Sales Principle 3: Don’t Be a Jerk. Empathy is the Root of all Successful Conversations.

In 1998, according to the Associated Press, our average attention span was around 12 minutes. A decade later, attention spans dropped by 50% to 5-6 minutes. I’ll bet they are about five seconds today.

In 1998, according to the Associated Press, our average attention span was around 12 minutes. A decade later, attention spans dropped by 50% to 5-6 minutes. I’ll bet they are about five seconds today.

There are many factors for the dramatic drop in these statistics. Social media is a huge culprit that has rewired our brains to make it more difficult to pay attention for long periods.

If you have ever been part of a long sales presentation and wanted to fall asleep, please raise your hand. I’ll confess, in the past, I’ve wanted to fall asleep in long presentations my colleagues were giving. I also have done hour-long presentations and felt they were about 55 minutes too long.

So many salespeople still want to set up that one-hour time slot to make a standard pitch using a standard deck. It is not only quite inefficient, but it’s also quite rude.

The third sales principle is all about empathy. I was going to say “Be Empathic.” However, empathy seems too official of a word. It doesn’t hit on the point hard of don’t be a jerk.

Align Priorities

Our customers have many other things to do besides sit in hour-long presentations. They most likely have a difficult job filled with a busy array of tasks, projects, and meetings throughout the day.

Our goal as salespeople and product builders are to help our customers be better at what they do. First, we must understand the challenges our customers face and position everything to accomplish our goal.

Anything else is a waste of time.

Aligning priorities is more about aligning our mindset. That email you just sent to a new prospect, is it all about your company and products or did you take a minute to learn more about the person you’re emailing?

The deck you just prepared is it just the standard pitch or did you thoughtfully prepare to touch on key points relevant to the client.

The challenge salespeople have they are in a natural conflicted position. Earning the big commission check drives hyperactivity. To achieve the hyperactivity salespeople will rely on a cookie cutter system to contact as many clients as possible.

It is a challenge I have faced throughout my career. Doing anything custom or personalized slows down my ability to reach as many prospects as possible.

The reality I came to understand as I spent more time in the field is the standard approach to sales is pure laziness.

Personalizing our interactions does require more work. However, the long terms gain to spend a few extra minutes in preparation greatly outweigh any short quick mass emails.

There are a time and place for mass emails such as event notices and updates which isn’t in the scope of this discussion.

Thoughtful Software Process

At Skiplist, we firmly believe in what we call “Thoughtful Software.” It is more than just building software a certain way, although we do that well, it is an empathic approach to every touch point we have with clients and our partners.

From idea to handoff.

For example, we rarely if ever will stand up in a conference room and pitch what we do. We prefer and emphasize conversations above all. We don’t even have a presentation anyone at Skiplist can present for more than 15 minutes. Our focus is on the problem we are all trying to solve and not us.

We make it a point to streamline the legal process to smoothly and quickly start projects. Has anyone figured out why it takes six months to sign a services agreement?

New technologies such as machine learning and blockchain can lead you down a complicated path when sometimes a more straightforward solution may be available. It doesn’t always make sense to push new technology when it may actually overcomplicate matters.

We value simpler thoughtful interactions to help everyone involved achieve the bigger vision and solve problems efficiently.

A few final thoughts:

  • Have an open mindset
  • Adapt
  • It’s not all about the commission. See Sales Principles 1 and 2.
  • Keep your meetings short. 15-minute phone calls. 30-minute meetings or less.
  • Focus on conversations
  • Be mindful of your client's schedule
  • Listen, listen, and listen.  

You’ll find people will want to work with you more, and your interactions will be more fruitful.   It is a compounding effect that leads to consistent success.

Oh ya, and don’t be an a$$hole either.

Build Thoughtful Software
Fahad Shoukat
Written by

Fahad Shoukat

Fahad has a B.S. in Electrical Engineering and an MBA. He brings over 15+ years in Business Development, Strategy, Sales, Product, and Marketing in various industries such as software development and Internet of Things (IoT). His experiences have led him on an unwavering pursuit to meet thoughtful people and build thoughtful software.