No matter how much experience you have, reviewing the fundamentals of getting and keeping attention is always important. The market has changed, attention spans are shorter, and more “clutter” makes it difficult to stand out. Practicing these fundamentals will move you quickly into the “elite seller” category.
Competing for Attention
The market has drastically changed in the past few years. Business meetings have changed from conference rooms and long lunches to virtual meetings and phone calls. The time we, as salespeople, are given has also drastically decreased. Yet, many salespeople have still not adopted a new approach.
When you start to look at how many meetings your customers are in, the numbers are staggering. The average CEO has at least 37 meetings per week, that is 72% of their time. The average middle management employee spends roughly 35% of their time in meetings, while upper management spends 50% of their time in meetings.
What does this mean? The higher-up you are trying to sell, the shorter the meeting time you have. Often, first phone conversations are set for up to 15 – 30 mins. That is IF you can create enough interest to generate a first meeting. Executives do not have time to entertain people that come across as….lower level sellers. The goal is to become a Thought Leader – and one that can provide insights, ideas, and value.
Earn Their Time Investment
The good news is while every day there are many salespeople vying for your customers’ attention, very few salespeople are doing it well. How does a salesperson cut through all the clutter to not only become relevant, but to get noticed and welcomed?
Comedian Jerry Seinfeld once said, “This whole idea of an attention span is, I think, a misnomer. People have an infinite attention span if you are entertaining them.” We even have scientific data to back it up, well, the data from Netflix.
Almost a decade ago the internet blew up with the shocking claim, “humans have an 8-second attention span. Less than that of a goldfish! And it’s getting shorter.” Netflix’s extensive data tracking helped put this claim to dust. They can accurately predict how long and what episode will hook a person in. 73% of people having binge-watched a show, meaning they would have watched 5 hours of entertaining content in a single sitting.
Fellow comic Steve Martin offered a similar sentiment, “Be so good they can’t ignore you.” One of the most reliable mechanisms for sustaining attention – according to actual science – is storytelling.
What can you do to be that good? Follow these five guidelines so your customers will not be able to ignore you. If you learn to adopt these and execute them well, customers will proactively seek you out!
1. Prepare for Success
“I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” -Mark Twain
Having coached thousands of people around the world, I am still disappointed about how little salespeople prepare. With the importance of making connections more quickly, messages need to be well prepared and rehearsed.
The preparation should be split into 3 areas of focus.
- Researching the people attending the meeting. This includes their business background, their likely social style, personal agendas, and business priorities. The question becomes, “what is likely driving them?”
- Preparing your message, gathering your support material (the advantage of video is that you can quickly share your screen), and making sure that you provide at least 1-2 insights that they may not have read or heard about. In essence, DO YOUR HOMEWORK!
- Practice your delivery! This really should not have to be stated – but it becomes obvious when someone has not practiced. It is fundamental and common sense – but there are many that simply do not do it.
And do not forget to prepare for what could possibly go wrong! As an example, prepare your discussion for half the time that you are given. Many times, interruptions take place, and the meeting time is cut in half. If you haven’t planned for this, you will fail.
2. Deliver Your Message
Salespeople, in their journey to become Thought Leaders, need to generate simpler messages. How can you best do this? By communicating those messages in a distinct way and adapting those messages to each client context. That means making them more visual, emotional, and engaging. Practice this with your manager or higher-level executive. Do not be afraid to ask for feedback.
Remember that your spoken word is only 7% of the message. To assist in your spoken word, create sound bites, which are memorable and repeatable to gain traction around your idea. You must also pay attention to the message your appearance, facial expressions, body language, and style of engagement create.
You want them to think, “I feel that this person’s message is credible enough AND they are authentic enough for me to truly engage in a conversation with them.”
3. Have a Point of View
I will say this as direct as I can…please DO NOT use “Old School” sales training techniques. Do not sit in front of a potential client and ask them about their problems! This may have been effective 20+ years ago, but now it simply labels you as being intellectually lazy. Your potential client will immediately put you in the same bucket as every other B-class salesperson. You risk falling into the “get rid of them as fast as I can and never see them again” bucket. The damage you do to your credibility with that contact may never be undone.
Your potential client has agreed to meet with you for only one reason, because they are expecting you to bring some new thinking, or as we say, thought leadership. After all, that is the first thing we must sell, since they can find out all about us and our products/services from their own sources.
As a coach, I often say, “Do not go to a meeting with a new potential client without a strong point of view on something!” Your customer wants to know where you stand – especially if you want them to view you as a valuable thought leader. For example, mention your experience, it is a major part of why they are potentially buying your idea.
4. Enable Emotion
Most salespeople, ignorantly, still rely on logic to try to change a person’s motivation to buy. They think, “If I have the best product or service for the best price, they would be crazy not to buy it, right?” This is rampant and wrong.
While this can be frustrating, emotions act as a powerful ally in steering people to the decision you want. Without emotion, people would be incapable of making any decision, let alone a logical one. Emotions are essentially shortcuts built by the brain to generate a feeling on a certain subject, which then guides decisions and actions. Entertainment, emotion, and engagement all work synergistically together.
Without emotion – NOTHING will happen. You might have a pleasant discussion but no action will be taken. The equation is simple: Emotion = Action = Results. You MUST get them either disturbed or excited as you engage them. Focusing on the business and personal outcomes from your idea will help them connect the emotional dots.
5. Be Your Authentic Self!!
Busy executives have no patience for engaging with salespeople when they feel they are being “sold to.” Be authentic!
Get rid of overly salesy language. Dump your acronyms and “tech talk”. Remember the adage, “people buy from people”. In a post-COVID environment, you should seek to gain a connection. Be yourself, let your personality shine and engage as an equal. While it may seem counter-intuitive, your customer will find your genuine approach much more interesting.
Do not be freaked out by titles; they are just people with their own personal issues and failings. Do not think of it as a meeting, but rather as a conversation about something you are so excited about that you want to share that excitement. Your mindset is everything. Admittedly, this is sometimes hard to do. Just remember to be yourself and think of your idea as a “gift” that you are personally delivering.
Also remember to bring your sense of humor. While business is important, there is no reason why you can’t have fun while working towards an opportunity or agreement.
The truly elite in the world of consultative selling are not magically gifted. They follow a process, execute consistently well, and leave little room for failure. They prepare for success, continually refine their messages, target the right people, and speak to business and personal outcomes. All salespeople and proven thought leaders experience challenges. The steps outlined in this article will greatly enhance your results.
Do you find yourself being beaten out by your competition more often than not? It could be that you are not making yourself memorable enough to potential clients. In your next sales meeting, keep these 5 guidelines in mind. Write them down and think about how you will apply them in your meeting. After the meeting, reflect on the 5 guidelines. Did you do them?