State of FLOW — It’s Time for Sales, Too

Sales Development Reps, or SDRs, have a challenging assignment: focusing on outbound lead generation, all-day, everyday. This is arguably one of the hardest jobs in all of sales. It involves the completion of (often) hundreds of discrete sales activities per day in service of research, prospecting, opening conversations, in order to book meetings. So why shouldn’t this be rich ground for introducing proven behavioral psychology to improve what has come to be known as achieving a state of flow?

Get to know Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi TED Talk

Noted behavioral psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has been a champion of research into the concept of flow, often described as:

  • Being in the zone
  • Losing oneself in work
  • Being in a groove
  • Watching the game slow down

It’s the mental state where a person is fully immersed in performing an activity, accompanied by a feeling of full involvement, energized focus and even enjoyment in the process of that activity.

Csikszentmihalyi describes flow as, “being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.”

He lays out criteria for achieving flow in his eponymous bestselling book.

  1. Clear goals that, while challenging, are still attainable.
  2. Strong concentration and focused attention.
  3. The activity is intrinsically rewarding.
  4. Feelings of serenity; a loss of feelings of self-consciousness.
  5. Timelessness; a distorted sense of time; feeling so focused on the present that you lose track of time passing.
  6. Immediate feedback.
  7. Knowing that the task is doable; a balance between skill level and the challenge presented.
  8. Feelings of personal control over the situation and the outcome.
  9. Lack of awareness of physical needs.
  10. Complete focus on the activity itself.

The punchline is that achieving flow leads to greater happiness, satisfaction, and fulfillment. Yet you rarely hear these concepts applied to sales. Especially Sales Development.

A Sales Development Imperative

The sales process is mutable, and the goal of the sales development rep workflow is moving potential customers through the sales pipeline. At its simplest, the tasks may involve assembling lead lists, then calling or emailing prospects to qualify them. The more efficient and effective SDRs can be in this process, the better– especially from a monetary perspective, as most reps have quotas based on qualified meetings set (and held). Clearly, an excellent SDR is a huge asset to a sales organization. The SDR must work with leads similarly to how an expert surfer works with the ocean, zeroing in on the waves that look the best to catch.

And much like surfing itself, timing and approach matter as much as skill. It’s both an art and a science, and when a talented SDR doesn’t have the tools he or she needs to create automated workflows, that talent can be squandered on repetitive or administrative tasks.

Cognitive Switching Penalty

It gets worse. There’s a concept in psychology called the cognitive switching penalty, where each task switch wastes seconds, and if you do a lot of switching in a day it adds up to a loss of 40% of your productivity. The human brain is wired to be focused on one task at a time– no matter how much we may try to fool ourselves otherwise.

So the SDR working across many tools– Lead Lists, Inbox, Phone, Spreadsheets, Social Media Networks, Browser Tabs– will undoubtedly pay a huge cognitive switching penalty, each and every day.

Consistent Flow and Productivity Are Fundamental

For an SDR to deliver the best possible results, flow through the sales pipeline and sales productivity must be as consistent as possible in the sales prospecting environment. Predictable pipeline is magical for an organization.When sales closers know that a steady stream of qualified leads will flow through the pipeline, they can plan their workflows more predictably. Sales leaders who can trust their sales forecasts sleep well at night. CEOs who know they can reliably source new revenue are emboldened and ecstatic.

When a sales development rep workflow is designed for both consistency and productivity, there are fewer fits and starts, and more time can be devoted to actually moving prospects dependably toward the purchase transaction.

… But It’s Not Easy to Achieve

Of course, creating a sales pipeline with a balanced flow and creating a sales environment of consistent productivity isn’t exactly easy. That’s why the SDRs who can do it are considered superstars. One way they can work toward this ideal, steady-state sales flow is by minimizing time spent on administrative tasks and other things that can be automated. Qualifying leads involves the collection of data, and even in the age of broadband and constant connectivity it can take time and effort to collect what is required to qualify leads. And once a business enters a growth phase, that task becomes even more involved.

A talented SDR with advanced tools is a tremendous asset to any B2B company.

Flow Becomes More Complex as Your Business Grows

Maybe your SDR has established a groove for qualifying leads and ensuring closers have a stable flow of qualified prospects at all times. But what happens after a wildly successful product launch, or when the business hits an inflection point and growth accelerates? When this happens there’s even less time for trial and error, and for workflows that are inefficient. SDR workflows that scale easily are essential, which means your SDRs need workflow tools that facilitate the sales process both now and tomorrow.

FLOW Lets You Orchestrate Tasks Skillfully

The name for KiteDesk FLOW was deliberately chosen. This lead management platform is designed to help ordinary SDRs become superstar SDRs. It brings together data, discovery, tasks, analytics, and automation in one seamless interface that saves time and prevents duplication of effort. For example, KiteDesk FLOW begins with targeting the right data, across the web, and automatically collecting and evaluating data necessary to qualify leads.

The goal, simply put, is to get reps into a state of FLOW. To eliminate cognitive switching penalties. To enable clear goals. To focus attention (across hundreds of tasks per day). To pass personal control back to the rep. To orchestrate actions in ways that achieve optimal results– and constantly provide feedback on what’s working (and what isn’t).

So FLOW takes the SDR role to another level, using tools like email, softphone, metrics, ToDo’s and structured steps to ensure sales professionals are taking care of the most appropriate tasks at any given time, as determined by actual analytics. The result is a scalable solution for more predictable, steady flow through the sales pipeline of qualified leads so that everyone on the sales team can optimize their productivity. With outstanding tools like KiteDesk FLOW, they can coordinate their activities with exceptional skill, so that at any given time they’re moving the sales process along in priority order, steadily bringing in new leads, while facilitating interaction with existing leads so more sales can be closed, more efficiently.

The sales process doesn’t always proceed in a straight line. Good SDRs understand and accept this. But they also can get in the zone. It’s all about having the right tool to produce the right outcomes. We would love for you to request a demo and learn for yourself the many ways that KiteDesk FLOW provides your superstar SDRs with the workflow tools they need to deliver outstanding results consistently.

Photo credit Tim Marshall, Lukas Budimaier

Originally published at on November 15, 2016.