Sales managers work hard to transfer the success skills that made them a top producer. They deliver training and coaching on key account management, running consultative sales meetings and overcoming objections.
All of the above require another selling skill that is becoming obsolete in our multi-tasking society: focus. Learning and mastering new skills can only be achieved with focus. (Can you remember watching a sporting event where a top athlete checked his/her smart phone?)
Lack of focus in sales organizations is caused by a couple of things.
#1: Ignorance. Many salespeople believe that multi-tasking works. Some buy into this myth because of their age (I.e. I grew up on computers). Others believe everything they read on the internet. Multi-tasking doesn’t work. It’s neuroscience 101.
Learning new information, thinking through complex problems, and practicing skills requires using your prefrontal cortex. Focus is the number one requirement to engage the prefrontal cortex.
The brain doesn’t really like learning new information because learning new skills and habits is work. The brain prefers defaulting to old ways of doing things because it doesn’t require much energy. Again, it’s neuroscience 101. Executing new skills and thinking means you burn through more glucose, which leaves you a little tired. It’s no wonder salespeople don’t like role playing or pre-call planning. It’s intentional work and practice.
#2: Lack of decision making. Have you noticed that everyone wants to be everywhere but where they are? Many company meetings are a joke. You have a bunch of highly paid executives sitting in a room for the purpose of discussing X, Y and Z. During the meeting, participants are texting and returning emails—they are attending five other meetings during the planned ‘strategy’ meeting. The result is a meeting where much of the conversation is “Could you repeat that?”
Make a decision where you want to be. For example, if you are meeting with a potential referral partner for lunch, put your smart phone away and pay attention. Listen intently to what the other person is saying. Don’t be the person that breaks eye contact and conversation every time your phone vibrates, or worse, rings out loud. Most people don’t enjoy competing with your smart phone.
Make a decision to work, and calendar block each day of the week. When engaging in thoughtful activities, turn off the technology. Many people have turned into one of Pavlov’s dog, salivating and responding immediately to every email or text.
In a recent study at Microsoft, it showed that it took, on average, 15 minutes to return to critical thinking tasks after responding to an email or instant message. Often it was because the person strayed off to another task. Sound familiar?
Focus. It’s the new competitive weapon for sales organizations. Consider a new motto for your sales organization in 2014: Be present now.
President and CSO