Sales Managers, We All Have to Make Tough Decisions

Part 1 of 2 Part Series

For some people this is a painful process – for others it’s a “no-brainer”. For some, all decisions are tough decisions – for others there are few tough ones. You see our personality make-up predetermines whether we are cheerful decision-makers or not. If you are not, you can learn to compensate and make the tough decisions a more enjoyable process.

This column is written as instructive thought and procedure for the sales manager type individual. However, we all have to manage someone (maybe that’s ourselves) and this information can easily be translated over to our lives as sales people responsible for managing our territories and/or sales responsibilities.

The following verbiage is excerpted from the Decision-Making module of the Sandler Sales Institute’s Strategic Sales Management Program.

So, it’s time to make another decision… Should I drop a product line that only sells marginally at best?… George has been on the payroll 120 days and hasn’t made a sale–is it time to cut my losses and fire George?… Should I change a pricing schedule to reflect our increased costs?… Should I stretch and book two more appointments today or should I leave the office early and get in nine holes?

Any of these sound familiar to you? We make decisions every day, some major and some minor, but do you know that very few people actually have a process for making decisions? Yes, it’s true. Most people make their decisions from either facts and figures, intuition or a combination of both. Rarely do people go through a step-by-step process to determine the best course of action.

How many times have you agonized over a decision you never actually made? That’s called procrastination. How many times have you second-guessed a decision you’ve already made? That’s called “after-burn”. Here are some simple decision-making tools to augment the process you use to assist you in making decisions you can live with.

1. Identify what kind of decision-maker you are naturally.

Are you quick to come to a conclusion?
Do you overlook facts and jump to conclusions?
Do you never have enough information?
Do you put off making the tough ones?
Is your reasoning logical?
Do you rely on your gut?
Do you make fast decisions?
Do you agonize over life changing decisions?

Answer these questions about your own natural style and determine where you need to develop. If you know you tend to jump to conclusions because your gut tells you it’s the right decision, but you haven’t “played out” all the possible consequences, then you’ll need to force yourself to do this consistently. In order to improve, you need to know what your strengths and weaknesses are.

2. Be wary of “selective” information.

When you surround yourself with facts to help you in your decision-making, watch out for selective information. Here’s an example: You will seek out information that supports your position instead of information that counters your position. Here’s another: You place stronger weight on information that is more recent than information that has occurred in the past. Sandy has been selling for your company for two and a half years, and rose to the top of the pack in just under a year. But she hasn’t sold much in the last four months, and you’re thinking of firing her. The weight you place on the last four months may be more important to you than Sandy’s two and a half-year career with your company. Another kind of selective information is your own personal interest. Let’s face it, if you love golfing, a part of you thinks everyone else loves golfing, too… and your personal and professional interests will influence the weight you assign to information you take in. These are just a few of the types of selective information you need to be wary of.

3. Use Decision-Tree thinking.

All too often, many people make the mistake of making many decisions at a single point in time. Instead, we should train ourselves to make a single decision and then allow the outcome of that decision to take effect. Next, we should make a new decision based on that outcome. This process is commonly referred to as “Decision-Tree.”

A friend of mine offered an oversimplified example that made complete sense, I had to use it since many have experienced this at home: Here’s how it went… Let’s say your child is a senior in high school and has just applied to colleges, one of which is very far from home. Your worry is that’s the school they’ll ultimately choose to attend, and once they leave the nest, you’ll lose touch. First, your child has to get all the acceptance letters back, and then make a decision. That’s the first decision. Next, let’s say they decide to go to the college that’s very far away. The second step in the decision-tree process is for both of you to decide how they will handle the trips back home. The outcome of that decision may be “never” or “at every scheduled school break” or “somewhere in between”. And, both of you may decide to set up a Skype account, or a designated call day, or agree to a daily e-mail, or even all three. So there are at least two more decisions that need to be decided upon and whose outcomes need to be played out before your initial fear of losing touch with your child is valid. These kinds of decision-trees happen in business all the time. Making your decisions based on the outcome of your initial decision, and so on and so forth.

Next week we will address the last two steps in the decision-making process; getting in touch with your intuitive self and “Sleep On It”, two very important components of tough decision-making.

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