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The Comfort Zone | Sales And Publishing

How often have you heard this expression in sales? It usually tends to come from management when discussing a sales representative who perhaps is “coasting” and could be doing a lot more to enhance their activity and their sales.
It is also applied to management when role changes and rotations are discussed. “Give him a new role. That will waken him up and then we will see just how capable he his!” That was an actual comment from a senior manager.
So, what is this “comfort zone”? How does it occur? And how can you prevent it?
The “comfort zone” is a state where a representative or manager is “comfortable “ in their role. They are doing enough to “get by” and there is little pressure or even interest from management as there is a degree of performance, albeit only average.
Many managers who are in their own “comfort zone” will not challenge this situation even though they know that the person concerned could achieve a lot more. The manager’s “comfort zone” tells them that it is perhaps too time consuming or counter productive to upset the “apple cart” and that letting the status quo remain is the best option. “You can always get them at the year end appraisal” was one ridiculous comment I heard from a fellow manager. So here we have an example of a representative and a manager being in their respective “comfort zones”. End result – average performance and average results at best!
“Comfort Zones” are the result of two inadequacies:
• Lack of personal motivation and focus
•  Lack of good management
Many reps go through the “motions” and are not motivated to strive for excellence. They do enough to get by. They hit their call rate but never excel at sales probably because they “detail” as opposed to sell. In other words they do not work at their selling capability. Having said that, company policies are such that contact rate appears to be more important than the quality of selling skills with the result that many representatives rush about attempting to hit call rates,rather than actually striving towards sales targets! It must be stressed at this point that not all representatives are like this and top performers all have a focus on their sales targets with the result that call rates tend to be hit automatically. Many managers do not challenge the representative’s “comfort zone” due to a lack of influencing and coaching skill, although the root cause tends to be more in the fact that the manager’s ability to set good “stretching” objectives is limited in the first place.
So how can a manager prevent the sales representative or junior manager from slipping into a “comfort-zone”?
Manage expectations right from the start of the working relationship. In other words a “contract” should be put in place between the manager and the subordinate ensuring that both know what exactly is expected of each.
Ensure that the representative’s or junior manager’s objectives are clear, fully understood and have a degree of “stretch” so that they have to challenge themselves to work at them. Make them too easy to achieve and before you know it – they are in the “comfort zone”. Make them too difficult and they disappear, either into the “fear zone” or you lose them.
Continually monitor their progress against their objectives. Not from a distance, as many managers do, but within regular field visits. Time should be taken out from visiting customers to review the business plan, the individual’s personal objectives, and their development plan. The role of the manager is to coach and guide their subordinate to greater performance and success. This cannot be done from behind a computer screen or from an unnecessary meeting. Make time for people!
The “Comfort Zone” is not a productive place to be for representative or manager. This zone leads to inaction, and poor, or at best, average results. All managers should be attempting to get, and keep, their reports in the “motivated and productive zone”
About the Author
Allan Mackintosh is a Professional Management Coach specializing in coaching and developing people skills in new and existing managers. He can be contacted on 00 44 (0)1292 318152. His website is www.performance-am.com

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