Worried about your sales pipeline?
The other day someone asked the question in the Facebook group, I love Mortgage Brokering, “At what point do you start worrying about your pipeline. I happened to be the first reply. I talked about how unproductive it is to even fret about it at all. I don’t give any merit to paying attention to your future sales at all. The problem you run into when you even start to count, is that when you are counting it distracts from what really matters.
What really matters is not what you’ve got in your pipeline. What really matters is the activities you are focusing on today. What activities are you performing on a consistent basis. If you look at your pipeline and it is full you may be tempted to take your foot off the gas. Bad idea. If you look at your pipeline and you realize it is empty you start to panic. You start making decisions based on fear and panic. Again, equally bad idea.
The key is to focus on the activities that you need to do today, not what you have in the pipe for tomorrow, nor even what you have done in the past. You need to consistently bang out the activities that you know you need to do to drive success.
This little conversation got me thinking. We all have these trite little sayings, these truisms that we bandy about so much that they become platitudes. The become meaningless mantras that we regurgitate ad infinitum to fool ourselves into feeling like we are actually making progress. Let’s stop kidding ourselves and lets really look at what tools we need to make shit happen.
We need to focus on the activities and the results will follow. That said how do we find the activities that we need to do to achieve the desired results? Queue the bullshit platitudes.
Success leaves clues.
Find what has worked for others and practice those same things. If they don’t work for you, adjust or abandon. In my presentation on “Bad Ass Brokering” I talk about building a sales process by design.
Consistency is key.
If you have ever embarked on a weight loss or fitness regimen you know how this works. If you are not consistent in your approach it does not work. You know that if you start a weight loss program that has you follow a strict diet it becomes all about the discipline. You can’t eat right for two days a week and fall off the wagon for the other five and actually expect successful results. If you start a strength training program you know you are only going to be successful to the degree you are consistent. Have a look at those around you that have achieved a level of fitness that you aspire to. Chances are they work out consistently, not sporadically. Chances are they are careful with their diet consistently not sporadically.
Early in my career as a mortgage professional I had the privilege of working in the same city as the number one producer in our organization (I was a specialist for one of the big banks). Now this was a guy that was number one, year in and year out. It was pretty amazing to watch. I remember the year that he lost his in-house Real Estate office relationship. I think we all felt that would certainly cause him to drop in numbers. It did not. He found a way to make up what he lost when he lost that relationship. He was generous enough to let me shadow him when I first starting working for the bank.
Being the inquisitive little fuck that I was I would follow along at his heels, chirping questions at him along the way. The one answer that he gave me I think changed my life was also probably one of the simplest things I have ever heard.
I said to him “Larry, what is it that sets you apart? What is it that makes you number one over and over and over again?” Ever the bright eyed rookie, I waited for his answer, pen poised ready to jot down whatever nugget of wisdom leaked from his mouth. He paused, as if to contemplate. I impatiently awaited the profound answer feeling incredibly grateful to share my time with such a dominate, yet unassuming sales professional.
I think I was simultaneously disappointed yet awestruck by the simplicity of his answer. He said “I don’t know Mike. I guess I just do what I tell people I’m going to do. If I tell them I’m going to call them back at 3, I call them back at 3. I don’t call them at 5 with a bullshit apology stammering over what a crazy day it’s been. I simply do what I tell them I’m going to do and I think they appreciate that.”
Now if you are disappointed with the sheer simplicity of this concept I want you to think about it for a minute. What was the last thing you told someone you were going to do? Did you do it exactly as committed to? How about the time before that? Did you then? My guess is, if you are anything like me, you won’t have to go very far back to find a time where you did not deliver on something exactly as promised. It likely wasn’t a big thing, likely wasn’t earth shattering, time stopping or life altering and whomever you made that commitment to may not even have noticed or called you on it.
Want to set yourself apart from your competition in a big way? Do what you say you are going to do when you say you are going to do it. Consistently. Period. End of story.
We all tend to want to come up with these gimmicky little nuances to set us apart. We come up with clever names, slogans, outfits, mascots or accessories, but what if, stay with me here, what if we simply became known as the guy or gal who ALWAYS does what they say they are going to do, when they say they are going to do it? How powerful would that be?
When I decided I wanted to take my fitness level up a notch, I realized that while I exercised a ton, I still ate like crap. In order to improve, clearly I was going to have to start eating better. I found it interesting that while clearly I knew what I needed to do I still did not manage to make it happen on a consistent basis. The first thing I did was download an app called MyFitnessPal and started logging my consumption. It was quite the eye opener for certain. I knew i did not eat well but I was quite surprised to see just how bad some of my favorite meals were. I spent two weeks simply tracking everything I ate and made no real effort to change what I ate.
Once I finished tracking for two weeks I became very aware of the good the bad and the ugly of what was going into my body. It was then that something remarkable started happening. With very little conscious effort I started to shift my eating patterns. Now armed with the knowledge of the ‘cost’ of everything I put in my mouth I started to make better choices. Realizing that that Texas Skillet I so loved for a ‘healthy’ breakfast was actually about 50% of my daily caloric intake and chocked full of fat, made it so much easier to choose the oatmeal or fruit cup for breakfast.
So how does that apply to your sales pipeline? We often talk about time-management as an important skill when it comes to the self employed entrepreneur but the practical reality is that we can’t manage until we know what it is that we need to manage. We cannot manage what we are not aware of. We need to become aware of what activities we are actually spending time on. Not the ones we tell our colleagues we do when we are having that Friday afternoon beer.
Fortunately there are a ton of simple methods to do this. I’ve been using an online tool called Toggl to track what I am spending time on. You can have a look at this article for more ideas. If you are not tech savvy then grab yourself a notebook and just make a list of what you do in the day and how much time you spend on each activity. Don’t worry I won’t make you share it with anyone. This is simply for your own edification. If you are like me when you start seeing where you are actually spending your time you can stop kidding yourself about how ‘busy’ you are and start to really focus on the activities that matter.
If you want to take it up a notch, start sharing that exercise that we just ran through., Find a colleague you can trust and who will support you through the process. Set aside a designated time weekly where you will get together, either live, or on the phone or Skype and review your ‘Awareness list’ together. The combination of these two exercises alone will skyrocket your success. If you can’t find someone you are comfortable doing this with a professional sales or business coach is always a great idea. While they tend to be expensive they are great at keeping you on track and accountable.
Stop talking about it and start doing it. Don’t wait until next week. Don’t wait til after that next conference. Don’t wait til after the weekend. Start now. Take one little step immediately. I don’t care what it is.
Buy a notebook. Download a time tracker app. Send me an email and tell me you’re getting started. I’ll keep you accountable.
So often we get all fired up when we read, hear or are reminded of concepts yet we lack the self discipline to get off our asses and actually make it happen. The key is getting started and getting consistent. Forget about how successful you are on any given day. Simply practice. Practice over and over and over again. Build the habit.
I always come back to the fitness analogy. I practice fitness every day. Trust me there are many days where I do not feel like doing a damn thing. On those days, more than any, I make sure I do something. It might be 10 minutes on the treadmill. It might be as simple as ten push ups. The point is to keep the routine going. To practice the habit of consistency.