Brian, a technology sales rep, was on the phone speaking to Corey, the IT manager for a new account. It was a brief scheduled call to introduce Brian as the go-to contact for future technology purchases.
While Corey was talking, I noticed Brian skimming his incoming e-mail. He stole a few seconds to fire a short e-mail to a supplier to confirm a different client’s order. Brian closed the call by reiterating his enthusiasm to be working with Corey.
Brian and I reviewed the call. While we agreed that this client had no immediate need for Brian’s services, it was evident we took two different messages from the same conversation. Corey had briefly mentioned a challenge within his data center, one that suggested a possible future need, and this potential opportunity had blown right by Brian.
Author Nicholas Carr (The Shallows: What the internet is doing to our brains) cites a body of work indicating that our attempts to multitask hamper our ability to think deeply and creatively. He cites research that found that heavy multitaskers are “much more easily distracted by ‘irrelevant environmental stimuli,’” have “significantly less control over the contents of their working memory,” and are generally “much less able to maintain their concentration on a particular task.”* In short, everything distracts them.
This is bad news for you if you’re a salesperson who’s trying to do it all, all of the time. In fact, your ability to differentiate yourself through relevance requires you to focus intently on what a customer is saying and to hear the implication of their words. Chances are my rep Brian not only missed an important clue to future opportunity with this new client, he might also have neglected to include an important piece of information in his e-mail to the supplier.
And there’s a bigger concern here. Scientists say that the plasticity of our brains means the extensive use of digital media may be having physiological and neurological effects, in essence rewiring our brains to the point where we may become incapable of deep thought. Yet the capability for deep thought undoubtedly separates the sales superstars from the average seller. So if you think your reliance on technology is helping you work smarter, think again.
In today’s technologically driven, fast-paced, multitasking, mega-surfing world, we are constantly bombarded with distractions and interruptions. I see evidence on every call, in every training class, and on the road, that technology may, in fact, be making us dumber.
And it doesn’t simply relate to multitasking.
The robotic use of cookie-cutter scripts, templated presentations, and cut-and-paste proposals certainly helps the seller churn out more with less effort. But your communications to customers do little to position you to be a game changer if they are unaccompanied by the deep thought required to adapt the content and structure to the interests of the specific audience. Similarly, capturing sales rep activity in a CRM system without including the valuable client insights gleaned from the call is a dumb use of an immensely valuable technology.
Our unthinking reliance on technology puts us in danger of creating a sales community of shallow thinkers. And that scares me. Shallow thinking is the archenemy of the game-changing sales professional. It commoditizes both seller and customer. And it’s causing super-talented people to fail.
The final nails in the coffin: Twitter, texting, Snapchat, and similar technologies have us communicating in sound bites, to the point where this is now the primary way that some of us absorb information. Just the other day, a local university business student who had scored low on an important assignment held her teacher (a colleague of mine) to task: “I worked hard on this final assignment. It warrants a higher grade.”
Her teacher agreed that she had worked hard. They reviewed the written instructions together and quickly discovered that this student’s selective reading had caused her to miss an important objective of the assignment. Despite her hard work, her failing grade would stand.
Now imagine the consequences of misinterpreting or missing our customers’ words because we skim instead of reading, or we listen selectively. We’re doing too much important work inattentively rather than being fully present.
So here are my questions to you:
What are you doing to manage your use of technology so that you stay focused on your interactions with clients?
Are you disciplined in scheduling uninterrupted “digitally turned off” think time for important priorities like refining your business development strategy, defining your VIPs (Very Important Prospects,) creating thoughtful sales messages, and positioning your proposals to win?
Excerpt taken from Top Sales & Marketing Book of 2017: Uncommon Sense: Shift Your Thinking. Take New Action. Boost Your Sales.