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“When Do You Need A Response?”

by David Brock on June 20th, 2019

We live in a FOMO, interrupt driven world. We are distracted by the Adrenalin rush of being busy, forgetting that we aren’t accomplishing the things we had intended to accomplish.

One of the most devastating things to our goal attainment is our mistaken view of what it means to be “customer responsive.”

Recently, I was watching a sales team work. They were constantly busy, but at the end of each day, as we reviewed their progress against their goals, the progress didn’t align with the activity. As we discussed what happened, these comments started showing a pattern:

  • “A customer called asking a question, I stopped everything to research the answer and get back to them.”
  • ” I got an email from a potential customer looking for information, it took me about 45 minutes to put it together and get back to them.”
  • “Someone in marketing wanted to know…….”

The patterns, were pretty clear, everyone was instantly re-prioritizing their time around responding to interruptions. As a result, they were accomplishing nothing that was on their priority list.

“But Dave, we have to be responsive to our customers, if we aren’t……” is the response I get when I challenge people on this. But I think we confuse being “responsive,” with acting immediately.

What customers or anyone wants is an answer to their query, but that doesn’t mean they need it, or even want it immediately!

What would happen if we asked, “Would it be OK if I got this to you by……?” Or even, “When do you need this?”

The reality is the majority of inquiries we get don’t need an immediate response, yet we interrupt what we are doing to provide an immediate response. We don’t get extra credit points or create additional value by our speed of response–after all they are just looking for answers.

One of the things we don’t think of when we respond immediately is that we are actually interrupting the customer. They may be involved in something very different, but in our drive to be responsive, we are interrupting them, impacting their own ability to get things done.

Finally, often, we provide a higher quality response when we take more time to think about things.

The simple questions, “Would it be OK….” or “When do you….” give the customer the opportunity to make a choice. If they truly need it immediately, we can respond, but we never give the customer the opportunity to choose.

The overall impact is a tremendous productivity loss. We don’t get done what we had planned to get done, because of the interruptions. And we may not be providing as complete answers as we might, because of our rush to respond.

Going back to the sales team, we tried a few new things, the results were amazing:

  1. They didn’t pick up the phone when a call came in, but they were engaged in something else. They let the call roll into voicemail.
  2. Likewise, they didn’t look at incoming texts or emails.
  3. They kept the what they did during the time block focused on that time block. If it was prospecting, they prospected, if it was prepping a proposal, they worked on the proposal.
  4. Every couple of hours, they scheduled a small time block to look at those incoming queries. But their response was, “When do you need a response,” or”Can I get this to you by ……”
  5. They established a new “time block” for handling inquiries. Doing this, they were able to work through all the queries they had gotten, responding to them in a quality fashion. For some, it was an hour block every day, for others, it was 90 minutes every couple of days.

After a couple of weeks, the results were stunning. The team was getting more work done. When we looked at their weekly goals, they were accomplishing far more than they ever had.

Interestingly, the customers were happier. The responses they were getting were more thoughtful than previously, but more importantly, they weren’t interrupting what the customer was doing. The sales people started saying, “If I get back to you by Friday, would that be OK? Can we arrange a time do discuss on Friday?” The surprising result was customers could schedule this meeting into their day, and were more prepared and engaged in talking about the response.

For the next 2 weeks, try the same approach yourself. I suspect you will be stunned with how much it improves your productivity and your customer engagement.

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