Multitasking is one of the hardest habits to break for sales professionals. Sales expert Jill Konrath explains how sales prioritization will actually allow you to accomplish more in less time.
Let’s face it sales professionals: You’re addicted to multitasking. Chances are you’re glancing at email notifications and stopping to respond to texts as you read this post. Multitasking is understandable — you’ve got calls to make, meetings to attend, emails to reply to, and 20 other things to do before lunch time — but that doesn’t make it effective. You may think you’re accomplishing more when your brain is going 100 miles per hour, but think again.
As Jill Konrath, author of Snap Selling, Selling to Big Companies, and most recently Agile Selling, explains, multitasking can actually degrade your thinking. It can cause a woman’s IQ to drop 5 points. For men, that rises to a 15-point drop!
In this week’s Labcast, Konrath explains the dangers of multitasking and offers tips for how sales professionals can achieve greater success through sales prioritization.
This Week’s Guest
— Jill Konrath, author of Agile Selling
Subscribe to Labcast
- Multitasking is dangerous: It’s scientifically proven — instead of helping you get more done, multitasking actually makes you dumber.. [4:15]
- Look at your day as 15 minute chunks and then block them out. For example, schedule isolated chunks of time to read your email rather than constantly checking in. [5:30]
- Prioritizing has to always come first. Know your priorities at the beginning of the day so that when you get in the office you know exactly what you should be doing first.[6:30]
- Use applications on your computer to keep you focused. Apps like AntiSocial and BackDrop can work wonders. [10:00]
Announcer: This is Labcast, insights and ideas for the expansion stage senior manager. Hosted by OpenView Labs.
CeCe Bazar: Hello everyone and thanks so much for joining us again. This is CeCe Bazar with OpenView Labs and I am joined once again by bestselling author Jill Konrath. Jill, thrilled to have you back.
Jill Konrath: I am delighted to be back one more time.
Learn more from Jill
CeCe: So Jill, we’ve been talking a lot about Agile Selling, your newest book. It came out in late May, and we talked a lot about rapid learning and mindset. And now I have a question that came out of reading this book, but I think a lot of people want the answer too. How can we as sales people elongate our career by doing less? Because this is a fascinating concept, and I’d love for you to dive in with us and tell us a little bit about how you think you can do this.
Jill: I have a lot of thoughts on this. It’s a great question. How can we elongate our sales career by doing less? First of all, I would just like to say that one of the questions that people have asked me lately with Agile Selling is, because I talk so much about the need to be learning, and testing, and experimenting, and all of this kind of stuff, and they say, “Jill, I am so busy as it is. I don’t have time to learn all of this new stuff. I don’t have time to learn LinkedIn. I don’t have time to research what’s going on in trends in the industry. I don’t have time.” And I look at them and I say, well, how much time are you spending doing things that aren’t working so well for you? I bet a lot.
And what’s interesting is I’ll say like say you make a hundred calls, how many people get back to you? Well, there are not a whole lot. Well, say you have ten meetings, how many of them advance to a second conversation with a prospect? And if we take a look at the significant amount of failure that we have built into our sales process, we have two things we can do. We can either keep doing more so we can meet our numbers, or we can take a serious look at this, what we’re doing and say how can I do less and meet my numbers? Like, what can I do to be more effective so that I can make fewer calls and have more prospects who are more interested?
It’s kind of like I’m turning the world on its head when I’m saying more is not the answer. What’s the answer is less but better less and doing it better.
CeCe: I think everyone’s ears just perked up. Tell us what do we need to do to do less, because I know everyone who’s listening to this podcast right now is listening while doing 30 other things because that to-do list goes on forever.
Jill: Okay, since we have everybody listening and we’ve got 30 things to do, let’s just talk about the first thing you just said, the to-do list and the 30 things that you have to do. Most people, when they have a to-do list like that are constantly multi-tasking. Like I would guess that a good share of people who are listening to this right now are checking their email.
CeCe: Oh absolutely.
Jill: Or reading something online, right? Okay, so now we’ve got this poor brain who’s getting bogged down again. It’s going back and forth between one task and another task, and that is a waste. You want to get back more time in your life? Stop multitasking. Stop jumping back and forth. Either focus on this podcast that you’re listening to right now or shut us off and go do your email and get it done, because you can’t do it both concurrently. And there’s some extraordinary research on multitasking that I think is phenomenal.
I chose, for example, one guy. His name is Harold Pashler. He’s a scientist form the University of California. He said that when people try to do two cognitive tasks at once, and by that I mean things that require thinking, their intellectual capacity can drop from that of a Harvard MBA to an eight year old.
Jill: Can you stand that?
CeCe: That’s insane.
Jill: Which means you’re not thinking all that well. So you get all of these smart people who are trying to do all of this work, and they’re trying to multi-task to get everything done, their thinking power is degrading rapidly. So we’ve got to stop it.
And a lot of people who are in sales, one of the biggest thing they’re doing is jumping back and forth between emails and tasks, constantly checking emails, checking emails. I’m over here. I’m trying to learn this about my customer. I’m trying to put together a proposal, or I’m trying to create something for a conversation, and focus on this one customer, and research something, and check my email.
Well, this constant going back and forth is awful, too. And research, again, on this multi-tasking with email and texting shows that when this happens, women’s IQ scores, IQ, their intellectual capacity, drops five points which isn’t good. But for men the drop is 15 points in IQ. So anybody right now who is trying to email and listen here, or check your email and work on a proposal is getting stupider by the minute and that means that the quality of what they’re producing isn’t so good. The prep for the meeting isn’t as good.
