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Slow Down: A Sales & Marketing Commentary for the Chronically Hurried

September 25, 2013 | Justin Gray | 3 Comments |

Slow down. I can hear my mother saying it even now, years and years later. My childhood was filled with the phrase that I refused to heed. I entered the workforce with roughly the same mentality I had when I entered kindergarten – more was better and the faster I had more, even better.

My bosses for years uttered that same phrase. Slow down. My employers spent less time on the subject of patience, however, as they themselves were guilty of avoiding that virtue. Everyone was moving fast. And rushing to succeed. And clamoring after the latest thing. Some people were taking their time – or at least hiding behind the guise of pondering. But the inability to make a decision doesn’t mean slowing down; it means standing still. Slowing down is waiting for the right opportunity, solution, or even the full view of the problem to present itself – standing still is road kill. In a space like marketing where “now” constantly flows, standing still is death.

Because for all the value in slowing down, eventually you have to move. So for someone who is naturally terrified of the stagnancy of standing still and for whom moving at the speed of light is as effortless as breathing, the advice of my dear mother and pretty much every other mentor and employer and friend, fell on violently unwilling ears. As with most challenges in life, not until the pain of being yourself becomes so great do you consider the advice of others – as was my first introduction into slowing down. I’ve been putting on the brakes ever since – and in no scenario have I found it more valuable than in sales & lead management.

In the rush to embrace the NEW solution or use the new feature, executives trip all over themselves. The truth is, something done right takes time. The misconception lies in the notion that this is due to the time it takes to do something right – that’s not entirely true. Quality does take time – I’ve written about this in the past but defining a problem takes even longer. The issue with most problems is that we don’t wait for them to fully reveal themselves. How can you solve for something you don’t fully understand?

Solving for symptoms is the number one cause of failure in any business. All too often we see sales leaders who want more leads, more people to talk to, more, more, more.The answer isn’t more; the answer is less. Less of what doesn’t help us, and more of what does. This seems simple to many of us, but when this materializes in terms of fewer leads, the tides of change are met with the throes of panic. What will everyone do? What will we pay our telemarketing reps to do, what will our pre-qualification teams do with their time? The answer again is less. Less mundane busy work, fewer cogs in the machine. That’s right, I’m saying you should fire your dead weight. Gasp.

Stay with me here. I know this may seem somewhat taboo and definitely anti-union, but so be it. Dead weight is weighing you down and most of it was accumulated simply by not taking the time to truly identify the problem. Your organization houses development reps or pre-qualification teams because you are looking to weed out prospects you don’t want to talk to. How about we do that earlier? How about we do that with technology? Well we are, and we do.

But all to often the risk involved with making these changes are far too scary to actually precipitate the change. This is where once again slowing down can be a great strategy because it’s not an all or nothing equation. What is to stop us from setting goals to reduce the headcount on these teams by a percentage on a quarterly basis? Nothing – only risk. Time mitigates risk, so sprinkle on a liberal helping.

So, the next time your CEO bursts into your office in an alarmist tornado – take the time to identify the real problem instead of solving for the emotion. As a second step, take this advice and incorporate it into your day to day – make an effort to slow down. And in that new adopted crawl, you’ll find that not only will things become more clear, but also the ways in which those problems affect those around you will come into focus as well. Suddenly you’ll realize, as I did, that it’s not the problem but instead people’s reactions to the problem that we are truly looking to quell.

Billions of dollars and even more TIME is spent on solving problems that either don’t exist or exist in a different form than what was actually presented due to the blurred field of emotion. Take the emotion out of the equation, focus on the available information and look for the holes and foremost, be mindful. That solution only comes, as my mother would say, when you simply slow down.


  1. Matt Heinz on October 4, 2013 at 12:30 am

    Not only are most of us in a huge hurry, but we expect results immediately. Rarely do we have the patience to build something that will last, something that will drive results over time for a long time. Immediate results are great, but if you’re always chasing the immediate deal you’ll continue to over-spend without investing in your long-term future.

    Great post Justin!

  2. Tim O'Connor on October 4, 2013 at 3:59 am

    This reminds me of the classic business book The Goal by Dr. Eliyahu M. Goldratt, a business consultant whose Theory of Constraints is used in Operations Management. The book goes on to point out the role of bottlenecks (constraints) in a manufacturing process, and how PROPERLY identifying them not only makes it possible to reduce their impact, but also yields a useful tool for measuring and controlling the flow of materials. If you don’t get the problem right you’ll never get the solution right either. Your blog is a nice reminder to slow down and solve the right problems.

  3. Jeff Weinberger on October 4, 2013 at 8:17 pm

    In his brilliant new book “Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now” Douglas Rushkoff show us the pain and problems created by focusing on the increasing flow of information and events that appear to require attention Right Now

    In one of my geekier high school experiences, I learned that the best was to solve a problem both very quickly and very effectively is to spend more than 50% of the time allotted to the problem focusing on the approach to take to the solution. Only after more than half my time was expired did I start working out the solution.

    This is a rare approach in the business world, but has paid incredible dividends for me and others who have learned to stop and think rather than panic and act.

    Great post, and great point.

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