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It’s not easy being in ag retail right now. But the reality is that commodity prices affect everyone (not just you and your team). The question then becomes: What are you going to do about it?Working with ag retailers of all shapes and sizes across the country, we're seeing two general responses to the current market environment:
1. Some are responding by putting their head down and working harder. They recognize that it's not easy, so they tell their people to toughen up.
2. Some are seeking out better ways to attack the same problem. They recognize that it's not easy, so they respond by investing in their people.
If approach #2 is more your cup of tea, the challenge then becomes – what do I do when my team is too busy for professional development?
Busy is not the goal.
“What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower
In a 1954 speech, former President Dwight D. Eisenhower said: “I have two kinds of problems: the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent.” This important lesson became known as the “Eisenhower Principle”, and it is said that this is how the President organized his workload and set his priorities.
Graphic based upon design by Thierry Baillon via Ansus Consulting
Eisenhower broke down his time management by answering two questions – “Is it important?” and “Is it urgent?” The result was four possible outcomes:
- Important and Urgent – Do These Activities First
- Important, but Not Urgent – Schedule These Activities
- Not Important, but Urgent – Delegate These Activities
- Not Important, and Not Urgent – Don't Do At All
The key to time management is to be not just efficient, but also effective. This means understanding the difference between what is Important and what is Urgent:
- Important activities have an outcome that leads to us achieving our goals
- Achieving our professional goals
- Achieving our personal goals
- Tend to be proactive
- Consequences are rarely immediate
- Urgent activities demand immediate attention
- Most often associated with achieving someone else’s goals
- Consequences are immediate
- Tend to be reactive
- "Putting out fires"
Makes sense, right? Of course it does!
Prioritizing People Development
So, let's apply the Eisenhower Principle to your organization and ask: Where does people development fall? I’m talking about things like sales training, next level leadership training, professional coaching, mentoring, and legacy planning.
- Do these things help me get to my goals?
- Yes. People development is Important.
- Do I feel the consequences if I don't do them right away?
- No. People development is Not Urgent.
President Eisenhower would tell you that people development activities Need To Be Scheduled. It's very easy to put them off for a later date, but then what are the consequences?
Sure, we feel good in the shorter term because we have good intentions – I want to help my people grow, so I'll do it some day.
But, if you don't plan those activities now, you'll feel it eventually. Sure, the good news is that the consequences won't be immediate. The bad news is that you are setting your organization up for tougher choices later.
The Best Salespeople Want to Grow
But what happens if you've got people who don't want development opportunities, like workshops or coaching? Even in the best of market conditions, not everyone wants training. If you're facing that scenario, I have a question: does that fact concern you?
In my experience, the best salespeople recognize that they always have room to get better. This is especially true in down markets, when it's harder to make the sale or build the relationship.
We recently held a training event where we asked everyone in the room, “What do you want out of this experience?” Here are a few of their answers:
- How to sell through low commodity prices
- How to avoid becoming a commodity
- How to sell value instead of price
- How to overcome negative attitudes (from my farmers and my coworkers)
- How to get an appointment with someone who has more years of experience farming than I have years on this earth…
When they first walked in, they were visibly distracted. They were anxious. They didn't necessarily want to be there because they were busy and had "other stuff to do".
When they left, though, they were excited! They had a bounce in their step! They knew what it takes to have the “mindset” of a top seller and looked forward to putting what they learned into practice to tackle the list above.
Even the busiest salespeople can find value in training if their time is used effectively and efficiently.
The ag industry is challenging right now, but instead of fighting it, let's use it as an opportunity to grow and expand ourselves, our teams and our organizations.
We're all busy. We all have "other stuff to do".
But by planning for personal and professional development now, we can avoid problems down the road. Schedule it ahead of time – because it will always be busy.