Some Companies Go Out of Business by Focusing on Busyness


There is a misconception running around that we are more productive when we multitask. In fact, more studies are coming forward that prove just the opposite.

Brasfield & Gorrie is an exemplary construction company in Birmingham, Alabama. By necessity their salespeople spend a lot of time in trucks between construction sites. Like all sales professionals, their days have more tasks to be accomplished than the number of hours will permit. Also, during the day they will encounter immediate needs for their customers which, if not addressed quickly, will result in lost sales. It's easy to see why these salespeople will want to be using their phones while driving. So they found a solution: an app that disables the phone when it's moving at ten miles per hour or faster.

Most of us have eased into a lifestyle of multitasking without realizing it. It was a subtle behavioral change. Correcting it will require an abrupt behavioral change - and that's rarely easy. Since it was technology that pushed us into multitasking, let's use technology to pull ourselves out. That's what B&G found.

Some ideas you may want to consider for your sales team:

  • Reinstate basic time management principles and systems. Simple concepts as to-do lists, setting aside certain timeframes for certain tasks and prioritizing activities can go a long way.
  • Allow your people to be unavailable. We think we need to make decisions faster than ever - and we do - but that does not mean that we need to interrupt others to keep our own agenda on track. Some CSOs have pushed back on allowing their people to go offline and silence their phones for periods of time but it can be a technique that increases productivity. Set some guidelines and allow your people to work. 
  • Don't confuse fast with immediate. Just because we cannot answer a question while we are in front of the customer does not mean that our response cannot be seen as fast. In fact, immediate responses can work against us. An immediate response may not be as rich, meaningful or valuable as a fast one. Consider two scenarios:
    • Sam Seller is in a client's office and is asked a question he cannot answer. He pulls out his phone and places a call, text or an email and, in a matter of minutes has an answer for the customer. QUESTION: Has Sam gotten the best answer? Was his question worded in such a way that it incited the best response? Is the customer wondering why there are people sitting around Sam's organization with nothing better to do?
    • Sam Seller is in a client's office and is asked a question he cannot answer. Sam promises to get back to the customer as soon as possible. Within the hour, Sam calls his customer and explains a couple of different options. QUESTION: Does the customer see Sam as responsive? Was the quality of the information as good as or better than it was in the scenario above? Did Sam have the chance to make more than one impression on the customer?

The University of Michigan is doing some significant research on multitasking and the results have been impressive. Using simulators, they have shown that students who attempt to use their phones while driving are as likely to have an accident as someone who is DUI. Another experiment showed that are likely not to see a gorilla crossing the road in front of them!

Replace multitasking with serial monotasking. Let technology do what technology does best: help us do our tasks faster. Don't expect it to help us juggle more than our minds can handle.

Chuck Reaves, CSP, CPAE, CSO


Chuck Reaves CSP, CPAE is the founder of Twenty-One Associates, Inc., an Atlanta-based sales training and consulting company.

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