Instead of Eliminating or Forbidding the Weapons of Mass Distraction

The Internet is a wonderful tool. Outside of the human brain, it is undoubtedly the greatest resource of its kind that the world has ever known. It connects us to knowledge and information, and it connects us to each other. You know how important the Internet is when it’s down for even the shortest of times.

The Internet is also the world’s greatest weapon of mass distraction. It is books, magazines, pictures, news, sporting events, television, movies, the virtual water cooler, and much more all rolled up into one super distraction.

It can monopolize a salesperson’s time. It can distract them from their most important tasks and their most important outcomes.

Some companies and some managers, even at this late day and age, have decided that to prevent their salespeople from being distracted, they must ban the Internet, or parts of the Internet.

This is the wrong approach.

Futility Is Her Name

First, even if you eliminate or forbid the use of the Internet by turning it off, by blocking certain sites, or by a management edict, you will fail.

If you are in management, it shouldn’t surprise you to learn that your salespeople have smart phones, iPads, tablet computers, and laptops equipped with wireless cards (some of which they pay for themselves). You can turn it off, block it, or ban it, but you cannot prevent the Internet from entering your building or from being a distraction to your salespeople.

Live with it.

Second, depriving your salespeople of the Internet is to deprive them of a critical sales resource.

The Internet, including even social media sites, is a source of information. It is a tool that enables a salesperson to identify and communicate with their dream clients. It is a tool for sharing value-creating ideas with their dream clients (and your paying clients).

My friend Charlie Green says that if you have to trust but verify, then you don’t really trust.

The web allows salespeople to chat with their peers about business in real time. And yes, it is a potential distraction. But there are better ways to prevent wasted time.

Treating Something More Than the Presenting Problem

Salespeople that waste their time being distracted by the Internet are certainly to blame for their own behavior. They lack the self-discipline to keep the commitments that they make to themselves and to others. (Note: I am not talking about the responsible use of the Internet, like, say, reading this blog). They lack the focus and the ability to give their job their full attention. That’s all under their control.

The presenting problem is wasted time. The underlying problem isn’t that they are distracted; distractions have always existed and always will exist. Instead of eliminating or forbidding the Internet, treat the underlying problem.

The underlying problem may be that you made a poor hiring decision.

Or it might be that your people need a greater mission, one in which the Internet would be a tool and not a distraction.

They might need to know and understand how what they do is important to the company and to the clients you serve.

They might need to understand why time is of the essence and how important they are to the mission.


Why is the Internet the weapon of mass distraction?

Why is the reaction to wasted time the forbidding of the distractions?

Wasted time is presenting problem. What are the underlying problems that lead to wasted time?

How do you avoid the sexy distractions that beg for your attention?

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  • Tim Mushey

    My solution is simple in theory, but it can work. If reps use the internet as a tool during business hours, of course we agree that it can certainly add value to their sales role. We all know that it can be a detriment to productivity though. The compromise… reps can treat themselves to a bit of “surfing time” at lunch or whenever they take a break during the day, to catch up on whatever personal stuff they feel the need to check out. But as you said Anthony, when it interrups their productivity, that is the issue. Discipline is the magic word.

    I worked for an organization recently where I did not have call display on my business cell phone or voicemail for that matter! Although I thought it was insanity in many ways, I understood the logic in theory, and made it work. But if I did not have access to the internet, especially with the power of social media for business in 2011, I would have felt like I was on a deserted island with two sticks, a rock, some firewood and a prayer!

    • S. Anthony Iannarino

      I agree, Tim. I believe that the tools prevent people from being away from work, and allowing their use improves productivity in a bunch of ways. A little time during lunch of breaks to take care of a few things in exchange for having the sales rep always on and always available for our clients is a good deal. We should leave it there. 

      • Tim Mushey

        For sure. The theory is pretty straight forward. The ongoing challenging for everyone with such easy access to social media is “turning it off” until the sales work is done. And of course still taking time to catch up with your personal stuff on breaks. I still struggle with this, even though I don’t have internet access through my blackberry! Have a great day.

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