There’s a stat floating around the web that the average attention span of a human in 2013 was about 8 seconds – down from 12 seconds in 2000. According to the same sources, the average attention span of a goldfish is 9 seconds. As it turns out, that may not be entirely true (even though it’s been quoted by some pretty credible sources). However, when you take a closer look at the numbers, there’s an even more poignant point underlying these somewhat suspect stats. And it has some big ramifications for your sales messaging.
Where did the “eight seconds” come from?
The “average attention span” test was most likely derived from how long people spend on a web page before moving on. However, people aren’t clicking away simply because they’re bored. Often they’re just trying to sort through all the noise out there to find the information they want. In other words, it’s not our attention span that’s at fault – it’s the plethora of irrelevant content. Eight seconds is about how long it takes to decide the whether the information is useful or not. However, once we find what we’re looking for, we’ll stay engaged as long as necessary to digest the information.
What does this mean for your sales messaging?
Those first eight seconds are still critical. Not because of the short attention span of your listener – but because there’s so much noise in the marketplace. Your prospects have developed a highly trained ability to filter out anything that’s not relevant. This raises the stakes for your sales messaging. Instead of just having to hold their “attention” for eight seconds, you’ve actually got to get something meaningful and relevant across in eight seconds (before you get filtered out).
Introducing The 8-Second Pitch.
When we work with companies on their core messaging, we always include an 8-Second Pitch. The purpose is to answer the “What do you do?” question as clearly and quickly as possible. It’s a challenging exercise. Coming up with a 60-second or 30-second elevator pitch is hard enough. But how do you boil a complex B2B message down to just eight seconds?
Here’s the trick.
Don’t go for precision – go for speed. Choose the words that will be most quickly understood by your target audience. This requires some serious restraint. You naturally want to use the words that most accurately describe what you do. But, the problem is, those may not be the same words that the listener would use, much less understand (remember, your prospect is probably not an expert in your field).
Think of your 8-Second Pitch like this: How can you get them in the right ballpark as quickly as possible? That changes the words you use, the points you make, everything. It may feel like you’re dumbing down the information – or leaving out important pieces of information. And that’s okay. You can always unpack it in more detail later. For now, just get them in the right ballpark.
Build your own 8-Second Pitch.
Get out the stopwatch (or stopwatch app) and give it a try. If you get stumped, use one of the outlines below as a starting place. Each one is based on a real 8-Second Pitch.
- We’re the creators of [WHAT PRODUCT], a tool that helps [WHO] [ACHIEVE WHAT].
- We’re the only [WHAT TYPE OF COMPANY] that approaches [WHAT SOLUTION] with [WHAT UNIQUE DIFFERENTIATOR].
- [PRODUCT NAME] is a [FASTER/BETTER/ETC] way to [ACHIEVE WHAT] for [WHO] facing [WHAT TYPE OF PROBLEM].
You’ve just cracked one of the hardest parts of developing a strong core message. (We’ll often spend hours agonizing over every word for our clients’ 8-Second Pitches.) Your sales teams can use the 8-Second Pitch for all kinds of different situations – on the phone with a new prospect, at a tradeshow or networking event, or at the beginning of an hour-long presentation. Best of all, because it’s so short, you now have an easy way to begin getting everyone in your company on message. It’s a simple, but very powerful tool.