Ever get to the end of the day and wonder 1) what happened with all that time, and 2) why didn’t I get nearly as much done as I should have?

Time is, as the cliche goes, the most scarce resource we have, and yet even though we know each day what needs to get done, we find ways to put it off just a little more.

Salespeople are no different. Even the most successful sales reps will fitter away the day, and put off critical pipeline-building tasks that aren’t nearly as onerous as they feel when you’re in the midst of procrastination.

In our work with sales organizations, here are the eight most common and deadly distractions, as well as some easy steps to mitigate or eliminate them.

1. Email
As a sales professional, you want to be responsive to prospects. But that doesn’t mean you need to respond within seconds, or even minutes. What’s most, the vast majority of email you receive isn’t from prospects or anybody that’s going to help you close more business. The majority of email you receive represents someone else’s priorities, not yours.

Do your best to distinguish the urgent from the important, but better yet, keep your email in offline mode most of the time. What you need to do right now likely has nothing to do with what might come into your inbox three minutes from now. And for the emails you want to receive but can easily read later, set up some inbox rules to automatically file them in folders you’ll check at the end of the day, or just a couple times a week.

2. Social media
Let’s assume for a moment you aren’t checking your personal Facebook every 15 minutes. That’s a big enough distraction on its own. But even if you’re actively practicing social selling, you can suck up hours a day and justify it as prospecting, even though you’re mostly clicking around without a real strategy or direction.

Social media is increasingly an important, daily tool for sales professionals to prospect and manage their pipelines, but this time (like everything) needs to be managed and contained. Have a strategy and process for how you’re going to engage in social selling each day. Use a checklist, if necessary, to get in, do your work, and get out. As little as 15 minutes a day can do it, if you stay focused.

3. The general Web
We’re all adults here, so I’m not a big fan at all of blocking Web sites in a corporate environment. Your team will just spend more time trying to get around that, or use their mobile devices. But sometimes when we face a difficult or daunting task, we decide to check the news headlines one more time.

There are sites and services that will help manage your time on these sites. RescueTime, for example, will show you exactly how much time you’re actively doing productive work vs. killing time elsewhere. There’s nothing wrong with taking a quick brain break to check some scores or Hollywood gossip, just be cognizant of how quickly you’re able to get your mind back focused on what really matters.

4. Floor gossip
There’s a difference between sharing best practices and sharing gossip. Sometimes – when it comes to customer or prospect situations – it’s a pretty thin line. There aren’t any RescueTime-like apps for people hanging over your cube. But be aware that this is probably taking more time away from selling time than you think. And you both have a quota to hit.

5. Caffeine
There’s a point of diminishing returns for the morning (and afternoon) Joe, or those silly little red bottles. You get the energy and high, sure, but that often comes with mental jitters. If you were likely to get distracted by something new or more fun or different before, caffeine makes it more so.

I don’t have a problem with using the caffeine source of your choice to help get started, but know it can have an adverse affect too.

6. Follow up tasks
After almost any sales call, you have work to do. Update records in your CRM. Prepare a proposal. Get details or coordinate next steps with a sales engineer. There’s no getting around these tasks, and they’re often instrumental to hitting your number.

But if you do them separately after each call, it forces you to engage in each system too many times over the course of the day. Instead, wait until several calls have been completed and tackle your follow-up duties all at once. Updating multiple records in your CRM at once will take far less time than logging in multiple times throughout the day.

7. Victory laps
You just had a great call with a prospect. She was engaged, and agreed to next steps. You’re excited, and you should be. But instead of channeling that energy into the next call, you get up and talk to others about it. Brag to your manager. Tell someone else on your way for another cup of coffee. And before you know it, it’s 30 minutes later and you’re still on that victory lap.

Don’t cut the laps out entirely. Just be careful about their duration and frequency.

Curious to hear what your distractions are, and what you try to do about them. Feel free to post anonymously of course…

  • http://www.briancmanning.com/ Brian Manning

    Great call on #7. I see this so often — people killing time celebrating small wins. One of the best habits to get into is to train yourself to associate success with more work. The moment you have even a small amount of success is the moment to bear down. Most people find that these moments are actually great times to focus on work — they’re productive and work is much more fun when you’re feeling successful.

    Good post — and thanks for pointing this one out.

    • http://www.heinzmarketing.com Matt Heinz

      Thanks, Brian, love the point about associated success with more work.

      Another sales distraction someone brought up to me today was the long-winded sales call.  Sometimes long-winded is OK, as it’s part of the relationship-building process.  But smart sales reps need to discern between relationship-building and time-wasting.

  • Allison DeLeone

    #1 hit home for me…email can easily consume most of my day if I let it. It’s a delicate balance between being responsive and allowing some distance to get focused work done. Your suggestions for finding that balance are right on the money, as usual. 

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