Selling With Laser Focus

Selling With Laser Focus

Be cautious of distractions disguised as opportunities. At some point in every sales professional’s career, we have chased an opportunity that turned out to be nothing more than a distraction. In modern selling, the number of daily distractions is limitless. It’s no wonder sales leaders are constantly struggling to get more done. Today there is a technological solution for every conceivable business workflow, yet fifty percent of sales teams underperform by missing quota. The good news is that there’s a simple solution—focus. 

Focus does not have the headline-grabbing media buzz of artificial intelligence because who wants to admit they are easily distracted? However, we feel compelled to spend hours testing ChatGPT prompts to stay caught up on the A.I. revolution. If you can relate to these challenges, you are not alone. Sales leaders worldwide, myself included, can get sucked down the rabbit hole of distractions disguised as opportunities. This article explores what separates highly focused sales professionals from those who are easily sidetracked and simple steps you can implement today to improve your sales focus. 

Less is More 

Sales success isn’t a game won by whoever does the most daily sales activities. Research has proven that multitasking makes us demonstrably 40 percent less productive. John D Rockefeller said, “Do not many of us who fail to achieve big things … fail because we lack concentration—the art of concentrating the mind on the thing to be done at the proper time and to the exclusion of everything else?” The key phrase in that quote is, “to the exclusion of everything else.” Put another way, focus is deciding what things you won’t do. Paradoxically most of us start each day, with our minds racing, thinking about everything we need to do.  

Focus is the most powerful tool in sales. Often it is not the most brilliant person who achieves the best results in sales, but the most focused. An average salesperson with laser focus can accomplish more than a genius with poor focus. Focus has a direct impact on productivity. Productivity directly impacts profitability, which is why focus is an exceptionally potent instrument for every sales professional. 

The seductiveness of A.I. has the potential to make us all more productive. The more productive we are, the more profitable we will be, is the logic. But I am reminded of the words of Peter Drucker, the founder of modern business management, who said, “There is nothing so useless as doing with great efficiently that which should not be done at all.”

Before we can work on improving productivity, we must prioritize. Focus makes a sales team more productive and profitable because it forces the prioritization of decisions. Everyone in sales wants to be more productive, but at what—prospecting, networking, negotiating, closing? What about recruiting, training, and retaining? For any sales organization, there are numerous ways to increase profits and even more ways to improve productivity. But how many priorities can you have? For most organizations, priorities have more significant profit potential than productivity.  

Common Obstacles to Focus 

As a sales manager, your to-do list is packed most days: Create a new job listing, update commission reports, review the pipeline, and find time for one-on-one coaching with sales reps. But between the random colleague asking, “Do you have a second?” and the marketing manager asking, “Can you review this content before we push it live?“ you have a nagging feeling this could be another late night.  

Sound familiar? That’s an experience we all go through in sales management until we learn to master our attention. We start a project, get interrupted, then start again. Meanwhile, the overall quality of work we deliver drops with each interruption. Losing focus typically comes down to common factors: 

  1. Lack of Interest: It’s easier to concentrate when we are interested in the topic we are trying to concentrate on. Focus requires engagement.  
  2. Negative States: When we are stressed, annoyed, tired, or hungry, our ability to concentrate is limited.  
  3. Poor Organization: It’s easier to stay focused when you follow a plan. Plans keep chaos away.  
  4. Low Energy Levels: Prolonged focus requires a lot of energy. Energy comes from good nutrition, sufficient sleep, and regular exercise. Coffee might be for closers, but caffeine cannot substitute bad lifestyle decisions.  
  5. Lack of Control: You must control your time to develop laser focus. Allowing others to interrupt you at their whim will prevent the flow state necessary for high-value work. 
  6. Lack of Clarity: You don’t know what you should be doing and feel stuck. 
  7. Lack of Motivation: You don’t feel like it and are over it. 

When any of these focus-busting factors are present, our work will suffer. Now let’s look at what we can do to improve our focus and the quality of our work.  

