TALKING SALES 196: "Why it's challenging to capture the attention of a busy customer"

John Smibert

Busy Customers 01 700x400                "There are many ways to get our message to a busy prospect" -  Interview by John Smibert

Your prospective customers are extremely busy and haven't got time to talk to you.

Given this, they are not going to respond to your call, email or social media approach - why should they. They get dozens of approaches every day and haven't even got time to sift through them and selectively respond - they simply ignore them.

SteveHallYou might feel that you want to build a relationship but they are not out there looking for a friend - or even a new trusted adviser. You are a threat to their productivity.

So how in the world do you break through and get their attention?

 I discussed this question with Steve Hall who is an expert at selling to the C-suite.

Steve helps by putting us in the shoes of the prospect and demonstrating why you are not getting their attention.  He then sets the scene for working out how you can break through.

I commend this 6 minute video to you - alternatively you can read the transcript below.


Steve is a thought leader in sales. He's an executive sales coach, a keynote speaker, a storyteller and he likes to play Devil's Advocate to help dispel myths around selling and marketing. He helps his clients to sell more effectively to "C" level executives and to develop compelling messages and business stories.

See more of the 'TALKING SALES' series here


John: Welcome back B2B sellers and sales leaders, great to have you again! I've got Steve Hall with me.

Steve: Hey John!

John: Hi Steve, how are you? We had a discussion recently, which was the last one we published, which was about the basics for prospecting. Before we go and talk about each one of those basics individually on separate interviews, I want to address what I think is the biggest challenge for everybody these days. We're all so busy, our customers are extremely busy, and trying to break through to our customer... I can tell you, I sit there working flat out, I'm so busy all the time, and when I get a phone call that's from a salesperson I can pick them up probably even before they've said a word but certainly after two or three words, and my immediate reaction is "How do I get rid of this person?" We're all so busy.

Steve: Let me ask you a question, John. Do you have that same reaction when you get an email from a salesperson?

John: I probably don't even open it.

Steve: Exactly, so it's a big challenge. I mean, the fact is that everyone is busy these days. I don't know about you, but what do I spend all of my time thinking about? Myself, my customers, my business, and I think we all do that. The number one focus is our family, our colleagues, our subordinates, our bosses; we're focused on what we want to achieve, not on what other people want to sell us.

John: Yes. And that's natural, isn't it?

Steve: Of course it's natural.

John: Yes, we might be out to help other people, but it's all about us and our family and our company and our career and so on.

Steve: That's absolutely right.

John: So when we're calling the customer, that's what they're thinking about; they're not thinking about us and what we might be able to do to help them.

Steve: Yes. One of the challenges I have with digital marketing is that there seems to be a perception around some people that people are out there actively looking for my content and downloading my white papers and looking at my case studies. That might be the case once I've gone through a long process to decide that I want a particular thing and I said, "I really need something," but what do you do when you sell a product or a service that people aren't waking up in the morning and thinking, "Oh, I must buy one of those!"?

John: And more often than not, you're actually not looking for a product or a service. You've got a problem, and the first thing you're not doing is looking for a product for that problem, you're looking at "How do I solve this problem?"

What does the radio advertising rep do when the only thing the client says is, I

Steve: Well, if you got to the stage where you've identified the problem, you've identified a potential solution... Because there are many different solutions to a problem. If you're not selling enough, you can do sales training, you can hire more salespeople, you can change your product set, you can reduce your prices, or you can do discounting....

John: Improve your sales coaching...

Steve: There's a heap of stuff you can do to sell more, and then once you decide that "Okay, in order to sell more I need a new analytics solution," and then you've decided how you're going to do it, and then you go out looking at a whole heap of stuff that's already happened.

John: The guy that sells sales training has lost me, and he hasn't even spoken to me yet.

Steve: Absolutely right. So, if you are the guy that sells sales training, you need to get to people and interrupt them and persuade them that you can help them do so. Now, the question, as you rightly asked at the start, is how do you do that? Great question.

John: Okay. How are we going to answer that, Steve?

Steve: Well, we've already talked about knowing who to approach - which company, which people - we've talked about what they care about...

John: Okay, and now we're going to go and talk about all those things in more detail.

Steve: Yes, we are, and we've talked about crafting a message that will get through to them. The next challenge is how do you get your message to them, and what are the potential ways to get your message to someone.

John: So, the bottom line here is everybody is super busy, everybody hasn't got time to talk to everybody that wants to talk to them, and so we need to really be very good at this.

48970388 - businessmen racing against time around a clock with sun and moon in the background representing day and night. creative vector illustration for business and time concept.

Steve: We need to be good at it and we need to use multiple channels. There are many ways to get our message to someone. There's email obviously, there's LinkedIn InMails, there's the phone, there's digital marketing and there are innovative methods. I mean, at one stage I sent bars of soap to 10 people with a message saying, "You don't know me from a bar of soap, but I'd like to talk to you." There are many different things that you...

John: That sounds a little bit over the top... [laughs]

Steve: Well, I'm a Pom so soap comes naturally to me, you know.

John: Oh yes, right. [laughter] Alright, I thought we'd have a little discussion before we started going through each step of the basics, because it's critical these days for people who think, "I'll open some doors just by making one phone call or sending out a few emails or whatever..." It's not going to happen. People are super busy, they really haven't got time to even look at your messages or answer the phone, and probably in some cases they're not even listening to their voicemails they're so busy, so we need to work out how we craft the message and we need to understand what they care about, and there's a whole host of things we need to do before we theoretically make that cold call or whatever you want to call them. Steve, let's come back now and talk about those basics one at a time that we've talked about before.

Steve: I have probably a better idea, John. Why don't we do a mini case study and just talk about how you would approach a particular situation, and that will cover all of those together?

John: Okay, so next time we come together we'll do the case study.

Steve: Yes.

John: Okay, go and do your homework and give me a call, and when you're ready we'll do that.

Steve: Okay, great.

John: You probably don't need to do your homework. [laughter] Hey guys, it's good to have Steve again with me, and hopefully you got a little bit of value out of that. People are super busy, and you need to really think about how you prospect and use all the tools and capabilities you've got, and know your target audience extremely well. Look forward to the next time, Steve!

Steve: Me too, John!


More interviews with Steve Hall:



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Want to touch base? If you have questions please feel free to contact me - email: john.smibert(at), Phone: +61 404857893 or Skype: john.smibert

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