Is Procrastination Good for Sales People?

by | Jun 27, 2016 | Prospecting

As my semester ends as the teacher of Introduction to Sales at the University of Texas in Dallas, I’m taken back to my own college days. Finals week is upon us. All-nighters.  Cramming for exams. Finishing projects.

Definitely in a hurry and often in a panic!

Why do so many of us wait to the last minute? Why don’t we spread the workload out over a realistic timeframe? The bottom line? We procrastinate!

One of the best books for 2016 is “Originals” by Adam Grant.

I was totally surprised by his take on procrastination. Listen up sales people.

“Unexpectedly, some of the greatest creative achievements and change initiatives in history have their roots in procrastination, and the tendency to delay and postpone can help entrepreneurs build companies that last, leaders guide transformation efforts, and innovators maintain their originality.”

I hope you can relate! I can, especially as I write this May article on April 29th. A little procrastination going on with me right now.

So procrastinating might not be so bad after all.

For many of you who work 50 to 60 hours a week juggling multiple accounts and opportunities, preparing a new presentation for a prospect might come down to the last minute. We kick ourselves for not being more organized in advance, but we often perform better under pressure. Also, we can expect our past experiences to kick in when we perform. Great sales people are known for thinking on their feet.

In “Originals”, Grant quotes Ira Glass, the producer of This American Life and the podcast Serial, sharing that “the most important possible thing you can do is do a lot of work. Do a huge volume of work.”

This makes total sense to most sales professionals. We multi-task, having many different tasks to perform for numerous accounts and that can help us be more original and creative. It’s like when our kids were playing football; their grades were better than when they were not playing sports in the spring. We are more productive when we are busy. The more output we have the more chances for originality.

According to Grant, “In fact, when it comes to idea generation, quantity is the most predictable path to quality.”

“Original thinkers,” Stanford professor Robert Sutton notes, “will come up with many ideas that are strange mutations, dead ends, and utter failures. The cost is worthwhile because they also generate a larger pool of ideas-especially novel ideas.”

So the bottom line when preparing for a major customer presentation or developing a large proposal is to gather your team members and generate as many ideas as possible as to why you’re the right fit. Ask, “What can we communicate about our company, our value, competitive advantage?” The more quantity of ideas, the better your chances of the quality ideas that Grant references.

When I was an engineer and was asked to change my career to sales, I questioned how hard selling could really be.

Boy, was I in for a surprise.

You are the quarterback on the team for your clients. You are responsible for touching or leading every aspect of the opportunity. You must be involved in crafting the proposal, making the presentation, understanding the customer’s needs, even understanding their credit situation.

We need to leverage all our experiences to become more original. I’ve said this many times, I’ve learned more from the sales I lost than the sales I’ve won. That’s where we gain experience for the next opportunity.

The next time you’re down to the last minute in preparing for a customer, realize there might be a silver lining in those final moments of preparation. Be open to the fact that a great idea for the customer might be just minutes away.

Good selling.