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Busy Being Distracted

I received an email from a friend…it reads…


Hey L.A. You always talk about how people should practice empathic listening? well here’s a story that supports your argument100%.


I stopped in the local Subway to grab a quick sandwich. Luckily there wasn't a line, but I was still left waiting as no one was there to handle my order. Two other employees were busy helping other customers, and one of them yelled,

"Michelle, counter!"

About 30 seconds later a 20-something customer service rep came out, didn't look me in the eye and blurted, "Ca’I help you?"

I was ready, since I had ample time to prepare my script.

"Yes, please. I'd like a six-inch turkey, on whole grain, not toasted."

She slapped on gloves, then looked at me a bit puzzled and said, "You said meatball, right?"

That was odd. "Turkey" sounds nothing like "meatball." "No, I said turkey. On whole grain."

She searched for the turkey, fumbled around a bit, then looked at me again and said, "White bread?"

I thought she was joking. I gave her a "You're kidding right?"-kind of smirk.

Realizing she actually didn't know, I replied, "Well, again, I'd like whole grain please."

A few seconds passed as she feverishly threw together the sandwich, looked up and said, "You said toasted, right?"

Now I'm laughing. I replied, "Actually, no, I didn't say that. And no thanks, not toasted."

Finally she asked, "What would you like on it?"

Given my experience up to this point, it took everything I had--trust me-- to not return with something like, "I'd answer, but I don't think it will do any good, so just ask me a second time right now."

Instead, I maintained my composure and very slowly told her what I'd like, item by item. I even pointed at them to help her visualize.


Crazy Ha’un!

No…not crazy at all.

I'd like to think this experience is the exception with service people, sales people, or even just people in general. You and I both know that unfortunately it is more the norm.

The typical attention span today is mere seconds--if that. People are addicted to distraction.

Young and old. We communicate in abbreviated phrases. We get news in headlines, scrawls and tweets. If a website doesn't grab our attention in seconds, click. Next.

And don't even get me going on the entire notion of "present but absent," which is using your mobile device to text, call, tweet, email or whatever-- when you are WITH another person. Any time someone does that they are indicating, "I've got a more important person on the other end of this."

Present but absent.

OK, let me get this rant back on the tracks. My point is the reality today is that we must operate in the environment where people in general have shorter attention spans than ever.

We are more distracted and inundated with stimuli than ever before. To be effective in the sales game, we need to proactively counteract that when we are sending, and receivingCommunication.

A couple of very rudimentary, but nevertheless important points.

Pay Attention
I believe that to truly be an effective communicator, you need to work hard at the art and science of simply paying attention.

Yes, that means actually listening to what the other person is saying, and not thinking of what you will say next. Or worse, interrupting them with what you want to say.

It means not checking your emails, texts, tweets, Facebook or any other site while you are speaking with a prospect or customer. I heard a speaker say that there is no such thing as multi-tasking, since a person can only do one thing at a time. If you are flitting from thing to thing, you are not doing any of them very well. Certainly you wouldn't have your A-game when you are talking on the phone and trying to perform several other activities.

Here's a test worth taking: on the remainder of your spoken communication today, on the phone and face-to-face, practice "Venus Fly Trap" listening. That means grabbing on to every word you hear as if you would be tested on it, with dire consequences if you failed. You might be surprised at how much you really hear.

Pre-empt their Distraction
What's harder to control, but certainly doable, is grabbing and keeping their attention. How? Talk about their favorite subject: them. This is not new. But then again, I don't know why more reps don't do it.

Sitting in my voice mail inbox right now is a message from a clueless caller who left a 90-second message about the service he provides to Fitness Facilities and how he wants to set up an appointment so he could show me how I should be using his service in my Fitness Facility. Uh, hello. It wouldn't take more than a few seconds to find out exactly what I do, which is not run a Gym.

What my business is is helping salespeople do what he didn’t. Create interest, engage prospects and customers, and move the sales process forward. That's what we talk about here every week, and my sites are full of free info, and much much more that you can invest in.

if you made it all the way to here, congrats. You either have a refined attention span, and/or I kept your interest. Follow these ideas and you will be way ahead of those who are busy being distracted.

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  • This story made me laugh, because I can sympathize with you. I had called a Subway to put in a take-out order. Immediately after answering the phone I was asked to, "Will you hold, please?" "Sure!" Well, I turned the speaker phone on and waited patiently. I picked up my phone and realized 13 minutes had passed by. A little longer we were at 19 minutes and I was determined not to had to drive down wait in line and try and juggle pointing at four different sandwhiches and making sure the right thing was put on each. I failed epicly. I turned my speaker phone off, put my phone on mute, shoved it into my pocket, and walked to the Subway where I had called to place my order. Got through the line, paid, and made it back with four sandwhiches for all of us here at the dealership. I turned the speakerphone back on and at 36 minutes and 23 seconds, finally....FINALLY! Someone picked up the phone! Did they check to see if I was waiting ever so patiently? Nope! They just hung up! So I took my receipt and my sandwhich over to one of the computers, hopped onto and left a fantastic review!

    36 minutes and 23 second.....that's distracted. They got a terrible review and I got a free cookie.

  • Very well said L.A.

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