Problem solving, when done correctly fixes it the first time. Do you feel like you start over every 90 days? Do you fix the same problem more than once? Do you ever wonder why? Simple, most managers fix things for the short term. Develop long term solutions and the short term will take care of itself.
I know what you're thinking...
Everyone knows the basics of problem solving. Identify what is wrong and create a solution. That's simple.
Doing this is exactly why you keep fixing the same issues over and over.
There is an important step missing and it comes between identifying the problem and creating a solution.. That step is
Diagnose before you try to cure
I learn easier when people give examples so let's do that here. Suppose we start with the most common of Sales Manager dilemmas.
How can I get my salespeople to sell more?
Here is the answer given by most sales managers. They need to see more people and they will sell more.That is a simple solution and your salespeople will do that for about a week. Then they will see their return on time invested isn't getting them much ahead of where they were. You, the Manager, pick up a little extra business.
That extra business helps you reach your short term goal and now you can relax...until it's time to repeat the process again before the end of the next sales period. Not very effective problem solving, wouldn't you agree?
Why not stop this viscious cycle. Fix it the first time and you won't keep re-visiting it.
Let's fix this problem together
Here is a problem solving technique I learned that will work with any project, not just this one. I even used it when I was doing a backyard landscaping project. It sure cut down the trips to the hardware store because I had the answers on paper and all I had to do was put the plan into action.
Plan? What plan?
The well thought out one you are going to create. Just use the framework and plug in the variables. Let's begin.
Identify the problem
We need more sales
Here it is again. The core ingredient of problem solving...
Diagnose before you try to cure
What is causing the problem?
- Are you sure you have the right people? It all starts with good hiring practices. You can find that
- How is their product knowledge? Learning is part of their daily routine.
- Have you trained them? They learn from you. Develop the habit of training.
- Are your sales meetings effective? Here are the key ingredients for conducting a great sales meeting.
- Is it your attitude about the competition?
Your mindset regarding what is going on in the market has an impact on your people. Yes, lots of people are in your industry. Teach your people what sets your company, product or service apart. Share that knowledge with them.
- Have you established, in writing, what your objective is? An unwritten plan is no plan at all.
- Keep accurate records.Do you know how many customers your people are talking to and what the results were? Without the ability to track your business you will achieve inconsistent results. Learn from the numbers.
Have you analyzed how many salespeople you need?
- Have you analyzed your inventory in order to ensure you have enough stock and the proper stock?
Do not assume anything. Inventory management is critical. It must be sufficient to create the numbers you forecast and must be the right stuff. Look at it every day.
Have you analyzed your business to determine the effectiveness of your advertising?
Spending your ad budget just because money is allotted to it is not the best use of your money.
Are we done yet?
We will be when I remind you of this....
HOW DO I FIX THE PROBLEM?
Write down every item that comes to mind that might be causing the problem.
Analyze why you feel that way about each of the items.
Think about what might happen should you decide to change something.
Plan a course of action that will deliver the desired results.
Problem solving isn't the only skill you need.
Make sure you never miss an update to the StayOnTarget training series. All you need to do is let me know where to send it.
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