Your Biggest Competitor ISN’T Someone Else

The biggest factor you’re competing against, when it comes to making a sale, is life itself.

Have you ever been in the middle of buying something and…


…A text message appears on your phone;

Or a social media notification;

Or an email comes in;

Or the phone rings;

Or a colleague asks “Have you got a minute?”;

Or your computer asks if you’d like to install updates now;

Or one of your children asks if they can show you something;

Or your partner asks “Honey, could I get a hand with this?”;

Or you run out of time;

Or you need to “sleep on it” before making a decision;

Or when it comes time to pay, it just feels a little too expensive, and you decide to delay buying for now.

Even when our customers have strong buying intent – it’s very easy for life to get in the way of the sale.

Distractions have this nasty habit of getting in the way of our best intentions. And it’s getting harder to avoid them.

Distraction Is The Way of Our Modern Life

A 2007 study by Morgan Stanley found that 91% of all American adults have their cellphone in reach at all times. And a 2013 study by Telefonica research found that the typical mobile phone user receives 63.5 push notifications per day. (Those numbers are undoubtedly higher today – with more of us using smartphones, and marketers getting smarter about the frequency and timing of push notifications to maximise their distractive effect.)

Game developers and marketers use push notifications because they work. The hit of the pleasure hormone, dopamine, that our brains receive when checking a message that just came in is almost impossible to ignore.

Wide-scale research has found that the average smartphone user will pick up and use their phone 76-80 times per day – or once every 12 waking minutes. (And that’s only the times we unlock our phones. It ignores the times when we simply glance at a notification.

It doesn’t matter if you’re selling B2B or B2C – these distractions permeate both our work, and personal, lives.

It’s estimated that the average worker’s cellphone distracts them for the equivalent of 56 minutes per workday – or around 233 working hours per year. When you factor in other office distractions – such as noisy work open-plan environments and chatty coworkers, this figure rises to 759 hours per year – nearly half the working year!

That’s before you factor in other actually work-related drivers of distractions – like meetings, email, and questions from colleagues.

In fact, work related email notifications are a huge driver of distraction.

In his book, Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked, Adam Alter reveals how 70% of emails are opened within 6 seconds of a person receiving them.

It’s not our fault.

It’s in our nature.

We haven’t always been at the top of the food chain. In fact, for the past few million years, we’ve been in the middle: a little bit predator, a little bit prey. So we’ve needed to stay alert to potential threats.

This is the reason why our brain rewards us with a little dopamine hit for “paying attention to those potentially important distractions” – because those potentially important distractions might save our lives. They could be a tiger. Or a snake. Or an attacker from another band or tribe.

It’s a biological survival trait that helped our evolutionary ancestors to survive and thrive in the wild.

But if we want to be effective in our sales and marketing – it’s important that we recognise this part of our nature, and take steps to counter it.