Prospecting Attention Deficit Disorder: How to Avoid the Shiny Object Syndrome

Salespeople are brilliant, if not downright masterminds, when it comes to skillfully managing hundreds of tasks and responsibilities in a given time frame. It’s not that you can actually execute hundreds of tasks in a day’s agenda, but if sales is your passion and profession, you are undeniably an expert at managing the precise allocation of time and resources across that number of tasks.

You enthusiastically immerse yourself in the activities and efforts required to learn about and stay up-to-date on the ever-changing array of products, competitors, and market trends. And you competently juggle your frenetic schedule, apportioning just the right amount of time for office work, prospecting, sales calls, follow-up, travel, and communication.

All of these results-focused activities and all of your seemingly unlimited energies are directed at a highly targeted end-goal: generating the maximum amount of revenue from your territory.

However, there is one insidious, performance-crippling micro-glitch that hides inside your otherwise perfectly-programmed neural circuitry. It waits for just the right signals and then surges forth with all the subtlety of a freight train to seize your precious time and attention before you even realize what has happened. It is aptly referred to as the Shiny Object Syndrome. In sales, it happens all the time, and always with less-than-favorable consequences.

The Shiny Object Syndrome is when something of dubious importance catches your attention and prevents you from spending valuable time on the things that matter more. It is quite easy to get tripped up and even mesmerized by the chimeric allure of Shiny Object Syndrome when it comes to prospecting. Can you tell where the Shiny Objects are in the following?

  • A list of Marketing leads that need to be called.
  • An incoming lead routed to you for contact.
  • An interested prospect you just met with.
  • The arrival of an RFP
  • A completed contact-form

Granted, all of those examples do appear to present perfectly legitimate “objects” to focus on – all vividly gleaming with untapped promise and potential. And that is obviously why I used the word insidious early on. By definition, they are sneaky, stealthy, and often ominously sinister when viewed from the bottom line. Sometimes, a prospect is not a prospect, which means it invariably qualifies as a Shiny Object. And they can be ‘unearthed’ in every example above.

There is only one definitive way to prevent the Shiny Object Syndrome from stealing your all-important focus when it comes to prospecting, and that is to consciously decide where (and when) you will re-direct that focus. You need to calibrate your sales efforts with laser-like precision based on a meticulous analysis of your territory, and the ideal customer profile.

3 Steps for Avoiding the Shiny Object Syndrome

1. Define your ideal customer profile
Productively (and profitably) speaking, ideal prospects are those with whom you want to spend all or most of your allocated time. If they fail to meet your primary criteria for an ideal prospect you should carefully re-think your benchmarks to determine if they are merely a distraction, or whether they still qualify as a positive focus of your time and energy. Here is a perfect example: I have a client whose product will run on Salesforce CRM. He would occasionally come across a prospect that used a different CRM system. The opportunities were certainly tempting because of who the prospects were and the potential deal-size. Indeed, he had a difficult time resisting them, and for admittedly lucrative reasons.

But we decided these were no more than ‘shiny objects’ to him, an illusory, insubstantial pretense to his real objective. In order to win these deals, he would need to shift a significant amount of time and resources in order to meet the customer’s requirements—an uncertain gamble at best. He already has plenty of potential prospects in his arsenal that meet his ideal customer profile. He just needed to create a more refined or targeted prospect list—which I talk about next.

To determine your ideal prospect, ask yourself what your current, ‘best-potential’ clients have in common. You’ll likely know the right questions to ask for your situation. Here are a few examples to get you started.

Q Are they of a certain-size in terms of number of employees or annual revenue
Q Have they deployed certain technologies
Q Do they have similar reasons for buying or do they have similar problems
Q What attributes make them more apt to buy from you than from others
Q Have they already realized they had a problem that needed solving
Q Do they share a similar organizational structure

2. Create a Strategic Prospect List

Now that you have a precise, no-nonsense definition of what your ideal prospect should look like, your next job is to create a targeted list of prospects that meet those criteria, with a minimal degree of variance. If you are a sales rep—and in a perfect world—this will already have been done for you by marketing or sales ops. Unfortunately, I have found that caliber of perfection to rarely be the case. So it is left to you and your own initiative to create, cultivate, and calibrate your own specialized list, and then work it rigorously and relentlessly. If you use resources like ReadyContacts, OneSource, or to it will make your job a whole lot easier.

3. Protect your valuable selling time
Remember that list above where I asked you to find the Shiny Objects? Here are some hints to help you identify where they may be hiding.

  • A list of Marketing leads that need to be called.
    The first thing you (ideally, it would be marketing) should check, is whether they meet your ideal customer profile. If they fall short, think twice whether it is worth your time.
  • An incoming lead routed to you for contact.
    The same thing applies. It is time to qualify your prospects “out” rather than “in.” Don’t risk going after a less-than-optimal prospect because of how tempting it may appear at first glance, especially if it will prevent you from focusing on other, more qualified prospects.
  • An interested prospect you just met with.
    Have you ever left a meeting where the prospect was over-the-moon about your solution? But there were action items in the form of hoops to jump through (can you make it work with my current solution, any chance to get this in a—fill in the blank?) When a prospect is enthusiastic and they appear ready to buy—if you can just do these few things that, as it happens, will drastically divert your resources—that’s a warning sign that this opportunity may indeed be a shiny object that you’re not likely to win in any case.
  • The arrival of an RFP
    Big chance here, that this will be a shiny object. Rarely does it happen that a company is sent an RFP out of the blue and then goes on to win it. Often it is the competition that helped the prospect spec the RFP, which leaves little or no chance for others (you) to really compete successfully.
  • A completed contact-form
    There are lots of reasons people fill out contact forms on your web-site, and ‘qualifying’ them all is surely counter-productive. Even if it is a legitimate interest, it still might not be worth your time.

Without the slightest hesitation, I will categorically state that I am advocating that salespeople not chase every lead and every opportunity, regardless of how bright it shines. I know this is diametrically opposed to what most sales organizations are told to do. But the truth is if you continue to chase less-than-qualified opportunities, you will never fully maximize your revenue, to say nothing of your valuable time.

If you lack a sufficient amount of prospects with significant potential, accepting lower-quality prospects is definitely not a viable alternative. Your real obligation, to yourself and your company, is to figure out who those prospects are with targeted precision, lock-on, and go out and get them. After-all, if they have been qualified as ideal prospects for you, then it’s your job to help them recognize that you have an ideal solution for them. And while we all know it is far from a perfect world, from your prospect’s point of view, the only shiny object you want their attention focused on, is you.

Author, Nancy Nardin is the foremost expert in sales productivity tools. As President of Smart Selling Tools, she consults with many of the top sales productivity software vendors as well as end-user organizations looking to select the right tools. Click to get Nancy’s What & When weekly digest with invitations to complimentary webinars and informative publications. Follow Nancy on Twitter @sellingtools or subscribe to her Tool Talk blog. Nancy can be reached at 916-596-3035. To schedule a free 30 minute consultation.