The Economics of Attention: Why Your Prospects Aren't Listening To You
By Andy Paul firstname.lastname@example.org
In 1971, Herbert Simon, an economist at Carnegie-Mellon University, and a future Nobel Prize winner in Economics, wrote a very prescient description of the upcoming information revolution and the impact that the ready availability of seemingly endless quantities of information would have upon our ability to process and use it. While Simon wasn’t specifically addressing the selling and buying of products and services the conclusions he drew are certainly applicable in today’s sales environment.
The following is a quote from a paper Simon published in 1971. He wrote:”..in an information-rich world, the wealth of information means a dearth of something else: a scarcity of whatever it is that information consumes. What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention and a need to allocate that attention efficiently among the overabundance of information sources that might consume it.”
What Simon was describing was a situation based on the laws of economics. Namely, that the supply of any commodity, in this case the attention span of any consumer of information, is limited and that market forces will efficiently allocate that scarce resource among the various interests competing for it.
Let’s apply Simon’s lesson to the selling environment. Your prospects and customers are, by definition, consumers of information. They seek information from various sources, such as the Internet, social media and salespeople, in order to make fully informed decisions about purchasing the right products and services for their needs. However, as Dr. Simon pointed out, prospects and customers have a limited supply of attention to share among the various information sources requesting a piece of it. At some point during their buying process, they have to make a conscious decision about how to allocate their limited attention bandwidth between all the demands for that attention which includes talking to potential vendors, administrative tasks, management responsibilities, meetings of various kinds, making phone calls, returning emails, updating their Facebook status and texting with their spouse, kids and friends.
Therefore, your prospects and customers make an economic decision about how they are going to prioritize the allocation of their attention bandwidth. Those sellers that provide the greatest return to the prospect on the time invested in them will be given more time to sell the prospect. This means that sellers that create value for the prospect and customer by how they sell their product or service will have the inside track to the order. And those sellers that waste the prospect’s time will not get responses to their emails and voice mails. No matter what volume of emails and voice mails you toss their way.
In my book, Zero-Time Selling, 10 Essential Steps to Accelerate Every Company’s Sales, I discuss how your prospects calculate an economic return on the time they invest in you as a seller. I call this a Return on Time Invested (ROTI.) Every sales interaction you have with a prospect is judged on whether it provides value or not. If you are careless in how you spend the precious minutes of attention the prospect has allocated to you, then they will make the perfectly rational decision to invest their time with another seller. Again, are you wondering why your prospects aren’t listening to you? Now you know.
How can you effectively cut through the welter of information your prospects confront and become an asset instead of a liability on their attention balance sheet? The key is to Sell with Maximum Impact in the Least Time (MILT)™. Selling with MILT depends on responsiveness. In sales, responsiveness is the combination of information content and speed. Quickly provide the complete information the prospect needs to make an informed purchase decision with the least investment of their attention (otherwise known as “time”) and you will be rewarded with all the time you need to make your case. Help your prospect get their job done more quickly and they will allocate more of their limited attention to you because they have learned that you provide a better value and enhanced return on the investment of their time than your competitors.
Selling with Maximum Impact in the Least Time requires planning. Each interaction with a prospect has to create value for them. Whether it is a phone call, email, text, video chat or sales call, planning for the next prospect interaction has to answer the question: what information does the prospect need from us today, or what questions do they need answered today, to move to the next step in their buying process?
Furthermore, increase your prospect’s ROTI by ruthlessly eliminating the time wasting “check-in” and “touching base” calls from your sales repertoire. In addition, be sure to also eliminate the “get backs” from your selling that inject unnecessary delay into the buying cycle. (“That’s a great question, Mr Prospect. Unfortunately I don’t know the answer and I’ll have to get back to you with that information.”) Make absolutely certain that the person talking to your prospect can provide the value of answering whatever question arises.
Use the Economics of Attention to your advantage. And keep in mind that the ROTI is a two-way street. Maximize the prospect’s return on the time they invest with you and you will earn the maximum return, in the form of orders, on the time you invest in them.
Andy Paul is author of the award-winning book, Zero-Time Selling: 10 Essential Steps to Accelerate Every Company’s Sales. A frequent speaker, Andy conducts workshops and consults with B2B sales teams of all sizes and shapes to teach them how to sell more by selling faster. Sign up for our monthly newsletter, “The Speed of Selling.” Enjoy what you just read? Subscribe to our blog!
© Andy Paul 2012