Monday, January 11, 2010

Follow The Lead

Let’s face it: We’re all guilty of multitasking. And the madness has to stop.

Come on, be honest. How many of us can refrain from incessantly checking our BlackBerry while attending an important webinar? When chatting with a client on the telephone about moving the sales cycle forward, are you simultaneously perusing the box scores on ESPN.com or watching a snippet of “The Simpsons” on YouTube? Never mind that with this kind of behavior the clock becomes your enemy. The real crime is the lack of retention that defines multitasking.

For sales reps, in which time is of the essence, multitasking can be a killer on productivity. “If you set aside from 10:00 to 11:00 for sales calls, how much of that time is really devoted to making sales calls and how much of that time is taken up by little things and interruptions?” said Alison Kero, founder and president of Gotham Concierge, which provides time-management services.

Kero added that multitasking lends itself to a kind of vocational apathy. “If you’re doing three things at once, you’re not really putting in the effort to any one activity, so you stop caring about all three,” she said.

People who are regularly bombarded with several streams of electronic information do not pay attention, control their memory or switch from one job to another as well as those who prefer to complete one task at a time, according to a recent study conducted by Stanford University. (“They’re suckers for irrelevancy,” said communication Professor Clifford Nass in the study, referring to heavy multitaskers. “Everything distracts them.” Less is truly more.)

Part of the problem for sales reps is “too many systems” devoted to data management, according to Drew Stevens, president of Stevens Consulting Group, whose clients include AT &T, Merrill Lynch and Reliv International. Stevens said he thinks that ‘CRM’ should stand for “crappy reporting management.”

“There are too many [technology] tools killing the one tool sales execs ought to be doing, which is getting out in the field and in front of the client,” Stevens said. “With customer-to-customer influences being more important, a seller’s butt needs to be building relationships, not keypunching data for executives.”

Kero amplified those comments. She said that at least 50% of sales is about building relationships, and the foundations are increasingly threatened by multitasking. “If you’re not in the here and now with the client, and not paying close attention, relationships will go down the well. Who wants to do business with someone who [a prospect] thinks doesn’t care about him.”

If used correctly, social media (Facebook, Digg, Twitter, YouTube) can be a legitimate sales and marketing vehicle for new customers. But people have to be mindful of the more insidious aspects of social media, which can be time stealers.

“It’s sad that you have to tell someone  [during the work day] not to update their Facebook page every ten minutes,” Kero said. “I don’t think most companies have recognized yet that multitasking is counterproductive, and so they’ve probably been pressuring people to manage more than one task at once.  However, companies are going to have to acknowledge this fact and make changes to their policies to reflect that doing one thing at a time , and doing it well, is the best practice to yield positive and productive results.” 

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