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Dude, You’re Gonna Need More Than 15 Minutes3

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Just 15 minutes

Sales people are constantly working at communicating value to their buyers, especially in the early stages of the cycle, lead gen to prospecting and engaging the buyer to where they could complete an effective Discovery process.   After sellers have done all the work involved in getting to the point where they can engage with a buyer, I am always surprised at how easily they are willing to undermine it, and risk their opportunity by saying something completely unnecessary, and serves only to sooth their nerves.

The expression that does this most is “I just need 15 minutes of your time” or “A quick 15 minutes”.  Both are stupid and useless, the second is one I never did get, how is a “quick 15 minutes” different than 15 minutes, don’t all minutes have 60 seconds, it is just the quality of the content that seems to make some minutes last a lifetime.

I know why it is used, generally comes down to two things, both can be dealt with more intelligently and effectively.  First is the popular notion that if you can get 15 minutes, and do well, they’ll give you an encore and you can stretch it out; I guess we all think we can do a good job.  On the other hand I used to work for a VP of Sales who managed his calendar down to the minute, busy guy.  He would ask you how long you needed, and would book you in for that time, if you said 15 minutes, he would end the meeting right at 15 minutes.  He wasn’t rude, he had to get to his next scheduled meeting, if you couldn’t live up to the expectation I set, it was your issue, not his, you had to deal with it, not him.

Which brings us to the first contradiction, most decision makers have more than what to do in a day, how realistic is that they don’t have other meetings behind your, or other things that require their time and attention.  Yes, no doubt we have all had instances where we were able to extend 15 minutes in to 45 or even 60 minutes, but an occasional anomaly does not make for a sound strategy.

The other issue with this approach is that you are in fact misleading the prospect before you have even met them.  Think about it, do you really want to start things off by lying to the prospective buyer?  Any way you rationalize it, that is exactly what you are doing, not a good foundation for a trust based relationship.

The second reason sales people do this is linked to the first, and just as weak.  Specifically they are trying to minimize the apparent impact on the buyer, trying to make it “easy” on them, “Your time will not be wasted”, is the implication.  But unless you are selling a coffee service or window cleaning, how much real or tangible value can you effectively communicate.  More so, when you are selling what you would call a “solution”, where information has to be exchanged, 15 minutes is not going to get you there, you can pretend all you want, you are going to pitch, worse, you are going to ‘speed pitch’.

Some will tell me, “I can at least get things started”, sure then comeback and continue, with a bit of recapping, you are costing you and the buyer more time.  By asking for 15 minutes you are undermining your  so called “value proposition”.  What the prospect hears is that this is so basic and unimportant, what they are asking themselves is as follows: “we’re going to make real progress in 15, can’t be that important or unique, maybe it can wait, or I can delegate it to someone who deals with unimportant things.”

Think about it, assuming things get started, small talk, while you assume they checked out your web site, you have to validate; if they did, you still need to create context, if they didn’t you have to do a bit more than that.  From here, you need to at least go through the motions of gather information or executing a Discovery of facts and objective. Ah, look at that time is up!  I remember someone trying to sell me an ad in local board of trade directory, they said they just need 15 minutes, I pointed out to him that he will need to ask me some questions, I will certainly have some for him, so let’s get real, how much time will we really need, he was honest enough to come across with a real time frame.

What’s worse, it is usually the seller who brings time in to the equation, not the prospect, again communicating a lack of confidence in their offering, or their ability to sell, or both.  Just stop this juvenile practice, and sell.

Now I know that there times when you will be asked by a prospect how much time you need; in my case I gear my first meetings to about an hour, I am the one that gets antsy after 50 minutes.  But rather than saying “one hour”, I pause, and ask, “how long can you give me?”  They usually come back and say “is an hour enough?”  Touch down!

But assuming they ask again, I just say “I usually need about 30 minutes for Discovery, I assume you’ll have some questions, so 40 minutes is safe.”  If I feel they have a sense of humor, I add “any longer than that I take as interest on your part.”

I do have people who say “I can give you 30 minutes.”  Great I can work with that; if they offer 15 minutes, I say no, I know what is going to happen, it is not a good use of my time, my most important resource.  Either we can find a mutually better time, or on to the next one.  If you have lots of prospects, this is not an issue, if you only have one or two, you may have to settle for the scraps that a quick 15 minutes represent.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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Making Your Monday Sales Meeting Meaningful – Sales eXchange 15584

Your Monday morning sales meeting needs to set the tone for the week, the successes, challenges and activity required to move prospects forward between now and Friday, thus making the week contribute to a successful quarter.  Here are a few simple to implement steps you can take to assure this.

First, keep it short focused and on track.  Monday morning is prime time, sales professionals ready to go, having had the weekend to decompress, buyers are also looking to make their mark on the week ahead, the last thing you want to have is your meeting take steam, drive and the spring out of team’s step.  The traditional, laborious never ending Monday morning meeting is like Black Death for you A Players, slightly less painful for your B Players; only your C Players see it as a good use of time as they will look for anything to avoid prospecting or selling.  The meeting should last no longer than the equivalent of 5 minutes for each rep on your team, really 5 minutes.

Next make the meeting about the week ahead, not what happened in the past, or things that are not happening at all.  Some still conduct meetings where every opportunity and PROSPECT in the funnel real or not**, is discussed ad infinitum, with those not having fallen asleep looking for rope or other form of mercy.

