Everyone knows that multitasking doesn’t work. But did you know that also applies to multi-listening?
Patrick Winston was a professor at MIT for over 50 years. One of the school’s most popular professors, he was known for his rule of engagement — a simple, non-negotiable classroom policy: No laptops, no cell phones. It’s a rule that HCM sales representatives should practice in every sales call.
The reason for the rule of engagement, as Prof. Winston puts it, is that humans have only one language processor. If your language processor is engaged with information from your device, you aren’t paying attention to the person you’re meeting. And they know it.
Research backs this up. In the 1950s, psychologist Donald Broadbent tested subjects with headphones that had a different message coming into each ear. Subjects couldn’t retain the information they heard, no matter how hard they tried, because people can only listen to one voice at a time.
The implications for HCM sales reps is clear. If you bring a digital device to a sales meeting, it’s going to distract you. Imagine the signals you send to your prospect when you’re unable to give them your undivided attention. If you don’t have enough interest to be fully engaged with them, why should they give you their valuable time?
Are Distractions Unavoidable for Salespeople?
HCM salespeople are constantly under pressure to respond quickly to electronic messages. The faster your response time, the more you show that you’re customer-oriented. You also have a lot of moving parts to keep track of at all times. There are multiple customers you’re trying to get across the finish line, and there’s always a sales quota hanging over your head.
The idea of sitting down, undistracted, and talking with one person and doing nothing else is a foreign concept, and it feels slightly tortuous.
But in a world where empathy is emperor, being distracted can kill a deal. Distraction signals boredom or a lack of interest. It tells others that you have more interesting things or more important things on your mind. You don’t really care about your prospect, and you aren’t interested in understanding their pains and frustrations.
When you’re trying to bring a new logo on board, you need to listen to your prospect’s pain points and actively engage with them. It’s critical to show them that you care about what they have to say and that you understand the situation they’re in. If you’re distracted — even a little bit — your prospect will pick up on it, and you could lose the account.
It’s one thing if your prospect looks uninterested when you’re trying to make a sale, because you’re on their time — but it’s another thing altogether if you’re the one who can’t pay attention. It sends a silent but powerful message that you really don’t care.
Related reading: The Most Human HCM Sales Rep Wins
Minimize the Distractions During Your Next Sales Call
Prof. Winston’s rule of engagement is a simple rule, but it’s a tough one. Digital devices are ubiquitous — we take them everywhere we go, and we use them to do virtually every aspect of our work. On top of that, most of our meetings these days are done virtually — a laptop is required. So what do you do?
Here are a few tips to reduce the distractions of virtual meetings and establish stronger rapport with your sales prospects:
Silence the noise. Turn off your cell phone during the meeting. Close all browser windows and applications that you don’t need for the sales call. Set your notifications to Do Not Disturb on your phone and messaging apps like Slack.
Focus your attention. Record the conversation (with their permission) so that you can give your full attention during the call and capture notes later. If you need to take notes during the call, let your prospect know at the start that you aren’t being distracted but capturing their words. This actually shows greater interest in your prospect, because you care enough to keep a record of their input.
Be honest about unavoidable interruptions. Expecting a critical text/email that you’ll need to respond to immediately? Give your customer a heads-up at the beginning of the conversation and apologize for the possible interruption.
Be aware of your nonverbal communication. If you look distracted, you’ll ruin your rapport, even if you’re actively listening to every word they say. Watch your body language and make sure it communicates interest and an open posture. Maintain “eye contact” with your prospect by looking directly at your camera rather than your screen. The difference can be subtle, but it’s powerful.
Develop your time management skills. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and distracted when you have too much going on at once. You feel like you need to be doing multiple things at the same time, and you aren’t really investing your full energies into any one of them. Develop your skills to manage your time and your calendar well so that you can give yourself to each task without distraction or anxiety.
Reserve an hour in your day to go through emails so you can reduce the urge to have that email right in front of you. By dedicating specific times during the day to reply to emails, you can set them aside when it’s time to focus on other things.
Start Closing More Sales
As you engage with prospects, consider IDI your go-to partner for industry knowledge and sales support. Check out the sales enablement assets in the IDI Resource Center, and contact us with specific questions you may have.
Our Resource Center is your Most Valuable tool to close more deals. Use it to get the inside scoop on specific industries, adopt sales materials, and show that you’re bringing along a world-class partner that the competition doesn’t have.