In an era when smartphones, tablets and 24-7 connectivity are nearly ubiquitous, getting and keeping a prospect’s attention is becoming harder than ever.
Success in this communications climate recognizes two simple facts:
- Technology has permanently changed how and when people interface with others.
- Producers need to adapt their communication and business processes to accommodate reduced attention spans.
So said Curt Steinhorst, founder and president of the Dallas-based strategic communications firm Promentum Group, during a special Top of the Table/Court of the Table afternoon program on Sunday at the Million Dollar Round Table, being held in Vancouver, British Columbia, June 12-15.
Steinhorst outlined ways for advisors to communicate more effectively in the “age of distraction,” and set themselves apart in the market.
“We’re at a unique moment in history,” said Steinhorst. “The way we now connect to technology changes everything. The [advisors] who are the most disciplined in their use of communications technology will be those who are best equipped to navigate the setbacks that will surely come — and to outpace the competition.”
Today’s smart wireless and mobile technologies are “world-changing,” he added, because they let people communicate with “anyone, anywhere, anytime.” This ability, which Steinhorst dubbed “access,” has a downside: We become less focused.
Our brains are wired to send and receive social information such as e-mails, voice and text messages. When we’re overloaded, the result is “loss” — an inability to process and store information in long-term memory.
The information barrage is far larger than it was just two decades ago. The average person in the workforce today, Steinhorst noted, has to consume about 400 percent more information than in 1986.
The overload and memory loss is particularly pronounced when multitasking. People think they’re working smarter and faster when juggling responsibilities, but their efficiency and quality of work drops 40 percent.
Piling on more to-dos only compounds the problem. A Harvard University study cited by Steinhorst concluded the quality of work among the adult participants surveyed plummeted to that of an 8-year-old when adding a simple extra task to the workload.
The result: People enter a state of “AWOL” (Access + Wiring + Overload + Loss). Akin to attention deficit disorder, the condition is increasingly affecting every aspect of people lives — personally, professionally and socially. For agents and advisors trying to connect and do business with an “AWOL audience,” said Steinhorst, new strategies are a must.
People now prefer to communicate through mobile devices, but this type of communication is less effective than face-to-face meetings. (Photo: iStock)
To that end, producers must understand how communications technologies change “relational dynamics,” which is “Category 1″ of an AWOL audience.
It means that increasingly, people prefer to interface through digital channels: their smart phone, tablet or another device. Though convenient, these channels are less effective than in-person meetings at conveying non-verbal cues (e.g., intention, emotion, issues or concerns.)
The physical distance places producers at a disadvantage when trying to build a rapport with prospects or convince them of the value of a recommended product or plan. And they’re generally in no position to dictate the method of communication.
“In a world where people are in-person averse, you have to model your communications to people’s preferences, through text messages, emails or social media,” said Steinhorst. To do otherwise, is to risk losing the prospect.”