Sales and Marketing in a Time and Attention Starved World

In today’s over-saturated world of twenty four hour media, advertisement, and promotion, we are drowning in too much data and too many messages. Our brains are full, and our attention span is depleted.

Paradoxically, despite this flood of information, we remain thirsty for highly specific information that directly helps us solve our problems.

As such, the goal of sales and marketing today needs to center around providing only that specific information that is highly relevant to the prospect or customer. It is WII-FM (What’s In It For Me) on steroids.

1.  Narrow Your Customer Segments – Micro-Target

As I have discussed before in the blog, Lessons From a Customer, address what the customer wants and only what the customer wants.

If the customer wants her tile grout cleaned, that is all that she cares about. This customer is a different target and in a different market segment from someone who wants their carpet cleaned or someone who wants their wood floors polished. So, address their need in this market segment (getting the tile grout cleaned) alone. Yes, your company may provide all three of these services, and they may be closely related. But, the tile customer just does not have the time or attention span to care.

2. Target Your Prospect’s Role in the Buying Process

Especially when selling B2B (business to business), there are many people involved in making a purchasing decision: specifiers, consultants, recommenders, decision-makers, end users (the one who will live with the product or service), installers, and service persons. Be aware of the role that each prospect plays and address it specifically and uniquely as the wants and needs of each are usually quite different.

Target each type of prospect differently:

  1. Create and make available FAQ’s (frequently asked questions) for each of the different roles (specifier, decision-maker, end-user, etc.). These will be much shorter than a normal series of FAQ’s and targeted more directly. Thus, they will be much more likely to be read and to provide value.
  2. Create separate lists of prospect questions and/or separate presentations. Keep them short and ensure that you leave out questions, features, or benefits that may be important overall, but that are not important to the type of prospect that you will be meeting.
  3. Have separate landing pages on your website with separate and specific content for that type of prospect.
  4. Re-cast your best sales and marketing stories so that they appeal directly and only to that prospect type.

 3.  Find and Address the Hot Button

In whatever market you are selling and to whomever you are selling, you need to find that prospect’s hot button:

What are the one or two big benefits that they want from your product and service?

Find these hot buttons and focus relentlessly and (nearly) exclusively on them. Be brief, remembering that too much information will overwhelm your prospect and use up too much of their time and attention.

I relate a cautionary tale from a colleague of what to avoid:

The salesperson was selling a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system to the CEO, the final decision-maker. The salesperson and the recommender within the company had clearly identified the CEO’s hot button: to collect a record of all sales activities and a history of all customer touches; and to have all this data in one easily accessible place.

So, the salesperson explained the basics of the system and how it could satisfy these needs. He was thorough and finished explaining and answering questions related to the hot button within 15 minutes.

The CEO was pleased, and the sale was all but won.

Except, there were 45 minutes left in the sales call. So, the salesperson began explaining the more complex items in the CRM system that were really cool: dashboards to see all activity at a glance, the possibility to perform analytics on the data, and the huge benefit in improved communication through the equivalent of Salesforce Chatter. The CEO asked a number of questions and began to get mired in the details, becoming both confused and tired.

In the end, this confusion was enough for the CEO to put off buying the CRM program.

The sale was lost.

The moral of the story: focus laser-like on the customer hot buttons; and then be done!


About David Shedd

David has been a President - CEO - COO of an up to $350M group of manufacturing, distribution, specialty retail and services companies, having led 22 different businesses from turnarounds to start-ups to fast growth companies.
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