The First Fifteen Minutes
By Tim Connor, CSP
it a comedy? A tragedy?
A monologue or a documentary?
A hit? Or was the show cancelled?
We are not talking about the latest effort from Hollywood
York, but your last sales presentation.
are three ways to evaluate the success of any sales presentation.
Let's continue for a moment with our movie example. Before the
script finds its way to your local movie theater, there have been
hours of planning and organization, preparation,
and execution; the actual filming. In every profession there
are these same three steps, whether it is a doctor preparing for
surgery, a builder building a house or a parent planning the next
meal. There is always some degree of planning, preparation and then
execution. The success of
the outcome or finished product depends on the effectiveness of all
three. The sales process
is no exception.
planning or organizing is the pre-call research, investigation and
general information gathering. The
organization, is deciding the strategy for the call, not planning the
information that will be delivered, but the sequence of events.
The execution is the what you say and do once in the prospects
domain. The focus of this article is on the execution. However, it is
necessary to cover some of the necessary key points that should have
been addressed in the first two steps, if the actual presentation
strategy, dynamics and outcome are to be understood and successful.
sales process is a series of relationships not just personal
relationships, but the relationship between the elements of the
process. The first element
are your attitudes about, perceptions of, beliefs on, values and
judgments and their impact on every aspect of the process itself.
This element more than any other will determine your success
and/or failure in selling.
The next element is prospecting, that's where you get information,
next is the sales presentation, where you give information and
answer sales resistance, then
comes the close and finally, servicing the client for repeat and/or
referral business. The success of the sales presentation is a function
of your effectiveness of managing your attitudes and the timeliness
and accuracy of the information you receive.
you ever had a prospect say to you, you have fifteen minutes to
convince me that I should give you any more of my valuable time."
Well if they don't
say it you can bet they are thinking it.
are going to assume that you have what you believe is a good prospect,
and you are now in the prospects office ready to begin. It's
show time. The goals or
objectives of the first fifteen minutes are:
To build a positive rapport.
To establish an atmosphere of
trust and respect.
To gain control of the sales
To fill in the gaps of specific
prospect information that you have not learned to this point.
To confirm the accuracy of
previous information gained.
To uncover prospect prejudices,
needs, desires, attitudes, opinions, problems and potential
To discover the dominant
emotional buying motive.
To determine the urgency and
their willingness to proceed now.
To determine whether you are in
the presence of the decision maker or to discover who the additional
people are that should be involved.
To sell them on the need for
additional time to deliver the balance of your presentation.
lot in just fifteen minutes, yes, but there is one selling skill than
can accomplish all of these in the time allotted. The ability to ask
the right questions in the right way at the right time.
are two basic types of questions that you want to use in the early
stages of the sales process. They
are open and closed ended questions.
Closed ended questions are used to verify specific attitudes,
get answers to specific information requests.
For example, "What equipment are you currently using.
Who is your present supplier."
Open ended questions are used to query the prospects feelings,
attitudes, opinions, prejudices and judgments.
For example, "how do you feel about the service you are
getting from your current supplier.
What has been your experience with our type of product or
service. Remember, closed
ended questions cut off dialogue and open ended questions encourage
dialogue. Information is
power. Questions help you
prevent lost sales by getting you important information about your
prospect before you "deliver" your sales message.
They will help you to focus on only those features that are of
interest or concern to the buyer.
speaking, you want to use more open ended question in the early
portion of the sales process. If
you use a closed ended question early, follow it immediately with an
open ended question. You
want to get the prospect talking and you want to keep them talking.
An opening that I have used for over twenty years is, "I
know how I can best be of service to you or your organization, the
best way for me to determine that is if I can ask you a few questions,
is that ok?"
strategy accomplishes three critical things in the early part of the
presentation. First it gets you control of the sales process and second it gives
you permission to get as much information as you can and need early.
Keep in mind, the person who asks the questions, controls the
conversation and the person who talks the most dominates it.
In a sales presentation which do you think will be the most
your prospect is constantly asking themselves, "Why should I give
you more time?" Questions
keep their focus on their needs, problems, concerns and off of your
products, features and selling style.
Second, it shows the
prospect you are more interested in them, than you are in just selling
something, anything to them. This is one of the best ways to build
trust and rapport in any relationship,
by being more interested in them than yourself.
Third, it helps get and maintain their
attention by breaking through their preoccupation with the many other
issues that they have on their plate.
There are a few concepts that you should
consider, however before you continue with your presentation.
Never cover price until you have had an opportunity to
build value. Price will
always seem high, if value is perceived as low.
The way you build value is to relate the features and benefits
of your product and/or service to the specific needs, desires or
problems of the prospect. The
time for building value is after you know what these are.
If you introduce price too soon you will end up in a price
alone battle. An early request for a price is a signal that you have a
poor prospect or one that will buy on price alone. The way to disarm a
price request too early is to say something like, "I am sure
price is a concern to you. Are you only interested in price, or is
service, quality, reputation etc. also important to you?"
I would rather leave early in the process with a no, than
go through the entire process and get a maybe.
With a no, I know where I stand.
With a maybe, I have only false hope.
And after over 30 years in selling my experience is that most
maybes end up no's.
If you terminate an interview, be sure and leave a prospect and not an
enemy behind. One
way to accomplish this is to say, "Mr. prospect, your answers to
my questions have indicated that this is not a good time to be
discussing our product or service.
Permit me to get back to you in six months to see how your
circumstances have changed."
Timing is everything in selling.
Remember, people buy when they are ready to buy, not when you
need to sell. Attempting
to force a prospect to buy when you need to sell is what we commonly
call, the hard sell.
to the presentation.
opening question, and your follow-up questions will determine how much
more time your prospect will allow you.
Poor questions, and you'll be out of there. Good
questions and you can stay as long as you need to determine whether
you have a prospect that is worth more of your time.
The critical thing to remember is that you are not selling your
product or service in this early stage.
You are earning the right to take more of their time later.
relate this entire scenario to that of visiting your doctor for
stomach problems. If the
doctor prescribed a prescription right after your informing them of
your symptoms, I doubt if you would take his/her advice.
They need information, and they get it from a patient history,
exam, x rays and so on. Once
they feel confident they see the big picture, the doctor is ready to
give a diagnosis and you will be more receptive to it.
What if after you were in their office they said you have
fifteen minutes for us to decide on your medical fate!
I would bet you would find another doctor.
What if the doctor spent the entire time telling you about
their education, experience, successes, personal philosophies etc.?
That is not why you are there. That is not why you are in the
prospects office. You are
there to get information, not give it.
There will be time for that in the second segment of the sales
summarize with a few basic sales rules.
Your prospect will tell you what you need to tell them to sell
The information you don't get soon enough will hurt you later
in the process.
the prospect will see you doesn't mean they are a good prospect
People buy from people they trust, not people they like.
Your role is to sell the prospect, then educate your customer,
not educate prospects
and sell customers.
You will never close a sale on a poor prospect with a good
product, good sales
presentation or tricky close,
however a well qualified prospect will help you sell them.
first fifteen minutes are like building the foundation of a house.
Get the foundation right and the rest of the construction will
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