How many times have you met a new prospect, only to be told, “I only have five minutes, so tell me what you got”? A salesperson faced with that situation will often try to get as much information across as they possibly can in that short amount of time. We all know how this scenario plays out. The prospect says, “I’ll get back to you,” or “Give my office a call” and you are never able to reconnect with him or her.
Before we talk about what you should do, let us talk about these prospects for a minute. The reason many prospects say that they only have five minutes, is because they have their guard up against pushy salespeople and they want an “out” if your sales pitch is a dud. These prospects do not want their time wasted. As you and I both know, too often salespeople think nothing of droning on for thirty minutes about their product or service, and most prospects do not want to endure that. Can you blame them? Imagine if a door-to-door salesman came to your home. Would you invite him in and offer him coffee? Or, would you try to rush him to get through his spiel, so he could leave as quickly as possible? Better yet, would you peek out of the window to see who it was, and then not even answer the door? When you put yourself in your prospect’s shoes, you can understand why they do not want to give you too much of their time.
Say to your prospect, “In fairness to you, to determine if what we provide could be beneficial for your company, can I ask you a few questions?” Most prospects will be happy to do that, because they are avoiding a sales pitch. As a bonus, you are getting the prospect to participate in the meeting and making him or her feel important. Once you have gotten the prospect’s agreement, start with a very general question such as: “I deal with a lot of clients in your industry and one of the common challenges they face is how to (improve or eliminate or fix XYZ). I was wondering how that compares to the issues you are seeing?” This type of question sends a loud and clear message that you bring expertise and understanding to the table. This is much more powerful than if you simply started rattling off all of the specifics of your products or services.
If it seems like there is a connection and the conversation starts flowing, I have found that sometimes prospect forget about their need to finish the conversation in five minutes. They want to talk to someone who has insight into the market, someone who is looking at trends and forecasts and who wants to use that expertise to help them succeed. When this happens I will usually look at my watch and say, “You did say you only have five minutes. Are you able to talk some more, or should we schedule another time to sit down and discuss this further?” Many times the prospect does not want to end the conversation. On the other hand, there are those that want to keep the conversation going as well, but he or she actually has somewhere else to be, so that prospect will schedule a future meeting with me. For those prospects that turn out to be duds, you can simply look at your watch and say, “Well I have taken five minutes of your time, and I know you are busy. Thanks so much for stopping and talking with me.”