Companies still romanticize the idea of multitasking. Phrases like "jack of all trades," "juggling act" and "Renaissance man" all imply that the ability to multitask is something to be relished or achieved.

In sales we are expected to be unbelievably good multitaskers. In fact, I once spoke to a high achieving rep who told me their unique skill differentiator was the "ability to multitask." Really? That's what this great profession has been diminished to, being good at working at a lot of "stuff" at the same time? The sad truth is that as marketers get better at filling funnels with online generated lead flow, sales reps at most organizations take on a way higher workload than ever before--handling incoming calls, sorting through new lead lists, scheduling follow up appointments, managing administrative tasks and much more. Unsurprisingly, for many sales professionals, multitasking can seem like the only reasonable way to get things done.

In my view, multitasking is completely overrated as a skill. In fact, I believe that multitasking is simply an opportunity to mess up many things simultaneously. The key to success in a sales environment overflowing with opportunity is rigorous prioritization. But before I dive into why sales execs should emphasize prioritization and stop multitasking, let's start with why multitasking doesn't work in the long-term.

Are we multitasking our problems away or quietly creating more?

As most salespeople would recognize, the last decade has shown itself to be one of the most innovative times for the sales industry. While selling techniques have become more personalized to the customer, thanks to data aggregated from customer relationship management (CRM) systems as well as new marketing and sales technologies, sales reps are forced to juggle many tasks at once. This comes at a cost, as leads are left to grow cold while sales reps jump between tasks.

In case you've forgotten, sales reps are not administrators. Salespeople are not hired to perform data entry or other non-selling activities, yet this has become a big part of their job. In fact, according to research by Sibson Consulting, average-performing sales reps spend 65 percent of their time on non-selling activities. On top of that, according to the American Psychological Association, an estimated 40 percent of a person's productive time is lost due to switching between tasks.One look at these figures makes it clear that whatever benefits new technologies have brought, they have also left major areas for improvement.

There has never been a greater need for solutions that drive efficiencies and enable companies to increase revenue in a high-velocity sales environment. Without a solution to simplify the process, sales reps will continue to waste countless hours busying themselves with tasks that are unrelated to the true job at hand--selling. Recent Stanford research found that people who are regularly bombarded with several streams of electronic information do not pay attention, control their memory or switch from one job to another as well as those who focus on one task at a time. So, why do so many sales reps continue to multitask?

Prioritization works and studies prove it

According to Jessica Jackley, co-founder of Kiva, a non-profit with a mission to connect people globally through lending to alleviate poverty, "All entrepreneurs know, you live and die by your ability to prioritize. You must focus on the most important, mission-critical tasks each day and night, and then share, delegate, delay or skip the rest."

Selling isn't just a numbers game; it's also about being more intelligent and controlled in one's sales approach. That said, sales execs can rejoice because new solutions have emerged over the last few years that help sales reps prioritize the highest-value tasks and transfer most of the administrative chores to software. Once these types of solutions--predictive analytics, business intelligence (BI), presentation technology, sales intelligence tools--are in place, then sales execs can implement an automated prioritization strategy to support and increase sales productivity and performance.

As it turns out, a recent study on automatic prioritization found that salespeople who used prioritization were able to manage 12 percent more prospects per salesperson than those that didn't. During the same time period, salespeople who used prioritization made 22 percent more actions per lead and 33 percent more contact attempts per lead. Furthermore, companies using prioritization averaged conversion rates that were 178 percent greater than those of companies that did not.

When salespeople use prioritization to determine their daily sales activities, it's clear that not only are they able to manage more leads, but those that they do manage also get more attention, leading to a higher likelihood of conversion. Moreover, sales execs who establish an automated prioritization strategy will see an increase in ROI because of the proven, consistent and actionable selling practices put in place from the use of simplified sales solutions. And, when all else fails, remember--less is always more.

Published on: Oct 22, 2014