So there is a huge need for every one person who wants to do less to start chunking their time and blocking their time, and only focusing on one task at a time. Mono tasking is crucial today.
CeCe: Now how do you in sales recommend someone do this? Is it setting up a model day? How do you make sure that you’re being as efficient with your time as possible, and making sure that you have things in manageable chunks?
Jill: Right. I think we need to look at our day in 15 minute chunks. And that doesn’t mean we have to switch tasks every 15 minutes, but every 15 minutes, we should be thinking about as a finite unit that you want to spend three 15 minutes working on this proposal or you want to spend an hour-and-a-half, just six 15 minutes. But we really need to think about it from that perspective and then we need to block it out.
So rather than going back and forth like email, we need to schedule times to look at our email, and we need to have these times on our calendar. These are email times. I’m going to spend 30 minutes on email at this particular time of the day.
We do not have to respond immediately. We cannot do good thinking if we’re always doing things like that. So that would be one thing and to really plot out your day ahead of time. Again, you take a look at brain research; it shows that prioritization is the most intensive brain activity of all. And it’s really hard for your brain to evaluate what to do first, what to do second, because it has to compare every task to each other. So you’ve got a list of 20 things that have to be done, and when you say which is the most important thing, your brain has to go and scan all of them and try to decide and then which is the next important thing.
If you do anything else before prioritizing, you’ve already put your brain into a, it’s already wearing itself out. It’s like a muscle. It’s wearing itself out, because you’ve already done your email, and you had to make all of these teeny decisions with every email requires a decision. So what we need to do is know our priorities when we start the day.
Now some people like to set their priorities in the morning for the day. They might identify their top three things that they need to get done, but they set it in the morning. Other people who need to get on the phone right away or check their emails right away because of the nature of their job will set their priorities at the end of the day.
So when we simply come into the office in the morning, they know what they have to do. They have to get on the phone and do these things and then they stop. From 8:00 to 9:00 they make calls and then they stop and check email or whatever they do. But have times blocked for these things. And by the way, we become more proficient if we don’t force ourselves to jump back and forth.
CeCe: I think that people are probably listening to this right now, Jill, thinking this is a great idea, but how do I go backwards? I’ve already set the precedent that I will respond to emails in 15 seconds? How do I go back to my team and change this behavior and change what my team expects of me?
Jill: Yeah, I really think people have to kind of just get over that thing and you know. I don’t know a customer in the world who truly expects you to be back to them in 15 seconds
CeCe: Did you hear that everyone? They’re not waiting for you with bated breath.
Jill: They’re not. They’ve sent something off to you saying I need more information on this, and then they go on to their next task. They’re not sitting there with bated breath going, okay, how soon will he respond? How soon will she get back with me? They’re not waiting for that. They’ve gone on to their next task. And so we need to realize that if we check our emails three hours later, they have not died in that interim. And they’re okay with it.
CeCe: Right, and I think about it too from a prospecting side, how many times have you sent emails, and it’s been days before anyone has gotten back to you. I’m not saying that’s right, but I am saying they’re not giving you that same courtesy of that instant response, and it’s okay to take some time between your emails. I think chunking in your day is hugely important. We call it going dark. If we’re working on something here, and we know that we need to put 100% into it, we say I’m going dark. I won’t be on email for the next hour, but I’ll be sure to check after that.
Jill: Yeah, you know some of the things that I have to do, it’s so easy even when you’re checking email to get seduced into other things. And I personally have a problem with that, because I like to learn new things and I sign up for a lot of newsletters, and they come in and there is an interesting article, and the next thing you know I’m on that article and that article references some other article, and boom, I’m down the rabbit hole in no time flat. Do you know what I mean? I have to actually use a software program.
CeCe: What is it?
Jill: I use Antisocial, because it blocks me from going online. Sometimes I just make sure that I don’t have my browsers open. I really have to discipline myself, because I’m just terrible. We all are. We just kind of get sucked down this rabbit hole. So we really have to start using technology to protect us from it.
And another distraction type of thing, like say you’re working on a proposal that you have to send to somebody, and it requires you to think about things, but even having a busy background behind your proposal as you’re working your whole desktop and everything is all busy and distracting. When I use word, I actually use the focus function under view. You can use it to focus because it blacks out everything else.
CeCe: That’s great.
Jill: Or another program that I’ll use is Backdrop, another application that just allows the one thing I’m working on to show, nothing else.
CeCe: That’s fantastic. I think those are all things that everyone listening to this podcast needs to go download and start using today. Save your brain and save your IQ.
Jill: Yeah, I mean if we’re talking about doing less and achieving more, I mean the whole thing needs to be cognizant of what’s taking us away from it, and how we can improve. I mean we really haven’t talked about focusing on ways to improve yourself and to get better at anything that you do, but that also is a part of it.
I honestly think that we should always be focusing on how can we increase the results, and we need to look at everything as if it’s an experiment. How can we improve? We started off earlier talking about ten calls or ten meetings and you’ve got one follow-up meeting scheduled, what can you to get yourself to two, and how can you get yourself to three?
We need to always be focusing on improving our personal best so that we’re getting better, because when you do that, before long it’ll take you a lot less effort to have better results.
CeCe: And that’s what we all want, right? Get more with less.
Jill: Get more with less, and actually the truth of it is when you do that, you have more fun because you’re not hitting your head against the wall all of the time. So paying attention to getting better and constant improvement is really key to enjoying the profession and having maximum success.
CeCe: I think this is great, Jill. Thank you so much for joining us once again. If you would like to learn more about how you can get more results with less work, be sure to check out Jill’s Agile Selling. Jill, thanks again for being here again.
Jill: I’m glad you invited me. Thank you.
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