Attention Must Be Paid–Or It Will Cost You Business

Personal attention motivates, inspires, and engages people. Most importantly, it makes them buy from you. If you aren’t giving your full attention to clients, it can cost you a lot more than a sale, as these cautionary case studies show.

Attention Must Be Paid–Or It Will Cost You Business


Does the title of this blog ring a bell?   

It might if you were listening in English class; “Attention must be paid,” was the plaintive cry of Willy Loman’s wife in the classic American play Death of a Salesman, now enjoying a hugely successful revival on Broadway. Spoiler alert: her husband ends up committing suicide because…well, attention wasn’t paid.

People need attention. It motivates them, it inspires them and it engages them. Most importantly, it makes them buy from you. When you don’t pay attention to your clients, it will cost you–and that loss could add up to a lot more than a sale.  

For example, did you know the main reason doctors get sued?  Believe it or not, it’s not because of medical mistakes–it’s because, again, attention wasn’t paid.   

As detailed in Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Blinkresearcher Wendy Levinson recorded hundreds of conversations between surgeons and their patients. Half of these surgeons had never been sued by a patient, while the other half had been sued–at least twice, as a matter of fact.  

The differences were striking. The litigation-free surgeons spent, on average, three more minutes per patient than the second; they were also more inclined to engage in active listening, meaning they actually paid attention to what the patients said and responded accordingly–and with empathy. The other doctors were cold and abrupt; Levinson ended up being able to predict which surgeons would get sued just based on the tone they used with their patients.


It’s not just uncommunicative doctors who can feel this kind of pain. Lou Cassara, a principal at Cassara Associates, talked to more than five thousand financial services clients to find out why they switched from one advisor to another. He found that over 80% left not because of bad advice, but because of a poor relationship with the rejected advisor.

Finally, let’s take one more look at an incredibly critical business-client scenario: Disney World and kids. The world famous theme park wanted to know which part of the Disney magic most captivated the kids, so it hired a cultural anthropologist and business expert Kare Anderson to follow some little ones around as they hit the park with their parents. 

As detailed in Harvard Business Review, the results were shocking. It wasn’t Mickey Mouse or Cinderella’s Castle that captured the kids’ imagination; instead, children paid the most attention to their parents’ cell phones. Why? Because that’s where the parents focused their attention, suddenly rendering the wonders of Disney irrelevant. Disney wrongly assumed they were the center of attention in this relationship, but clearly, kids primarily pick up their cues from their parents no matter where they are. Because the parents couldn’t or wouldn’t focus on their offspring, the fun factor was suddenly diminished.

So how’s your focus when you’re talking to clients? Are you checking Facebook on your iPhone emails or actually interacting on a genuine level with them? If you’re not concentrating on the relationship and you’re not demonstrating appropriate empathy for their concerns, you’re unraveling the crucial personal bonds that keep them coming back to you with their business.      

Remember, attention must be paid–or you might not be.

JW Dicks (@jwdicks) & Nick Nanton (@nicknanton) are best-selling authors who consult for small- and medium-sized businesses on how to build their business through personality driven marketing, personal brand positioning, guaranteed media, and mining hidden business assets. They offer free articles, white papers, and case studies at 


[Image: Flickr user Jenny Downing]

About the author

An Emmy Award Winning Director and Producer, Nick Nanton, Esq., is known as the Top Agent to Celebrity Experts around the world for his role in developing and marketing business and professional experts, through personal branding, media, marketing and PR. Nick is recognized as the nation’s leading expert on personal branding as Fast Company Magazine’s Expert Blogger on the subject and lectures regularly on the topic at at major universities around the world.