Improving Focus 

From experience, if every day feels like a struggle, you are likely acting without focus. Enhancing focus necessitates dedicated effort and active engagement in your daily work habits. However, the good news is that by doing so, you can improve your efficiency in completing crucial tasks within a shorter timeframe. To help you fast-track your focus, here are seven effective methods to improve your focus: 

  1. Create a conducive work environment: Establish a workspace that minimizes distractions. Clear away clutter, reduce noise, and ensure adequate lighting. Use tools like noise-canceling headphones or white noise machines to create a focused environment. 
  2. Practice time blocking: Allocate specific blocks of time for different tasks. Set aside uninterrupted time for prospecting, client meetings, follow-ups, and administrative tasks. By dedicating focused time to each activity, sales reps can avoid multitasking and increase concentration. 
  3. Minimize interruptions: Minimize unnecessary interruptions during focused work time. Communicate boundaries to colleagues and establish protocols for handling non-urgent requests. Consider turning off non-essential notifications on devices to avoid distractions. 
  4. Take regular breaks: Incorporate short breaks into the work routine. Research suggests that brief breaks can help replenish attention and prevent mental fatigue. Use break time to relax, stretch, or engage in activities that help recharge. 
  5. Optimize physical and mental well-being: Prioritize sleep, exercise, and a healthy diet. Physical activity and proper rest contribute to cognitive functioning, including focus and attention. Managing stress and maintaining a positive mindset also supports mental clarity. 
  6. Continuous skill development: Regularly invest in learning and skill development related to sales techniques, product knowledge, and customer engagement. Being well-informed and confident in their abilities can enhance sales reps’ focus and overall performance. 
  7. Practice single-tasking: Engage in one task at a time instead of attempting to multitask. Multitasking can lead to reduced focus and productivity. By dedicating their attention to one task at a time, sales reps can achieve better results. 

Zero-Based Thinking 

What if you are stuck and not sure what to focus on? Zero-based thinking, is a decision-making and problem-solving approach that encourages individuals to evaluate situations and choices without being influenced by past decisions or emotional feelings. It involves starting from a “blank slate” and reevaluating every aspect of a situation, focusing on the current and future implications rather than relying on previous assumptions or justifications.  

For example, you could ask, “Knowing what I know now, if I were starting over, what activities would I choose to drop?” There’s often a sunk cost that influences our decisions and makes it difficult to change. The longer we do something, the harder it becomes to stop doing it. Instead of automatically defaulting to previous decisions or actions, zero-based thinking prompts individuals or companies to reevaluate all available options and consider new alternatives. 

Focus is a Limited Resource 

The ability to focus is a limited resource. Mark Zuckerberg wears the same t-shirt for the same reason Albert Einstein wore the same suits—to save mental bandwidth for essential matters. I am not advocating for sales professionals to have one single outfit, but I am supporting that focus is a limited resource capable of being depleted.  

Because focus is a limited resource that can be depleted, it must be managed. In sales, focus-depleting events are common. If you have ever left a client after a tough negotiation, you know how depleting sales can be. Here is a simple way to manage focus:

View it as a muscle and your daily work activities as exercise. Some mental exercises will be more strenuous than others for you. For example, writing may improve your clarity and energy, while working with Excel does the opposite. If you know crunching numbers in Excel is taxing, schedule time to decompress and re-focus. The last thing you want to do is take a vital client call after spending a few hours with pivot tables.  

In Conclusion

The power of focus is a defining factor in the success of salespeople and their organizations. Throughout my two decades in sales and sales training, I have witnessed a recurring obstacle that hinders the achievement of sales success—a lack of sustained focus.  

Distractions easily divert attention, resulting in a fragmented and scattered approach. However, salespeople can unlock their true potential by consciously overriding distractions and cultivating an unwavering focus on high-value activities. The efficient allocation of limited cognitive resources enables them to prioritize effectively, make informed decisions, and execute with precision. By recognizing the interconnected nature of focus, salespeople can harness its power to achieve remarkable results professionally and personally. So, let us embrace the power of focus, surmount distractions, and embark on a journey of unparalleled success in sales and all other facets of our lives.