How do you get a sales prospect's attention?

By Michael Perla on Sep 15, 2012

There has been a lot of ink spilled on how to get people’s attention … how to have people like you … how to be more popular, and ad infinitum. One of the biggest challenges in sales is “breaking through the noise” to capture someone’s attention.

Thomas Davenport’s 2001 book, The Attention Economy: Understanding the New Currency of Business, seems even more important today in a world of dizzying amounts of data and hyper-accelerated news cycles. 

In terms of ideas, there has been a lot written on being more provocative, insightful or challenging on sales calls. The entire line of thinking has a lot of merit and it is a great addition to one’s toolbox. The issue is if it’s your only approach, which is nicely summarized by Abraham Maslow’s quote:

“If you only have a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.”

So what are some other ideas for capturing a prospect’s attention besides being more provocative?

Think Big.  A lot of advertisers make dramatic statements to get your attention. For consumers it may be about quickly losing weight; for businesses, it may be about doubling their revenue. Thinking small is unlikely to get noticed – a 1 or 2% change is unlikely to elicit a strong response. The next one billion dollar idea might …

Be Personal. Generic and undifferentiated messages/pitches are almost a sign of disrespect. It’s sort of like showing up late all the time – not respecting someone’s time and attention. One-to-one marketing is so appealing because we want someone to “talk” directly to us … to look us straight in the eye … to empathically listen to us. For many people, their main question is “What’s in it for me?”

Be Passionate.  We follow and love energy. Passion is focused energy and it’s infectious. You want to be near it and feed off it. I think it’s best summarized by one of our Top Performer interviewees, Sonny Thielbar

“Find something that you absolutely love and want to talk about every day, even when you’re not on the clock … People are drawn to passion. Find this in your life and it will work.” 

Once you have someone’s attention, keeping it is another matter. You have to amplify the above and have something to say beyond the typical platitudes and empty slogans.

For most sellers, being a walking brochure just doesn’t cut it. First you have to get a prospect’s attention, and second you have to say something that is relevant and insightful, which could be based on your research about the company and/or via some initial discovery.

Michael Perla

Written by Michael Perla

Michael Perla is a strategic leader and co-author of Symmetrics Group’s book "7 Steps to Sales Force Transformation." Michael specializes in providing actionable insights to marketing and sales organizations to help them increase pipelines, win ratios and productivity. Having sold and led projects with the Global 50 to Fortune 1000 companies, Michael provides the analytical rigor of a financial analyst with the holistic skills of a strategist to help Symmetrics Group clients improve marketing or sales performance. He has worked as a sales overlay, head of sales operations, and head of strategic marketing planning, in addition to a sales effectiveness consultant. In his spare time, he enjoys working out, reading, and watching his kids play sports.

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