The Gist:

  • The more crowded the venue, the more difficult it can be to break through the noise.
  • Some mediums are overcrowded, making it difficult to acquire your client’s time and their full attention.
  • You are better off playing in places where there is less competition.

There are a number of venues where you might compete for your client’s time and attention. Two of the most important are their company’s office and their phone line. But if you’ve decided to compete for a share of your client’s email inbox, you’ve probably already run into trouble gaining and keeping their attention. Getting their attention is much easier when you seek it in a place that isn’t overrun with competition.

A group of sales reps try and compete for attention

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Where Sales Reps Compete for Attention

It seems that salespeople everywhere now choose to compete for attention by email, the most overcrowded venue available. As a medium, email is so disruptive and overwhelming that most people only scan for what’s important enough to act on, ignoring anything and anyone outside that priority.

There is little doubt that your competitor is also in your prospective client’s inbox, along with dozens of other salespeople in different industries. And let’s not forget the automated messaging that pretends to be from a salesperson but was actually written by the company’s Chief Marketing Officer to ramp up the pressure on every recipient. Those who practice this self-oriented approach have little empathy, let alone compassion, for their email-inundated contacts.

The choice to compete here is a poor decision, especially if email is the only medium you use. Before you choose a message venue, consider how difficult it is to break through the noise or how unlikely your client is to differentiate your message from the hundreds of others arriving that week. In a matter of hours, your email will be buried two or three screens down, unlikely to see the light of day.

A salesperson has a conversation with a prospect client using a better medium: face-to-face

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Can You Hear Me Now?

After a decade of salespeople being bullied not to call their prospective clients, many office phones have stopped ringing. It’s rare to receive a cold call, even though it is still the best choice available for scheduling meetings. Those who complain about a cold call’s low yield, especially given the efficiency of using email templates, fail to realize that the effectiveness of an email approaches zero when it might as well be spam—and thus certain to be deleted with extreme prejudice.

The phone is a better choice than email because it requires your contact to give you more of their attention. They have to listen to know how to respond to your conversation, and the cultural pattern of giving a phone conversation your attention is burnt in. Beyond that, though, what makes this choice so much better than email is the lack of competition. Because most of your competitors rely on email, your call is more likely to earn your client’s time and attention, without the dozens of built-in distractions plaguing any email.

There is an advantage in pitching where others are not, but you must be willing to do what others will not to secure your advantage.

Physical Presence and Attention

Similar advantages come with in-person meetings. It is highly unlikely that your prospective client is going to answer their phone, engage in a conversation with another person, read their email, or give their attention to something or someone else when you are sitting directly across from them, especially in their office or in a meeting room. Occasionally, you might bump into a contact who has a tough time giving you their full and undivided attention, even for twenty minutes at a time, but most people will be polite enough to engage with you in a professional manner. This lets you have a real conversation, one that is more valuable because you have their focus. What’s more, there is no way your competitor can steal their attention when you are alone with your prospective client.

A salesperson dominates against the competition

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A Domination Strategy

In a football game, the team who gets the most time on offense has a huge advantage, simply because they have more opportunities to put points on the board. Sales often works the same way, especially if your team is the only one who shows up at a given venue! But think of the chaos if 126 teams—one for every email the average knowledge worker receives each day—tried to take the field at once. You’d be lucky to even touch the ball, let alone run up the score against your rival.

The more you can command your prospective client’s time and their full attention, the greater your chances of creating value for them, differentiating yourself, and creating a preference to be their new partner. But the more time you spend in the crowd, the more difficult you make your job.

Do Good Work:

  • Move your primary venue for starting the sales conversation to a place where you are less likely to compete for your client’s attention.
  • Do the work necessary to acquire and retain your contact’s full attention.
  • Avoid fighting for attention in places where that outcome is incredibly difficult to achieve.
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Sales 2021
Post by Anthony Iannarino on March 25, 2021
Anthony Iannarino
Anthony Iannarino is a writer, an author of four books on the modern sales approach, an international speaker, and an entrepreneur. Anthony posts here daily.
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