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Common Questions and Answers
I’m spending more and more time dealing with information. It’s squeezing out my selling time.”
Welcome to the information age. You are not unique. This problem of information inundation is a relatively new but almost universal threat to your livelihood. Four or five years ago, salespeople were not too concerned with it. Today, dealing with information is so critical that it is an important part of almost every seminar I present.
A few years ago, it was OK to keep everything in your head. Today you need forms, documents, files and systems, both electronic and paper, to keep it all straight. Consider the technical details of the products and programs you sell. Aren’t they more complex and sophisticated than just a few years ago? And all that complexity takes the form of additional information that you must organize and master.
What about the computer systems you use and the information produced by them? Most salespeople I know could spend eight to twelve hours a week just reviewing computer print outs if they choose to. Add in memos from the boss, service bulletins, price increases, government regulations, new product specifications, the details of ever more complicated applications, etc. and your job is awash in information.
The sheer volume of information coming at you is like an approaching tidal wave. If you don’t create some safe haven for yourself, you’re going to be rendered ineffective by the absolute mass of information.
Imagine how many precious selling hours you could waste each week if you don’t harness that tidal wave of information. Or, imagine the time robbed from your family and personal life by the time it takes to handle more and more stuff.
It’s time to recognize the problem for what it is: A serious and malevolent new threat to your effectiveness.
So, what do you do? How do you overcome this threat? How do you get control over the flow of information and protect your valuable selling time?
One strategy is to become defensive. In other words, to develop ways to defend yourself from being overcome with useless information. The idea is to keep tempting but useless information from stealing your time.
Let’s imagine a scenario. You’ve come into the office and pulled a pile of stuff out of your mailbox. The first thing you see is a new price list for a product line you rarely sell. Is this useful to you? Probably not. You throw it out. Next is a service bulletin on a piece of equipment that you haven’t sold in years. Is it useful? Probably not. Out it goes. Next is a computer report comparing last year’s sales in three product lines to the sales from two years ago on those same lines. Is it useful? In the round file it goes.
Finally, there’s a memo from the boss outlining the agendas, location and schedules of sales meetings for the next two months. Better hold on to that one. You continue on this way, quickly appraising every piece of information, and disposing of every piece you deem to be not useful.
This whole process may have only taken a few seconds. But your disciplined “screening” process kept a lot of “useless” information from sucking away your time. The net effect was that you created more selling time for yourself by disciplining yourself to keep out that which is useless, and to allow in that which is useful.
OK, so now you have a pile of stuff that, on first glance, looked like it might be useful. Now what do you do?
The “study this when you have time” file goes in your briefcase to be reviewed while you are waiting for appointments, or on those occasions when you are having lunch by yourself. The stuff for “account folders’ and “product folders” goes home with you and is reviewed and filed in your home office all at once on Friday afternoons or Saturday mornings.
By implementing these two disciplines, you’ve taken what could have been an hour or two of information-engagement and turned it into a few moments of disciplined involvement on your part. You’ve gotten back hours of selling time, and not allowed the tidal wave of information to wash you away.
This process of screening and triaging can work for you with any kind of information. Apply it to your list of daily emails and email attachments. Ditto the stuff in your inbox, and the pile of envelopes and catalogues that appear every day in the mail. Do the same with your choice of Internet surfing and TV channel hopping.
Unfortunately, the information-rich world in which we live has created a situation where some of the techniques and strategies that used to work for you are no longer as effective as they once were. To maintain your effectiveness in a rapidly changing world, you need to take on new skills and processes. Defending yourself from the tidal wave of information which threatens to drown you is one of them.
About the author
Dave Kahle has trained tens of thousands of B2B salespeople and sales managers to be more effective in the 21st Century economy. He’s authored nine books, and presented in 47 states and seven countries.