We in sales survive our days of isolation by constantly reaching out to clients. Making contact is our lifeline. Positive connections are celebrated--often with our managers--while negative interactions are shared as part of a commiseration ritual with the others who sit in our corner and wear our shoes.
Maybe it has to do with this feeling of isolation or that the sales workday often melts into our personal time, but at various points of the day, personal detours take us off our sales course to connect with clients. Pre-Internet, these came in the form of personal phone calls from the office. Today, fewer personal calls emanate from the office thanks to cell phones and cube living, but more time is being lost on personal communication during the workday.
While we're at our desks, e-mails, instant messaging, and, to a relatively lesser degree, Web surfing, all kidnap our selling time. If there were a voice put to these silent forms of personal communication during the workday, the noise would be deafening, and the lost productivity would be shockingly apparent (The Onion, the satirical newspaper, once reported: "48 hour Internet Outage Plunges Nation into Productivity").
It's not just the minutes spent talking or e-mailing non-clients that hurt, but it is the time leading up to and time following these distractions that take us further away from our daily business goals. These personal detours are a form of self-sabotage. Here are three steps to help you avoid diminishing your own productivity;
1. Get a second cell phone. While I was at IGN, the only people who had my cell number were clients and co-workers. So when the phone rang, I knew it was business--and did not expend any time thinking about whether or not I should take the call. It may be too late for you to adopt this approach, so you need to get a second cell phone for your personal calls and erase all contact information that is not business-related from your primary business cell phone. I know this sounds drastic, but this set-up will keep you in your sales rhythm and is well worth the initial aggravation.
2. Do not mix personal e-mails with business e-mail. We all have a personal e-mail address and a business e-mail address. However, like your cell phone, some friends and family members e-mail you at your business address because they know you read that one more often. Eliminate all personal e-mail contact on your business e-mail address and see what happens when your mind stays on track when uninterrupted by personal contact. To ensure this occurs, stop responding completely to personal e-mails sent to you at your work address.
3. Schedule specific times to attend to personal communication. I recommend initially 15 minutes in the morning and 15 in the afternoon--not just any 15 minutes, however, but specific times marked on your calendar like an appointment. If you follow steps one and two, and then contain your personal communication to these specific times in the day, you will find yourself spending less than this allotted time on personal communication and more time contacting clients and managing your database of clients to contact.
Ask yourself, "do I want to get better at this?" If the answer is "not sure" or "no," we have bigger problems to attend to than personal communication during the workday. However, if your answer is "yes" or even "maybe," then you have to embrace the fact that getting better takes small steps in the right direction, like the ones those penguins take to arrive at a better place each year. These are three small steps in the right direction to getting better at what you do. Taking them is up to you.Note:I received many responses to my Feb. 16 column ("Just Say No to Ad Networks"). The overwhelming majority were in support of what I shared, while a few were complimentary but offered opposing perspectives.
Two representatives from ad networks, one from ValueClick and one from BlueLithium, took the time to respond with columns of their own, published by MediaPost in an effort to demonstrate their opposing views.
Both included in their published perspectives a direct suggestion that, since I was an "independent advertising sales rep," my original column was self-serving.
This assertion is incorrect on two levels. For one, I am not an independent media sales rep, but rather a media sales consultant. I do not sell or represent any advertising inventory, but rather offer unique pricing approaches and media sales training to any company that earns money from selling advertising (including ad networks). More importantly, the interests I serve in sharing my experience of both buying and selling advertising in this column are those of yours, the reader. Those in publishing who put their own interests in front of their readers will learn quickly what it feels like to lose readers--and I have no intention of losing you.
Thanks again for all your feedback, both positive and not-so-positive.