Staying Efficient with Planned Interruptions

Mar 19, 2012 | By Mike Lyon

As a salesperson, it’s your job to respond to customers. It’s what I call “planned interruptions”. You’re calling, emailing, maybe even texting. You know that a fast response equates to conversion. With all this communication juggling, how can you be productive, efficient, and effective? Managing interruptions sounds like an impossible task.

Stephen Covey, the master of “Highly Effective” systems, proposed time blocking, where you schedule blocks of time for specific tasks. An hour in the morning for emails. An hour to do follow-up calls. An hour dedicated to prospecting. Sounds great…in theory.

And then you get a phone call during your “email time”. It’s a hot prospect, so you have to respond immediately. Now your time block is unblocked. Your focus is broken and you head off in different directions, leaving behind your wonderfully organized productivity plan.

Here are five ways I’ve discovered that keep me in my Effectiveness Zone (it’s EZ!) even with the interruptions that are unavoidable:

1. Create rock-solid blocks of time when you will not allow interruptions—no matter what. Focus solely on those tasks that will move deals forward. No exceptions!

2. Establish a separate period to address things to do that are important, but not urgent, like follow-up with buyers. I know plenty of salespeople who don’t arrive at the model home until 10 or 11 a.m., so use the earlier morning for this second tier of priorities.

3. Keep your email inbox clean. An over-cluttered inbox is one of the most dangerous threats to productivity. Check it periodically throughout the day and clean it out. Unsubscribe from lists that don’t matter. Create an “Action” file for those you need to deal with—by naming it “Action”, it will sit high on your alphabetical list of mailbox folders. File the others that don’t need a response but should be kept. And then Delete, Delete, Delete!

4. Give yourself permission to forget. Use a lead management system that will prompt you with reminders when needed. Once you’ve made initial contact with a prospect, enter the person into the system and set the follow-up task. Then forget about it for now. Move on to your next priority.

5. Turn off all unnecessary dings. If you have alerts for email, IM, text messages, and Facebook, turn them off. Put the silencer on your phone. Don’t let dings interrupt your focus. But what if that means you miss new prospect who calls during this time? Easy! Set up a phone number on Google Voice that is just for prospects. When it rings, you know to answer this call.

I know that many salespeople get pumped up on these interruptions. They love being busy, but “busy” doesn’t mean you’re productive. If you’re not organized, the interruptions will get the best of you and you’ll be more like a hamster on an endless wheel than a successful sales pro.

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