Opportunities In A 15-second World


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A recent Associated Press article confirmed what many of us already know – a nanobe may now have a greater attention span than most humans. Short attention spans create both challenges and opportunities for the sales professional.

In the business world, blog postings are replacing articles, lengthy white papers don’t get read and 15-second TV commercials are gradually supplanting the 30-second spots that superseded the one-minute commercials of yesteryear.

Sales professionals need to be aware that the 15-second TV and Internet commercials confirm our decreasing attention spans and our growing intolerance for messages that require much of our time or focus.

In a 15-second world, the elevator speech can no longer take thirty seconds to deliver. Sales professionals have just a quick moment to tell prospects what their company does, how it does it and what makes all that different from what everyone else does. Not only that, but the message, the company and the sales professional must be credible.

We want our information fast, in snippets, with “facts” that hit us between the eyes and that don’t require us to think much about what we’ve heard or seen. It’s oftentimes enough that a sound bite confirms our beliefs, our prejudices for or against, and keeps us tethered to a group or organization with whom we feel comfortable and secure. Complicating matters is the 15-second commercial or message which immediately follows the one that just assaulted our senses.

John Greening, a professor at Northwestern University suggests that “It used to be that the most valuable thing on the planet was time, and now the most valuable thing on the planet is attention.” Marketers no longer have the luxury of spoon-feeding their messages to prospects and customers. Messaging must deliver high impact immediately and must be so clear that brain cells can simply absorb the message and move on, versus firing multiple synapses to find meaning and connect to personal relevance. This reality presents sales professionals with both a challenge and an opportunity.

The Challenge

A major challenge for sales professionals in virtually all industries is living with the marketing messages published by their companies. When the messaging isn’t crisp, concise, simple and delivered with impact, salespeople can provide invaluable feedback to the marketing folks and to senior managers by asking for appropriate changes in the messaging.

At the same time, sales professionals must critically examine the messaging they deliver to their prospects and customers. When sales professionals deliver solutions to an audience, the messaging must be crisp, concise, simple and must be delivered with impact. Further, messages must not be complicated with multiple choices that at best demand a stretching of short attention spans and at worse cause confusion. Offering prospects and customers multiple solution choices sounds reasonable; but in a 15-second world there often isn’t enough time to consider multiple alternatives from one vendor.

The Opportunity

The 15-second commercial or marketing splash may capture a customer’s attention for a few brief moments, but by definition the messages don’t educate buyers. Ultimately, a purchase decision is made with more attention than prospects allow for absorbing a marketing pitch. This is where the skills of the sales professional enter the equation as an opportunity.

When in front of prospects and customers, the sales professional has an opportunity to expand on marketing messages by delivering essential, useful knowledge that buyers don’t get from 15-second commercials. Just like effective marketing messages, the knowledge delivered by sales professionals must be concise, as simple as possible and no more complicated than necessary.

It’s the sales professional’s job to connect the dots – to help prospects and customers navigate from marketing messages that create a brief impact, to information and knowledge that helps buyers understand a solution, to a purchase decision that leaves buyers comfortable with the product or service, the sales professional and the supplier.

This work on messaging and delivery will require some work and effort which heretofore has not been part of the typical sales professional’s job description. The good news is that the sales people who are willing to do the work will become much more valuable to their customers and to their companies.

Copyright © 2010 Selling UpTM. All Rights Reserved.

Steve Chriest
Selling Up
Steve Chriest is the founder of Selling Up™, a sales consulting firm specializing in sales revenue improvement. He is the author of Selling The E-Suite, The Proven System for Reaching and Selling Senior Executives™ and Profits and Cash: The Game of Business™.


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