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Conquering the Biggest Enemy of the Salesperson

By John Chapin

A salesperson’s most important activity is talking to qualified prospects—and a salesperson’s biggest enemy is anything that distracts him or her from working on that most important activity. Distractions come in many forms—some obvious and some not so obvious. Here are the top seven distractions, and their solutions.

No. 1: Cell phone, email, text messages, false emergencies, and other similar items
The key here is single-minded focus. Time-blocking as many items as possible is ideal, but be sure to focus on the most important: prospecting calls. When in the office, put together a prospect list and then remove all distractions. Shut off the cell phone, close e-mail, clear all paperwork and other items off the desk, and focus. Make notes right on the list and enter notes into the CRM later. Maybe even put up a “Please do not interrupt” sign on the office door. In any case, have one focus for at least the next hour: making as many calls as possible. When on the road, again, focus on calls. Don’t be distracted by the phone or other items inside or outside the car that may impede making as many prospecting calls as possible.

No. 2: Paperwork
Paperwork, other than filling out an order with a customer, is for before or after prime prospecting hours. It’s okay to make a quick note, record something on an order form, or write down something that needs to be worked on later. But never work on letters, proposals, or doing anything that can be done off-hours.

No. 3: Servicing accounts
The time spent servicing accounts should be kept to a minimum—and should only be done for the 20 percent of the accounts that are responsible for 80 percent of revenues. Many salespeople get adamant about servicing every aspect of every account, justifying it as taking care of the customer. But they are really doing it to avoid the hard work (fear and discomfort) of prospecting. Some servicing is part of the job… just do as little as possible.

No. 4: Looking for a quicker, faster, easier way to prospect other than picking up the phone or calling in-person
All prospecting should be done either in-person or by phone. Skype and other similar methods are also okay. The point is to be talking live, in real time with prospects. Email, social media, mailings, and other similar indirect methods that do not allow for actually talking to someone are distractions from effective prospecting and nothing more than another way to avoid the hard work (again, fear and discomfort) of making live calls. These methods can—and should—be used, but only after reaching out via phone or in-person.

No. 5: Talking to unqualified prospects
Stop pretending that ugly duckling is a swan. Either get rid of prospects that aren’t qualified immediately or give them one last chance.

No. 6: Majoring in minor things
Minor things include desk cleaning, rereading letters/emails, doing prep work, etc. “Minor” items that should be done before or after prime time.

No. 7: Anything else that gets in the way of calling on qualified prospects
Regardless of what happens during the day, the primary focus needs to remain on reaching a daily number of qualified prospects. Don’t schedule doctor or dentist appointments, the plumber, the electrician, or anything similar during prime hours. When something unexpected arises—like a car accident, weather, or similar event—ask “How can I still get all my calls in?”

A salesperson’s most important task every day is hitting or exceeding his or her prospecting numbers. Period. It is always the most important thing. Salespeople will either come up with excuses to avoid this hard work or find ways to get it done regardless of what comes up in the day—but successful salespeople find all ways, both obvious and creative, to prevent distractions and get as many calls in as possible.

Chapin is a sales and motivational speaker and trainer. For his free newsletter, or if you would like him to speak at your next event, go to: John has over 29 years of sales experience as a number one sales rep and is the author of the 2010 sales book of the year (Axiom Book Awards) “Sales Encyclopedia.”


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