SALES: The Paradox of Attention Spans

Having implemented multiple sales capability frameworks across a variety of verticals with channels holding $1 billion plus in revenue there’s a skill gap phenomenon, sometimes behavioural, I’ve recognised and coined as  ‘racing to the checkout’.

This rush to pitch and sell a product or service could be a form of complacency even if only subconsciously. Habits formed over the first year or 2 as you master the art of your craft through so many conversations that it all becomes comfortable. You have all the answers to the questions or objections coming and you know the value your product. (Or so you think.)

Maybe it’s pressures to hit KPI’s and targets. The illusion here is that by speeding up the conversation, getting to the pitch quicker, clearly you’ll close more contracts. (Erm, guess again. Numbers of meetings alone, being quantity, doesn’t create success. Quality and mental attitude must also be considered)

The rush to close may also be something to do with the digitally or generally disruptive times in which we live. Attention spans are affected. Whilst researchers may not agree a definitive current average time frame the common view is attention span is significantly decreasing.


The Paradox of Attention & Learning Spans

The ‘transient’ nature of attention is dedicated to short term stimulus. Many studies, one by Microsoft, found this to be as little as 8 seconds. Even a goldfish can remain consciously focussed longer!

On the other hand ‘selectively sustained’ or ‘focussed’ attention is dedication to tasks which last longer. Again this may be argued as anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes. A break of state or change of pace allows extension even longer. (It’s why watching movies like ‘The Hobbit’ or ‘Dances With Wolves’ becomes possible or at least not such a chore.)

The paradox to be aware though is that whilst attention spans are shrinking the average time it takes to learn something new is still significant. Josh Kaufman in his Ted style talks would argue a timeframe of approximately 20 hours. His reference refers to learning a new skill through the process of:

  • Deconstruct the skill
  • Learn enough to self correct
  • Remove the barriers to practice
  • Practice for at least 20 hours


The same principles for learning a skill also apply in the arena of sales:

  • Deconstruct and endeavour to learn requirements, needs or pains your potential client
  • Learn enough to present bespoke, relevant and insightful presentations back to clients world
  • Remove the barriers to discovery of value and barriers perceived as objections
  • Keep practising, learning & leveraging insights to open/re-open interest and discussions in the first place


Discovery of value by any potential client takes sustainable focus on your part to overcome transient attention on theirs.


Stop ‘Racing To The Checkout’

Consider your weekly shopping, be it from a Coles, Aldi or wherever. I’m guessing you find a basket/shopping trolley then cover all aisles filling the aforementioned cart with goodies before proceeding to the checkout. You then pay for all items collectively, as a bundle, knowing you’ve gathered everything required.
If you noticed someone bouncing back and forth between aisle and cash register to scan and pay each item individually you’d likely find it unproductive at best and completely ludicrous at worst.

Consider the same is true for sales.

To pitch powerfully requires resistance to the urge of being the goldfish. You know, where you jump on every opportunity to pitch elements of your product or service every time a slight crack opens. This is no different than mentally running a prospect up and down to the cash till during discussions.

Racing to the checkout. Too eager to close having not discovered all requirements.


5 Swift Focus Tips For Success In The Sale

  1. Leverage powerful insights to gain attention and momentum
  2. Focus and give undivided attention to discover your potential clients needs
  3. Resist the urge to slip into goldfish mode. Stop racing to the checkout
  4. Tie product/services back to discovered needs based on a full shopping cart
  5. Do so aligned with a contemporary version of the ABC for sellingA – Any Advise you give is Appropriate
    B – Demonstrate personal Belief in the Benefit
    (You’re not pitching B******t)
    CCommunicate with Conviction
    (Conclusive ROI and Creatively with story)


We’re almost there! The approximate 800 word count of this article allows both your average and speed reader to digest the content well within the confines of suggested attention span for such pieces.

And so, to close, a final word to the wise in the shrewd style of Yoda speak:

‘Learn patience pitching young padowan! If success in sales it is you seek, attention and focus you must both create and give. Before proceeding to the checkout, fill the shopping cart first you must!’


Click on MC Yoda To Discover The Dark Side of Leading A Salesforce



Leave a Reply