** So what’s real PROSPECT – and what’s not? Simple if an opportunity has a Next Step, meaning specific agreed on action(s) by both the buyer and a seller that will move the sale forward, with an agreed on time line or deadline, then it is a real PROSPECT.  If it does not have BOTH, it is not real, it is a start, it’s an opportunity, but does not qualify as a PROSPECT.  Something that sounds like “I am going to call him Tuesday”, is not a next step unless it is scheduled and has actions attached; it’s a plan, may be a good plan, but not good enough.  Likewise, “He asked me to call him mid-week to set something up”, is not a next step, and therefore not a PROSPECT.  It may be a good future opportunity, and as soon as you have mutual agreement with the buyer on when and what, you will have a next step and a real PROSPECT.  May seem simple, but a challenging discipline for many to adopt, but once you do you’ll have a more realistic pipeline, as it will be absent of filler and sunshine.

Once you adopt the above, you can then conduct Monday morning meetings looking at specific real PROSPECTS that your team will be interacting with that week, no distractions or far away tales, just real revenue related events.  As well, you don’t need to look at every prospect every week, just a representative sample that tells you the state of the pipeline, and what kind of help you can provide to your team to succeed.  The right ratio of prospect to examine is about 5:1, for every five prospects (real), have the rep discuss one, so if the average number of REAL – ACTIVE – PROSPECTS in you funnel is 25, you have the rep talk to 5, if it is 15, talk to 3, etc.

And when I sat talk, it does not have to be a Tolstoy novel, which is what kills the regular Monday meeting.  Every opportunity, every week, right from the start, sometimes right back to Adam and Eve, no need for that.  Just name rank, and serial number.  Who is the PROSPECT, when is it scheduled (has to be between now and Friday or it doesn’t count), what is the upside if things go right, downside, potential value, any special resources required from the company.  Chick Chack, focused 2 – 4 minutes per prospect, no stories, just the facts.

This will give you a good sense for how each individual rep is doing and the general state of their funnel.  This does not replace the regular talks you have with your reps throughout the week and your daily conversations about their prospects.  You will have deeper knowledge as they review pricing or aspects of the deal, but those don’t need to be part of the Monday meeting.

At the same time, it allows for a tacit transfer of sales and market knowledge among your reps.  After adopting the process, you will find that ideas are exchanged, you get “you know I worked with that type of challenge at XYZ, tried this, and this was the outcome” or “avoid that as it tends to…”  People learn, they contribute and you will find them looking forward to contributing.  You will also find that the stragglers tend to self correct due to peer pressure and that gets them on track, which mean better pipeline.

Think of it if you have six reps, you’re done in 30 minutes, you have a good picture of the state of events, and you have continuous activity driving deals and prospecting.  Remove the cloud from their Monday morning, and you’ll find they are ready to play to win.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

The six elements of a perfect sales meeting19

The Pipeline Guest Post – Matt Heinz

Do you dread the weekly sales team meeting? Feel like it’s wasting your time? If so, somebody’s not doing it right.

Reviewing a pipeline report may not be your idea of fun, but effective sales meetings are well-planned, well-executed, and full of information highly relevant to making reps better and both extracting & sharing information that can help the entire organization accelerate sales, customer and revenue growth.

Here are the six elements that, combined, make for a powerful regular sales team meeting.

1. Metrics
This is where you start. An empirical, objective, numbers-based look at current performance and what’s left to achieve. This is cause for celebration and alarm (often with the same dashboard), and will set the tone for the rest of the meeting. There shouldn’t be any surprises here, but it can drive urgency and focus in both the hour and days ahead.

2. Recognition
Take the time to recognize great performances across the team. It can be something as big as a huge new enterprise deal, or a small as the new guy’s first successful appointment. No matter how difficult your market or month is, there’s always something to celebrate.

3. Voice of the Customer
We’re not selling in a vacuum. At each meeting, the customer should be heard. This can be an overview of new research, feedback from a recent customer briefing, review of new market trends or analyst data, or even a quick presentation or interview (live or recorded) with an actual customer. No matter how you present it, ensure the customer has a place at the sales meeting table on a regular basis.

4. Training
Constantly make your team better. Bring in outsiders to teach a skill or customer insight. Review the latest product features. Practice objection-handling or consultative selling skills. Do role-playing. Review & discuss a new perspective, blog post or article you found. Training and learning is an everyday thing for the best salespeople in the world. Institutionalize this in your organization more frequently than you do it today.

5. Deal Drill-Down
Choose someone on the team to walk through a current or recent deal. This can either be a recently-closed deal and how it happened, or it can be a deal that’s stalled (and how/why it got there). The former allows an opportunity for your team to learn best practices from others in context, and the latter allows the team to help each other break through roadblocks and move deals forward.

6. Motivation
End each meeting on a positive note. This is different and separate from individual recognition. This is about firing up your team to burst out of the conference room and back on the phones or into the field. How great sales managers do this is personal (a video clip, a joke, a motivational quote, etc.), but we know sales is an emotional job. Play to that and send your troops back out to victory.

What have I missed in this list? What are essential elements you have used or experienced in great sales meetings?

About Matt Heinz

Matt Heinz brings more than 12 years of marketing, business development and sales experience from a variety of organizations, vertical industries and company sizes. His career has focused on delivering measurable results for his employers and clients in the way of greater sales, revenue growth, product success and customer loyalty.  Matt is President of Heinz Marketing Inc.

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