Sometime ago, I was coaching a sales director who wanted to improve his priority setting skills.
His context was difficult – ambitious annual sales targets for the team, many operational expectations of the company’s CEO, incentives for the revenue and profit elements of deals etc.
– How do I set the correct priorities for my team in such a complex situation? – he asked.
– It seems that you currently have many conflicting sales performance criteria – I replied – If you want to set the correct priorities, first you need to specify more precisely what you want to achieve.
– What do you mean? My sales goals are pretty clear – he replied.
– Let me illustrate this using the following metaphor – I continued. – Imagine that you are located in the middle of Europe, say, in Vienna. Your current sales targets and other performance criteria require your team to travel from Vienna to reach different destinations at the same time, in the same car. However, this is physically impossible. If you want to travel south from Vienna to Rome, this is exactly the opposite direction from travelling from Vienna to Berlin.
Not knowing where you want to arrive at, you can’t be sure which actions will bring you closer to this place and which will move you further away from it. How does that sound to you?
My client admitted that this was exactly the situation he was experiencing. We continued working with this metaphor and discussed everything he needed to clarify his sales targets and other performance criteria.
Then he discussed, negotiated and confirmed these with the company’s CEO, thus gaining clarity on:
- Which sales targets were primary and which were secondary
- What was the strategic focus of the company for that year
This clarity enabled him to:
- Easily differentiate must-have from nice-to-have sales activities of his team
- Easily distinguish between important and urgent tasks (important = leading to primary goals)
- Decide what the team should do and what it should NOT do this year
- Quickly set priorities for his team and individually for each team member
- Focus his team on the critical path to primary goals. This enabled the team to hit their 2021 sales targets by the third quarter