[I am sorry but] 3 minutes is all you have

Are you kidding me? Really?

This past week I was asked to participate in a sales appointment with one of my customer’s national reps – this guy is a true professional, has worked hard to qualify, conducted a needs analysis, his prospects need and his company’s offering are in alignment, timing is good, etc. Needless to say I was excited and honored to be a part of the action.

The sales call objective around this appointment was to convince the committee that we had a viable solution, and could scale with their future growth.

You know the whole bit: preparation, confirming the appointment (just to make sure), and then travel adventure beginning with a 6:00 a.m. flight. Everything is lining up for a perfect setting.

We arrived at their corporate office a few minutes early, and are escorted to their conference room. We hook up our lap top and are ready to begin our one hour appointment.

In walks a party of three of the five decision makers, two with iPads and notebooks in hand – so far so good.

After a normal exchange of hand shakes, and business cards we return to our seats. Instantly we can tell that this is not going to go as planned. Then bam – the ring leader (who our rep has not met up to this point) says our schedules have shifted dramatically… I am sorry but 3 minutes is all that you have. The other two looked uneasy and shocked at his opening.

My first thought was, are you kidding me? There is obviously no time to review our customized power point and whip out the full color brochures (which they asked for by the way as part of our presentation).

The rep looked at me and smiled and then looked at each of the three and then focused eye to eye on Mr. Wonderful. What happened next was classic sales professionalism in terms of ‘connecting’ and using the power of questions. His first words were ‘we understand’ your schedule shift’ with that may I ask you a few questions? Of which the response was- of course.

Here goes…

  1. Would you mind sharing with me what is your biggest challenge relative to XXXXX?
  2. What are your requirements and expectations for our type of product offering?
  3. How do you choose a supplier?

The first question and response took just under 2 minutes. In responding Mr. Wonderful seemed relaxed as did his counterparts. Now question number two – the same reaction, but the response pushed well over four minutes. Everyone in the room is totally engaged. Then came question number three.

All in all we concluded 45 minutes later. Mr. Wonderful was happy, felt comfortable, and has given the green light for his team to move forward.

Bottom line: This was a test, a test that meant moving forward or disqualification. The key influencer was not interested in a pitch or product knowledge. Instead he wanted a company/solution that he felt fully understood his challenges. He did not want to be sold but was interested in buying from a group that understood his business objectives.

Next time you only have three minutes, give these a shot!

To your success,

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