As the economy gets worse and times get financially tougher, it is only natural that people have to work harder and companies have to ask them to produce more. In some companies this is a friendly and managed process, while in others the orders come down from above and the new requirements are executed in draconian fashion. But whatever the method of tightening up the operation, the fact remains that the bulk of the staff will be asked to do more within the same number of hours and for the same or even less money.
So how do you stay sane in an environment like this, especially if you're in sales, which typically bears the brunt of the crunch?
For my own sales staff, and certainly for employees in new companies, which are perpetually in crunch mode until the company breaks through into profit, I have a sanity formula that I share with them. I call it my 70-20-10 rule. It's kind of loosely based on the 80-20 rule, which postulates that 80% of the results are gained from 20% of the effort. People use the 80-20 rule to become more effective and the objective is to find out what that 20% of high-yield activity is, so that you can do more of it.
With my rule, the 70% stands for frenetic/diligent activity spent prospecting, presenting, and selling one-off or short-term deals. This is the portion of your activity which fills the rice bowl every month and is essential for companies to keep going. Most sales-focused companies want their staff to be doing this kind of work all the time, but after you've learned the job, the fun goes out of it after a while and inevitably you start to feel like a hamster on an exercise wheel. This is what causes most sales people to burn out and it is an unusual person who can last more than a year or two in directionless sales. If they do last, it's probably because the company has a good commission program and so the person at least gets strong financial incentive to be a hamster.
But for most thinking people, there needs to be light at the end of the tunnel. In a larger company this would be a promotion to team management or an opportunity to start up a new project or move into product management. Good if you’re one of the lucky ones, but what about the rest of us?
This is where the 20% and 10% come in. 10% first. It's a proven fact that people will make extraordinary sacrifices for an ideal or a goal. They die to reach the top of mountains or be the first to the South Pole. They suffer for a god, a nation, or a cause. So the mind is a powerful thing and to keep it healthy and positive, you need to be working towards a goal. The 10% represents your personal efforts to develop yourself in your life journey. For some people it might mean passing exams that give the person pride in their skills and status in the community, for others it could be wealth, power, or self discovery. In my businesses, I try to remind people to keep the 10% high in their minds and use this time to allow them to feel that they are more than hamster-humans.
To pay for the 10%, which may not have a direct bearing on the company, we have the 20%. This represents what I call "The Bank". That is, sales activity which is either recurring or accumulative, and therefore is more efficient and financially beneficial than simply doing one-off sales. Typically, this type of work is project oriented and takes a while to pay off. So you can't do too much of it, else you might lose your job while chasing rainbows. But big projects are eminently possible, especially in a big city like Tokyo or Osaka, and even though you might think you're not ready for the big time yet, you nonetheless should be making efforts to pull such a deal off.
Clearly to have this kind of strategy, you need to be talking to your boss or even someone further up the totem pole. For others in the company watching you do activities in the 10% realm, since they appear to have nothing to do with the company, there will doubtless be complaints and your new efforts will soon be shut down. Instead, think ahead and sell the idea to your boss. Commit to producing results on the 70% and 20% work efforts and most reasonable managers will willingly give you the other 10%.