sales productivityYour team might be too connected to focus on sales.

Sales has always required a fair amount of multi-tasking. Between lead generation, prospecting, and caring for current clients, we have a lot of balls in the air, which can make it hard to focus. It’s even harder in the digital world.

Distractions come at us at warp speed in this multi-screen, technology-driven world—and they can sap our sales productivity before we even realize it. My phone pings constantly with Twitter feeds and LinkedIn updates. When I’m writing, I might decide to take a quick peek at email. (It’s never quick.) It’s easy to let those distractions eat up valuable business hours. But success in sales means actually selling, so anything that doesn’t contribute to business development is a waste of time.

So, how can you and your team increase sales productivity with so many distractions competing for your attention? You eliminate distractions.

Step Away from the Smartphone

Lesley McClurg digs into the neuroscience of multitasking in her NPR article, “Don’t Look Now! How Your Devices Hurt Your Productivity.” She interviews Dr. Adam Gazzaley, a neuroscientist at the University of California, San Francisco, and co-author of the book, The Distracted Mind: Ancient Brains in a High Tech World.

McClurg writes:

When you engage in one task at a time, the prefrontal cortex works in harmony with other parts of the brain, [Dr. Gazzaley] explained, but when you toss in another task it forces the left and right sides of the brain to work independently. It’s this process of splitting your attention that usually leads to mistakes.

In other words, each time our eyes glance away from our computer monitor to sneak a peek at a text message, the brain takes in new information, which reduces our primary focus. We think the mind can juggle two or three activities successfully at once, but Gazzaley thinks we woefully overestimate that ability …

“When a focused stream of thought is interrupted, it needs to be reset,” explained Gazzaley. “You can’t just press a button and switch back to it. You have to re-engage those thought processes, and re-create all the elements of what you were engaged in. That takes time, and frequently one interruption leads to another.”

(Read the rest of McClurg’s article for more on the science of multi-tasking and how to create “digital boundaries.”)

Getting Your Priorities Straight

Even without the digital distractions, it can be hard for salespeople to focus while juggling multiple accounts, prospecting, and—if they’re smart—asking for referrals.

For more ideas on how to boost sales productivity, be sure to read Jill Konrath’s new book: More Sales, Less Time: Surprisingly Simple Strategies for Today’s Crazy-Busy Sellers. The big tip I took away was to focus on one task for 25 minutes and then stop … even if I’m in the middle of a sentence. It’s called the Pomodoro Technique. Take a break, walk around for five minutes, and then grab another 25 minutes.

My best sales productivity strategy has always been to do what’s closest to cash every day. This could mean writing a proposal, following up on a referral, scheduling a meeting with a prospect, caring for current clients, or chatting with a potential referral source.

Yes, I spend a little time checking email and social media, but when my timer pings at 25 minutes, I sign off. I used to clean out my inbox every day. Not anymore. Unless an activity contributes to building my business, it’s a waste of my prime business hours. I can research, read, and listen to podcasts and webcasts when (or if) I have time.

For more on the technology traps that can hinder sales productivity and lead generation, read my book, Pick Up the Damn Phone!: How People, Not Technology, Seal the Deal.