I was reading Daniel Khaneman’s psychological masterpiece, Thinking, Fast and Slow, when I came across a brief phrase that stopped me in my tracks.
As Khaneman expounded on the principles of cognitive ease he referenced our “currency of attention.” That’s where I had to stop and chew on the concept.
If we think of attention as currency, it represents something of a commodity -- highly valuable but limited in supply. As such, the expenditure of the currency that we call "attention" probably deserves more ... well, attention.
Consider the typical one-sided sales presentation. Companies drill salespeople incessantly about the features and uses of the product they represent, and too many sales professionals become walking brochures as they spew meaningless minutia. The problem with this approach is that the typical customer stops paying attention to the presentation long before it has concluded. Why? Because their currency of attention was already spent.
Might you be guilty of being a brochure? I suspect that all salespeople violate this principle at some point. Here are three ways for you to maximize the return on investment of your prospect's "currency of attention":
1. Focus the customer’s attention on the right things.
If you know your customers have a limited amount of “currency,” make sure you are directing them to spend it in the right place. Consider brainstorming a hierarchy of information points to share with a prospect. Put that list in order and then build your sales presentation accordingly.
For example, your company story might be very important to the owner of the firm, but is it really more important than a customer’s understanding of how your solution might best resolve the customer’s problem? There's a good chance your customer would rather spend their currency discussing solutions rather than corporate history.
2. Keep the message simple.
Sometimes a customer’s currency gets exhausted because the message simply lasts too long, sounds too boring or seems too complex. Think about how you might narrow the focus of your message to spend as little currency as necessary on each key message.
For example, you might need to answer a question about financing, but that does not mean you should delve into the finer points of the subject. Just provide a top-level overview, confirm that the customer feels satisfied with the answer and then move on. Seek out these efficient expenditures of attention!
3. Follow the “traffic light rule.”
The "traffic light rule" suggests that you have a green light for 30 seconds to talk about a subject, and your customer is likely paying attention. By the time you get to 30 to 60 seconds, yellow light -- they may stay with you, or maybe not. Once you go over 60 seconds, red light -- you’ve probably lost them.
This is a good rule of thumb for life in general, but it is particularly helpful in sales.