Perhaps one of the most important capabilities/skills for sales people and managers is “attention do detail.” But I seldom see anyone writing about it–so I will try to change it in this article.

Great selling, great leadership are always characterized by attention to detail. Whether it’s probing to determine root causes underlying customer “pain.” Or exploring alternatives with our customers, helping them customers think differently. Or getting underneath the data in our dashboards and understanding “why.” Attention to detail is critical to driving the highest levels of performance in everything we do.

Our sales enablement programs look at “Discovery.” We learn questions to identify pains, needs, problems, and so forth. But we tend to either listen selectively for triggers to pitch; or we accept what the customer says at face value, failing to probe to understand “why.”

We get the data, but don’t look underneath the data to understand what is really happening and why. We fail to understand the underlying driving issues and what they mean–organizationally or individually. We fail to drill down and understand how the customer feels about the issues.

Once we think we’ve learned everything, we start to inundate our customers with recommendations, “insight,” or opinions of what they should do. We provide that information, but seldom drill down with the customer to help them understand. We seldom get deep enough to learn how they feel about it, what it means to them.

We make commitments, often small commitments, but fail to deliver or follow up on them. But these are details important to the people to whom we have made those commitments.

Perhaps, one of the smallest, but most profound lapses in the attention to detail is something as simple as, “Thank you.”

As managers, we set the example to our people, unfortunately, by doing the same thing. We have endless dashboards and data we use to monitor performance. Instead of taking the time to understand the underlying causes, we just say, “Do more!”

Too often, we do analysis on performance and all we do is prove that math works. We know that 2+2= 4, always, but if we want 8, we don’t look at what’s causing 2+2 and how we might change it to 5+3—or any other combination to achieve 8.

We tend to focus on “effects,” and not “causes.”

Attention to detail is, well, detailed.

It requires us to seek to understand. We have to probe, ask questions, listen, learn. We have to research, do some analysis. We have to ask why, then ask why again, and again, and again, and again. We have to try to understand root causes.

This takes time—but not as much time as continuing to do the wrong things because we have failed to understand.

It requires us to constantly be learning, to test our own ideas/premises, to be prepared to change our point of view.

But we know, “the devil is in the details.”