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Procrastination Kills


Written for the Nova Scotia Business Journal

Someday I expect to read this news headline: PROCRASTINATION KILLS 4 SALESPEOPLE’S CAREERS THIS WEEK ALONE! Working day in and day out with salespeople, we see how serious the problem of procrastination can be. I am a victim of this condition myself. In fact, my husband once gifted me with a book called, Overcoming Procrastination. The book sat unopened for a year before I finally gave it away!

The truth is procrastination is something I, and many other salespeople have had to come to terms with. Prospects and customers have the expectation (and rightly so) that you will do what you say you will do on time. So how do I deal with this problem behaviour? I have a four pronged approach.

First, I needed to understand where the procrastination was happening and identify some behaviours to correct. I found that my follow-up was one problem area and needed a systematic way to overcome this issue. I listened to my self- talk and was shocked to find how often I said to myself: I do that later when I have more time.

I concentrated on keeping much better notes of all conversations and meetings with prospects and clients. I laid out a format to follow that would allow me to record things that were important to them and mutual commitments to next steps. Now I had a concrete record of what I needed to do next.

I began setting daily, weekly and monthly behaviour goals. In the area of follow-up, I set a goal of following up after conversations or meetings within three business hours. With a busy schedule, I knew that I probably couldn’t do it instantly, but this time frame ensured it would still be fresh in my mind and notes, but long enough to be achievable.

Finally, I set out my behaviour goals in a spreadsheet that I could check off daily to hold myself accountable. In the beginning I shared my results weekly with a colleague – just enough external pressure to ensure that I stuck to my new process. I soon found that the satisfaction of completing tasks and getting great feedback from prospects and customers was enough motivation for me to continue.

My tendency to procrastinate may never completely leave, but my new habit of good follow up give me a proven process to follow and a new behaviour pattern that pays dividends.

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