Four Reasons Why Salespeople Shouldn’t Multi-task


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Multi-tasking is practically a job requirement in today’s ultra-competitive sales environment, but maybe it shouldn’t be. After many decades of glorifying multi-tasking and building tools, technology and lives around this idea, researchers around the world are pointing back to the fact that we as humans are built to focus. In fact, if we insist on multi-tasking, efficiency goes out the window. Here are four reasons why salespeople shouldn’t multi-task:

1. Think you are good at multi-tasking? Think again. While it may seem like you are doing two or more simultaneous tasks well, the fact is you are not. According to David Strayer’s research, only 2 percent of respondents were actually very effective when it came to multitasking. The study also found that there is a highly inverse relationship between “thinking” you are a good at multitasking and actually being good at it. “The better someone thought she was, the more likely it was that her performance was well below par.”

2. If multi-tasking had to choose a mascot profession, sales would surely be the winner. In sales, you are continuously doing multiple things at once: answering phones, responding to emails, setting up meetings, developing your pipeline, presenting, helping out your fellow sales reps, etc. In reality, sales reps only spend half of their day on actual sales related activities. According to Sibson Consulting, the average-performing sales rep spends 65 percent of his or her time on activities not related to selling. In other words, your average “sales rep” at your company may only be focused on selling 35 percent of the time! What’s wrong with that picture?

3. Multitasking comes at a high cost. Being a sales rep can be very stressful and very busy. Most of the time, sales reps are either shifting between different tasks, being interrupted by others or rushing to complete their work. Unfortunately, these types of work habits come at a high cost. Researchers have seen that shifting between tasks can result in up to 40 percent of a person’s time being lost, just by having short mental blocks. So if we take this statistic and consider the total sales capacity of a sales rep – approximately 215 days, accounting for holidays, weekends and vacations – 86 days a year are completely wasted due to the cost of switching between tasks. Now consider your untapped revenue potential if you were able to reduce the non-productive time of each of your reps, even slightly.

4. Prioritizing sales rep activity has incredible upsides. Using prioritizing methods and technology in order to focus on sales activity can significantly increase sales rep production and revenue. Some of our recent research found a significant increase in productivity and performance among salespeople and companies who leverage automatic prioritization technology, validating the key benefits of single tasking. Salespeople leveraging automated prioritization technology average 88 percent more talk time and 15 percent greater contact and conversion rates than those who do not. At the company wide level, companies average a 97 percent greater conversion rate than those who do not utilize prioritization technology. A compelling proposition.

If you are a sales leader, consider the message you are sending to your sales reps. Are you encouraging multitasking or pushing your reps to focus on the most important task at hand? If multitasking is the current mantra, consider how you can support your reps in deploying new work habits that can help them focus on the highest priority task first, then on to the next.

Nick Hedges
Nick Hedges is a 15 year veteran of the Internet and SaaS industries, has spent the last five years helping organizations accelerate sales performance, and is currently President and CEO at Velocify. Nick is a Fulbright Scholar, holds an MBA with Distinction from Harvard and a bachelor's from Manchester University.


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