Focus and Attention: The New Currency of Effectiveness

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At no time in history has there ever been more distractions, chief among them is the Internet.

The Internet, while being one of the greatest and most useful tools ever created, is also the greatest enabler of distractions. The Internet is the greatest tool for salespeople and an unmatched source of information that can be turned into competitive knowledge and a competitive advantage.

The Internet is also the greatest threat to effectiveness. The Internet is all at once a book, a newspaper, a mail service, a telephone, a radio, a television, a gaming system, a casino, the world’s largest catalog, and much more. It brings us novelties and curiosities from around the world in real time. And it wants our time, our focus, and our attention.

In the future, as the old mediums are torn down and new ones built on top of the rubble, we are only going to spend more time on the Internet. The Internet, and the devices we use access it, are becoming part of our lives in way that even television did not.

The Future Currencies

The ability to focus on a subject or a task and the ability to give something or someone your full attention are the new currencies of effectiveness. This is true for sales effectiveness as well.

The ability to focus is the ability to work on a single idea, a single task or a single project. That focus requires your full attention. In order to give something your focus and your attention, you necessarily have to take your focus and your attention away from everything else.

In order to be effective in an age when the distractions are so many, you have to be able to unplug yourself from these distractions for periods of time that may already make you uncomfortable. In order to give your full attention over to a project, a task or another human being, you must be able to remove yourself from the alert that a new email has arrived, your updating RSS feed, the status updates of your friends and colleagues, the breaking news alerts, the instant messages, and the telephone calls.

The ability to unplug from these distractions and focus is going to be the defining attribute of successful people in all endeavors, including sales people.

The Myth of MultiTasking

People believe multitasking is a positive attribute, one to be admired. But multitasking is simply the lack of self-discipline. Multitasking is really switching your attention from one to task to another to another, instead of giving yourself over to a single task. Multitasking is easy; disciplined focus and attention is difficult.

The quality of your work is determined by how much of your time, your focus and your attention you give it. While multitasking feels good and feels busy, the quality of the work is never what it could be with the creator’s full attention. More and more, this is going to be apparent to those who are judging the work, especially when compared to work of someone who is disciplined and who has given the same or similar project their full focus and attention.

What This Means for Sales

I am by no means recommending taking away the Internet and the Smartphones. My serious use of these tools has made them a central part of my personal and professional life, and that is only increasing.

Salespeople are always going to be judged by their results. Now more than ever, the ability to give something your full focus and your full attention is going to allow you to create a competitive advantage.

Giving prospecting your full attention is going to produce better results than your distracted, undisciplined peer group will produce. Giving that client presentation your full attention is going to produce a higher quality and a more thoughtful presentation, a difference that will be easily recognized. Giving your full attention to your prospect, without checking your emails or push alerts in real time, is already a defining characteristic of professionalism and a differentiator.

Conclusion

The Internet is a great tool for increasing the breadth of the information we acquire. But it is doing so to the detriment of the depth of knowledge. The impacts are even worse for our time, our focus, and our attention. As this societal change continues, those who are able to discipline themselves to give their ideas, the projects, and their tasks their full focus and attention will have a strong competitive advantage.

Truth be told, focus and attention have always been the currency of effectiveness. It just matters more now than ever.

Questions

1. Is the most important work I have to do getting my full focus and my full attention?

2. What are the distractions that prevent me from giving myself over to an idea, a project or a task?

3. How much better would my results be if I were more focused?

4. What else have you been doing while you have been reading this post? (Just checking)

5. How do I eliminate those distractions?

6. How do I create periods of uninterrupted time to focus on the ideas, projects, and tasks that mean the most to my results?

For more on increasing your sales effectiveness, subscribe to the RSS Feed for The Sales Blog and my Email Newsletter. Follow me on Twitter, connect to me on LinkedIn, or friend me on Facebook. If I can help you or your sales organization, check out my coaching and consulting firm, B2B Sales Coach & Consultancy, email me, or call me at (614) 212-4279.

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