But time and again, we get bombarded with interruptions, alerts, tools, and technology. Younger sales reps tend to be more used to an interruption-based work day filled with texts, chat, some e-mail and perhaps phone calling all as a part of their day. Older sales reps can get stuck in a rut doing the same things they have done before, often with less technology and getting the same sub-par or average results.
Either way, there is a lot of lost productivity among the noise and disturbances. The cost of interruption is high – it can take up to 23 minutes to get back to a task after being interrupted, according to a 2008 study done by Gloria Mark of the University of California, Irvine.
To be most productive, work to streamline and get things done in chunks of time. For example, set prospecting time right into your calendar so you and those around you can know clearly what you are working on. You, too, will know that this time is set aside and if you honor specifically for prospecting it will be a regular time slot and become a habit.
Three Tech Traps to Avoid:
Get one specific tool to track information and one tool for projects. We use Evernote because it works between platforms: I can use it on my phone, tablet, or laptop and it's simple. No more sticky notes or papers everywhere – keeping notes categorized in Evernote probably saves me hours each week. If you do just this item, you’ll be able to reduce the noise in your world and track down anything easier than by using multiple tools and technologies.
Unfortunately in a corporate environment there are added tools, sometimes departmental tools and customer tools. With many tools comes overwhelm. One client has 3 mobile phones and a tablet in addition to his laptop PC.
Resistance to the Cloud
If you have not converted your sales and marketing activities into the cloud, that should be one of the priorities for this year. There are too many tools that can help streamline your systems and processes to not be looking into them. An example is the CRM holdouts – smaller mid-market companies who have not put their valuable data into one repository where the most amazing reports and data can be gleaned from.
There remain millions and millions of businesses not fully utilizing customer and prospect management tools like CRM and now, social CRM (sCRM) tools. Many more have tools that do not connect so work can be double or triple in some cases. Is your company one of them? What are you waiting for?
How do your sales reps track sales opportunities? We are finding a plethora of Excel spreadsheets with rep “pipeline” reports being emailed around, we also find reps with individual tools and no standard company system. This is a big opportunity to fix in 2013 and there has never been a better time with more resources at a lower cost than now.
We started this by talking about the cost of interruptions and distractions. I just wrote about reducing tolerations and irritants in a recent post (read it here). To stay focused on your role in creating sales opportunities, educating buyers on your products and in bringing deals to closure, work to reduce the noise by controlling use of your email. I encourage you to actually close it down except for once in the morning, mid day, and toward the end of the day. As important as e-mail is in reaching prospects, customers, vendors, and partners – you can manage it in a way that it won’t dominate your day.
28% of our work day is spent dealing with email, says the McKinsey Global Institute. The study from July, 2012 showed that we spend more time answering and responding to emails than we do communicating and collaborating with our co-workers or searching and gathering information.
Just think what you could do by reducing ineffectiveness, interruptions, and your addictive e-mail habits. You could gain 20-25% or more productivity!
I can't leave this in good conscience without mentioning that tools and technology are just one part of the puzzle - tools are nothing without people. More on that later.
Which strategy might work for you and your sales team? What technology trap have we not discussed?
This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet.
Lori Richardson is recognized as one of the "Top 25 Sales Influencers for 2012" and one of "20 Women to Watch in Sales Lead Management". Lori speaks, writes, trains, and consults with inside and outbound sellers in technology and services companies. Subscribe to the award-winning blog and the “Sales Ideas In A Minute” newsletter for sales strategies, tactics, and tips.