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Why focus is essential in sales and 5 steps to achieve it

Time for everything
Fuel for focus
5 practical steps your team can take today:
Final thoughts

Salespeople who tackle complex sales are bound to have their hands tangled in the sales process from time to time. With all the moving parts, it can be tough for them to maintain focus – their innate response is likely to scatter about, making sure absolutely no deal or opportunity leaves their sight – but knowing how to focus is the key to driving productivity and success for any sales organization. Wondering how to focus? Timo explains that success is the key factor.

“In any walk of life, we tend to do what we focus on, and there are a lot of things to focus on," said Timo Rein, co-founder and president of Pipedrive. “But you need to be focusing on – and filling your day with – things that are the key to being successful.”

From analyzing the previous month’s sales results, preparing for the next call, and finishing a proposal, if salespeople don’t know how to shift their focus properly, or are focused on too many things at once, the sales process will get clogged, and they won’t achieve maximum results. Contrary to popular belief, multitasking does not equal productivity.

“Just like the phrase you are what you eat, we are a result of our focus.”

Good salespeople know how to focus completely on one thing at a time; a team made up of individuals that can focus proves much more effective in achieving their company’s desired goals.

“Just like the phrase you are what you eat, we are a result of our focus,” said Urmas Purde, Pipedrive co-founder of head of customer experience.

And despite the best effort of our innate desire to cover all bases at once, lacking team focus can actually mean you struggle to avoid sales surprises.

Time for everything

Your team must make a conscious decision to act on what’s in front of them, at any stage of the sales process, to be as effective as possible. When they are dealing with one customer directly, for example, they shouldn’t be thinking about another customer. They must think of the here and now. Once the door is open, salespeople should step all the way in, because once it’s shut – be it on a deal, an opportunity, or just a call – there may be no turning back to pick up where they left off.

Every act needs careful attention in order for it to be executed effectively (building a sales pipeline can help your team accomplish this) and how well they execute on one action may very well affect the impact of their next activity. It’s like a domino effect. Starting off with the right focus will yield a cumulative impact of “being focused” over time.

Poor results are usually the result of poor focus management, and it almost doesn’t matter if the sales manager or salesperson “did it.”

But a sales manager’s goal is to maximize this potential across their team:

“When you’re trying to decide ‘Where did I drop the ball?’, you can usually find that you were not paying attention to something,” Urmas said. “If you are distracted, you accomplish nothing, so decide what should have all of your focus at a given time. Apply the same analysis to your team.”

Fuel for focus

Time will be spent regardless of whether or not your team is focused. But focus is the determinant of how well your business succeeds within that time.

“In sales, everything closes, whether you’re there or not,” Timo said. “Focusing on key activities almost directly ensures your team is getting sales, and doing so in the most efficient amount of time.”

So, we now know the answer to the question, "Why is focusing important?"

Having individual and team focus enables you and your reps to maintain levels of success.

Now, you may be wondering:

How do I keep my team focused?

Well, they need some energy, passion, or some kind of motivation behind them. If they love what they do, or are incentivized to stay focused, it will push them further.

“Energy is the gasoline, and focus is the actual engine, gas pedal and steering wheel,” Timo said. “If you’re standing, nothing happens. If you’re accelerating – focusing – in the right direction, something good will happen.”

“Sales needs to happen at lightning speed,” Timo added. “Focus and energy are the way to do that.”

Having focus is also the most satisfying way for salespeople to hit their targets, because it helps them enter a state of flow. Specifically, it allows salespeople quality time to complete tasks that will give them more control over their success. There’s a fair correlation between maintaining team focus and teams hitting their targets, individuals earning their commissions, and their company getting the results and profits they’re looking for.

“Focus management is the key to business success, or meeting your goals, but also the key to personal success, which equals happiness and balance,” Urmas said. “Therefore, it might be healthy to see sales management as ‘attention management.’”

Key ingredients for focus are three components: clarity, will and ability. Clarity about goals and key activities to focus on. Enough of internal reasons (will) to get out of comfort zone to get the work done. Ability means skills to do the job and discipline to stay on schedule.

5 practical steps your team can take today:

  1. Morning and afternoon standups, so everyone is on the same page. Get your team together at the same time every workday morning and afternoon. Have the team lead set the agenda, but try to give everyone with something to say a chance to be heard. This is a great way to avoid surprises, on a twice-daily basis.
  1. Constructive team retrospectives, to share lessons learned. Be it every week, month or quarter, schedule regular sales team retrospectives. Aside from the obvious benefits of quality, focused team-time, the lessons each salesperson can bring to the table – including any challenges encountered – often prove useful across the team.
  1. Celebrate small wins 1:1, at least with a high five. Small wins are stepping stones to big wins. If they go uncelebrated, unrecognized, or worse, unheard, the true value of a small win diminishes. A simple high five, a mention in front of teammates, or a hit on the sales gong that wakes the office can make a salesperson’s day and give them confidence to carry through the week. This is a way to reinforce what actions they should be focusing on and help them stay on track with their goals.
  1. Celebrate big wins as a team, especially with fun outings. There’s nothing better than kicking back with your colleagues, perhaps over drinks, to discuss sales victories and war stories. Consider getting out of the office together to do something active that can expose the talents, skills and even hobbies of your team.
  1. Focus when in the game, rest and recharge when you have a break. Getting pumped and having the energy to storm through a list of 100 leads, clear your tasks, empty your inbox and take a dozen calls to keep crucial deals on track. But to ensure you have that energy consistently, you need to be as strict with your downtime as you are when you’re selling.

Final thoughts

Some kind of focus is always present – even during meditation – as it is hard for the human brain to focus on absolutely nothing. It is the other extreme of focusing too much on the wrong things (surfing the Internet or spending time on a call with a friendly customer who may not be planning to buy anything). Unfocused salespeople will negatively impact your team’s performance and sales productivity.

In fact, having a specific focus is what could allow an “amateur” to achieve more than a professional salesperson. Nobody can cross a finish line in first place, no matter how talented they are, without the right focus, as focus draws a more direct path to success – free of obstacles, or unnecessary pit stops, that drain valuable time.

If you want your salespeople, your team, and your company to work as one moving body – where each person sets up the next person to operate at their full potential – it all starts with a conscious choice to focus, at every touchpoint.

Focus can help everyone within the company maximize their talents, and create a ripple effect of success for your product or service – key objectives for all sales managers.

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