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On Being Present And Engaged

by David Brock on May 30th, 2014

We struggle to catch our customers’, our managers’, our colleagues’ attentions.  We want to engage them, in the case of a customer, we want to get them interested in doing something with us.

But so many times, when we actually capture someone’s attention, we rescue defeat from the jaws of victory by not being present and engaged ourselves.

It happens in so many, often unconscious, ways.  We may be driving our cars, seeking to be productive by making phone calls on the way.  We may be sitting in our offices, doing emails or something else while we are making prospecting or other calls.  We may not be prepared, so we’re busy thinking about what we say next, not paying attention to the conversation.

There are dozens of ways we distract ourselves from being present and engaged.  It’s kind of odd, we struggle with engaging our customers–catching their attention, challenging them, providing insight, being provocative, yet we don’t hold ourselves accountable for being engaged.

To be honest, we all fall victim to it.  Yeah, I’m occasionally distracted by doing emails during a conversation.  Yeah, I make calls while I’m driving, then all of a sudden find myself at my destination without knowing how I got there (That’s terrifying from a number of dimensions!).  We think we’re clever, smart, we can respond, we can multitask.

The problem is, the people we are trying to engage know it–we can’t hide it from them.  It’s not the obvious things of them hearing a keyboard in the background, it’s the conversation itself–the awkward pauses, the questions/responses that while good, are a little off, the absence of questions/responses that are make the conversation flow.

Today, there have been some interesting cases.

I’ve been listening to some call recordings from a client.  These have actually been good calls, but they could have been outstanding calls.  In listening to these, the sales people were prepared–but not really comfortable with having a conversation.  You could “hear” them thinking “what do I say next,  what’s next on my plan, how do I get them to this point……”  Rather than participating in the call, there was this disconnect in the conversation.  Over time, on each call, you could start to hear the recognition of that disconnect in the customers’ voices.  They became less open, they became more distant, they became more impatient.  Clearly, these weren’t naturally flowing, high impact conversations because the sales person wasn’t 100% present.

I, also, had a call from a colleague.  It had been a long time since we had spoken, we had recently exchanged messages about needing to talk–and about some specific things.  I get the call, after the first few seconds, it was clear–he wasn’t present.  He was clearly distracted by some things.  The tone, pitch, timing of his conversation was off–just by a fraction of a second (as he was probably completing a text message),.  But the flow of the conversation wasn’t natural.  It was disappointing, but we weren’t going to accomplish anything.  We muddled on, I looked for an opportunity to end the call, finally finding one.  I thanked the person for the call, we wished each other well, I hung up — disappointed at the lost opportunity.

Catching peoples’ time, capturing their attention is a huge challenge for all of us.  When we finally do, we need to make sure we are totally present and engaged.  If we aren’t it’s a huge missed opportunity, it’s a waste of time on everyone’s part, and getting that next conversation becomes even more difficult.

Make sure you are present and engaged!  Pull to the side of the road (for everyone’s safety), turn off the screens sitting in front of you, try to find a quiet place with no distractions.  Give the other person the respect of 100% of your attention–and you are likely to get that returned.

  1. Marian Casey permalink

    Right On! People may be present as in physically there but are they engaged? Engaged involves reciprocity or a give and take between two individuals. The term engagement is over used in many situations yet many do not understand what that means.

    The other day, I received a sales call from a technology vendor where the caller read through an entire sales script without stopping. She did not acknowledge my presence as a human in any way which is fundamental to engagement. Acknowledging me as a person does not mean offering a cursory “how are you” but rather demonstrating a sincere interest in who I am and what my needs are in business. This is how you make a connection which leads to a sale.

    • Marian, I bet I can guess your response to the very “personalized” approach the sales person took 😉 Thanks for the great comment. Regards, Dave

      • Marian Casey permalink

        I feel we are all learners so I wasn’t hard on the caller but did encourage her to connect with her callers in order to ensure success.

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