Today’s sales reps are surrounded by distractions and faced with ever-increasing goals. There is something to do from the second you sit down at your desk until you leave the office, but there is also something to distract every time you set about to start something important.
Psychology research is clear that there is a mental energy cost every time humans switch mental tasks, and we are most productive when we spend time on a single project or task rather than multiple at once. It is important to make the most of each and every minute. This type of thinking is what it takes to remain competitive in challenging roles, including SDR and business development sales positions.
Learning to minimize distractions will only serve to maximize your productivity and your overall sales success. This is especially important when you consider it takes 23 minutes to refocus after each interruption. If overcoming this challenge seems easier said than done, don’t despair. Here’s how to minimize distractions for maximum sales productivity and finally end your struggle.
There are a few high-level ideas to keep in mind as you think through how to squeeze more sales productivity out of the day:
Be aware of where your attention is
A smart approach to any role, not just sales, is to practice a little bit of mindfulness and self-awareness to understand where your attention is focused at any given time. This takes self-discipline and honesty – if your thought process is moving away from the work at hand, you need to be honest with yourself before anything can be done to fix it.
Be aware of why your attention wanders
The SDR role is a perfect example of a difficult job that takes a lot of willpower. Every time a prospect hangs up or rejects you is another motivation-sapping moment that makes it harder to dial again. It is common to struggle to care after 40, 50, 100 dials day after day.
Its no wonder that distraction is common. Our minds are searching for anything else to pay attention to that gives us more gratification than making another phone call.
It is crucial to gain self-knowledge in these two areas early. The process of improvement will be much easier if we understand ourselves. Once that is done, we can take these steps:
Have a plan
Follow a daily schedule so you know what to do and when. A schedule helps you stay focused and productive throughout the day. It prevents you from becoming distracted since you never have to figure out what to do next and can proceed with purpose. A plan also allows you to develop excellent work habits and prevent what James Clear calls decision fatigue to preserve your willpower so you can make smart choices and stay focused on your sales conversations all day.
It may feel like you’re accomplishing more by doing multiple things at once but research has found that multi-tasking can reduce productivity by as much as 40%. Discontinue this practice to create a positive impact on the amount of work you complete each day and how much sales you can generate. When you focus purely on each and every call or prospect interaction, you’ll be able to garner more information and provide more value to your contacts. The same goes for any administrative tasks you must perform. Focusing on one specific thing ensures it is completed perfectly. You’ll actually be more efficient with your work if you reduce the amount of mistakes you make.
Shut it down or block it until needed
Email, social media, the internet, your smartphone, and even your CRM – tools that you use in the course of your day-to-day activities are all major distractors. McKinsey Global Institute found that the average person spends 13 hours a week on email alone – that’s 28% of their work week! Stopping and starting tasks to check email, view sites that don’t provide prospect insights, or check friends’ social media activity are all distractors. And those YouTube videos of cute animals aren’t helping either!
To prevent distractions from these work tools it’s best to close any application you aren’t actively using at any given time. If you aren’t using your smartphone for calls, turn it off or set it to do-not-disturb and put it aside. Designate certain times throughout the day to read and respond to emails or to do internet research. If you need additional help, there are applications and Chrome extensions to block visits to sites you want to avoid. Also, if you want to learn more about how you’re using your time online, try an application like RescueTime. It will allow you to learn what’s sucking up your time and then eliminate unwanted distractions to increase productivity.
Control social interactions and celebrations
Sales reps are naturally social beings so it’s easy to be drawn into conversations with coworkers, especially in an open office environment. Regardless if you’re sharing best practices or trading office gossip, these conversations negatively impact your productivity. Likewise, it’s easy to get so excited about a successful prospect call that you take a victory lap to tell your manager and coworkers about it. This can quickly turn into an unexpected 30-minute break and draws everyone involved off track. These activities also fall under the category of drop-in visits.
Limit social activities to scheduled break times and plan to share best practices and successes with your manager or colleagues during one-on-ones, team meetings or peer-to-peer coaching sessions. To prevent yourself from being the recipient of these unplanned interruptions try facing away from office traffic while working to avoid eye contact. Noise cancelling headphones can be useful too, eliminating distracting sounds during non-call activities so you remain focused.
It’s been found that after working on a task for an extended period of time, you begin to lose your focus and your performance on the task declines. The best way to deal with this and maintain optimum productivity is by taking breaks. One example of how to apply this practice is with the Pomodoro technique, where you work for 25 minutes and break for 5 minutes. Another approach is to work for 52 minutes and break for 17 minutes. This was discovered by a company interested in learning what their most productive workers did differently. Taking breaks in this manner allows your brain to relax and solve problems while not being pushed to perform.
Don’t work with unqualified leads
There are so many distractions that negatively impact sales productivity that it’s easy to forget one that’s easily within control. Always remember to disqualify leads to reveal your true buyers. This is a skill that’s critical to your success and eliminates the distraction of working with unqualified prospects.
We’ve all heard the saying you are what you eat. What you put in your body influences how you feel as well as your level of performance. Drinking too many caffeinated or sugary beverages as well as making the wrong food choices impacts your ability to think clearly. Don’t skip breakfast or wait ‘til you’re starving to eat lunch. It’s difficult not to become distracted if you can’t think clearly or if you’ve stuffed yourself at lunch, making you feel like it’s time for a nap.
Team up with a colleague to keep yourself honest when battling distractions. Check in with each other a few times a day, but do so at designated times. Otherwise this becomes part of the problem instead of contributing to the solution. Holding each other accountable, while sharing new tactics that are working, will aid in your continual improvement.
Start applying these actions, one at a time, to minimize distractions for maximum sales productivity. Once you do, you’ll be motivated to try more of them because hitting targets will become more effortless.
What other tactics have you found effectively help you reduce your distractions from sales productivity? Tell us in the comments below.