the right questions of the prospect from the start. Yet, this time-wasting behavior endures because it’s comfortable.

Personal and Professional Hoarding

It’s the same thing with items we hold onto in our personal lives. It seems to be human nature to want to hang onto things even if we haven’t used or look at them in years; perhaps decades. I don’t know why doing this gives us comfort.

This hoarding behavior spills into our sales life too. We get into a routine. We ask the same questions, make the same assumptions about prospects and customers, prospect in the same manner and we get the same results we always have – even though circumstances may call for different actions.

Break the Cycle

I know many frustrated managers and leaders out there who share information with their sales reps over and over again. The reps keep asking for the information because they are not inclined to change their behavior in the first place. Sales leaders must be the ones to encourage new productive behaviors and throw out old ones. And it may not be easy. Just like it may not be easy for an octogenarian to throw away mementos acquired over a lifetime. But, to make room for new thinking, new behaviors and new successes, we must compel our salespeople to purge what isn’t working from their system.

How to Help Salespeople Purge

  • Whenever a new idea, suggestion or process is introduced ask salespeople what specifically they are going to implement and how. Then follow up to see how the implementation is going.
  • Get good at asking the question “What are you going to do differently?”
  • Practice asking them “What do you think you should do?” rather than telling salespeople how to behave and act.
  • Finally, require salespeople to create their own success plans and include at least one thing they need to start and one thing they need to stop doing to be successful. Then establish a plan to help salespeople live up their stated commitment.

Purge to become Agile

In today’s fast-changing marketplace, it is critical that sales teams are agile. One way to help create agility is by purging old methods. Explore this concept more in Jill Konrath’s book, Agile Selling.

The Braveheart team can also evaluate individual salespeople’s results oriented “Commitment” to growth, change and being adaptive by using Objective Management Group’s battery of sales-specific assessments. Click here to watch a video describing “Commitment” by the CEO of OMG.