Eliminate Distractions from Selling

Learning Objectives

After completing this unit, you’ll be able to:

  • Define digital distractions.
  • Recognize the impact of an always-connected life.
  • Describe why digital distractions are so tempting.

Where We Are Right Now

We live in pretty amazing times. Technology has transformed virtually everything. You’d think that would mean we have unlimited productivity. Unfortunately, that same technology that makes so many things easier also creates challenges that impact our sales.

Falling Down the Rabbit Hole

In the story Alice In Wonderland, Alice falls down a rabbit hole into a world similar to her own, but in many ways dramatically different. At every turn, she finds new and fascinating things. Whether it’s animals who can talk or fabulous tea parties, Alice moves from one distraction to another. When we go online, we often follow a similar path.

What starts as a quick Google search to learn about a customer quickly transforms into an exploration of entertaining topics. It’s rare we are able to go online, check email, or engage digitally without a distraction presenting itself. Some call this the age of distraction. Combine that with an ever-growing list of more things sales reps and leaders need to accomplish every single day, and you have a recipe for more hours worked with fewer deals closed.

Jill Konrath, author of More Sales, Less Time, has done extensive research into how digital distractions impact sales and how to address it. She explains how, as human beings, we aren't designed to live in a digital world. The constant clamor—of click this, read this, watch this, listen to this—is like being in a candy store. Distractions can be anything from email alerts or text messages to popup ads and other interesting treats we come across in our web searching. The human brain loves discovering new things, which can turn a quick online search into a lengthy online ramble.

In her research, Konrath found that we have little power over digital distraction because our minds are wired to respond to it. The amygdala, the least evolved part of the brain, is always out there looking for things that are different and new. At one point in time, it protected us from dangers in our environment. Now when we go online, the amygdala takes control and rewards us for distractions by giving us a dose of dopamine (the hormone that controls the brain’s reward and pleasure centers), making us feel good while we’re not getting work done—that's a tricky combination to tackle. Essentially our brain is rewarding us for not doing the work we need to do, and we likely don't even realize it’s happening. This scenario creates an even greater challenge for us because selling requires thought, which is done in the prefrontal cortex of the brain. Having the more primitive part of the brain take over, makes it more difficult for us to give our clients the deeper thinking they deserve.

The Always-Connected Life—What Balance?

Mobile phone use increases every year. This constant connectivity has reduced the separation between work and personal time. The days of going to work for a set number of hours, then going home and not working are now part of the distant past for many salespeople. When we’re at home, even when we don’t mean to, we pull out our phones and look at work email. Konrath found the average professional with a smartphone is potentially connected about 13 hours per day with work. We feel like we never finish work because we’re always available or checking email and texts. If you factor in the 13 hours per day, we may be working up to 60 to 70 hours per week. Too much time working and too little time recharging can make us less productive.

On many levels, we’re able to accomplish more thanks to technology, but if we’re distracted too often it can affect our productivity. If you receive a notification for every email, it distracts you from your current task. It takes significantly more time to recover from an interruption than it took for the interruption itself. According to sociologist Judy Wajcman, 70 percent of received emails are attended to within 6 seconds of arrival in our inbox. While we want to be responsive to our customers, most emails don’t require such a rapid response time. Customers expect sales reps to add value with every interaction. Answering emails rapidly may not be the best strategy to develop long-term relationships.


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