How to Stop Procrastinators From Hijacking Your Sales Team

Procrastinators affecting sales team

I think of myself as something of a connoisseur of procrastination, creative and dogged in my approach to not getting things done. – Susan Orlean

I am the complete opposite of a procrastinator. The mere thought of being late for any deadline makes me feel like I’m in a Mission Impossible movie and I just failed to defuse the bomb in time. Tick, Tick, Tick … BOOM! So, how do I manage my time? I set false deadlines, usually two days before a due date and force myself to get it done – or the world will blow up!

If you are in a senior sales leadership role, chances are you’re built like me. One reason you were promoted is your ability to meet deadlines and manage time well. Your company throws 20 things at you – and you handle it. 21 comes along and it doubles your work, no problem! I can do it!

Then along comes a procrastinator, and your first reaction is – get this person off my team! They clearly don’t have the self-discipline, drive, and ability to achieve goals – and I just don’t need that in my world. They’ll make me miss a deadline!

Whoa! Hold on now. Did you know that procrastinators are some of the most creative people in the world? In his book – Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World, Adam Grant of the University of Pennsylvania researched procrastinators and found them to be on the high end of the creativity scale. We non-procrastinators are on the low end. In a recent TED Talk, Grant said, “Procrastination gives you time to consider divergent ideas, to think in nonlinear ways, to make unexpected leaps.” In fact, I’ll bet if you go back into your memory bank, you’ll recall a sales rep who fits that description. That person was so infuriating, but at the same time brilliant. Your challenge was always keeping them on task.

So what? I get it, they’re creative – but I don’t need creativity in sales! Really? How many times have you sat with a sales rep and asked, “What’s going on with XYZ Company?” And their response was, “I can’t get their attention. I’ve tried the three things I know.” Or – you’re working on building an important presentation and realize it’s about as exciting as watching paint dry.

Creative people (yes, those procrastinators) challenge the status quo and create a spark that can ignite the entire group. Not only would I say they’re good to have on your team, I’d say they are essential. So, how do you redirect procrastinators, keep them focused, and not stifle their creativity?

Improve Direction Without Taking Away the Spark

Have the discussion: Many procrastinators realize they put things off – but rarely do they understand the impact it has on their business. Be prepared with facts, dates and times when you witnessed procrastination and suggest how they could have better spent their time. Don’t expect behavior to change overnight – be ready to quickly and concisely address old habits as they surface.

Cut through the nonsense: Most procrastinators are “busy” and will immediately point out the fact that they are in the office at 7pm, well after others have left for the day. They wear the “busy tag” as a badge of honor. Take the time to dissect what’s being done in those extra hours. Is it a productive use of time? Can they get the job done well, but just not on your daily schedule?

Allow for a creative outlet: Your natural reaction to creative procrastinators is to put them into a corner and structure their days. Do this, and you might as well fire them – they won’t react well. Instead, find a way to leverage their skills so they can contribute on a regular basis to building new messaging or creative problem solving.

So, before you cut that procrastinator from your team, stop and think. Are you cutting the only creative person you have? What will be lost if they are gone? Step back and take another shot at getting your procrastinator headed in a creative and productive direction!

Managing a sales team requires specific knowledge and a well-honed skill-set, and our Advisors can help.  Click here to connect with a Sales Xceleration Advisor in your area, or contact us today at 1.844.874.7253.