Long meetings are rarely productive...
This is especially true when having an initial meeting with an unqualified lead. Unlike an actual selling conversation, a prospecting or qualifying conversation needs to be short and to the point.
You just got a referral from a client or an inbound lead that came from your website and what you do next is schedule some time to talk. At this point, most salespeople make a false assumption that the lead is already qualified because they’ve emailed in or were referred, so they put an hour long meeting on the calendar and start the selling process.
While inbound marketing does a good job of targeting prospects that are in an active buying mode, you still need to qualify them. Pushing a product or service on a prospect who is not a good fit is a waste of your time, so make sure every lead goes through qualification filters.
We’ve found that the best way to do this is by scheduling a short 15 minute meeting.
Why Shorter Meetings?
Here are 3 things you stand to gain with this 15-minute approach...
1. You will get more positive responses to your invites.
15 minutes is a much smaller commitment than an entire hour. Ask prospects for short meetings and they will have less objections and far fewer time constraints.
Ralph Grimse, partner at The Brevet Group, says:
I have found that sending messages with the word ‘connect’ in the headline and a quick request for such a meeting incredibly successful. Each meeting I schedule is on the calendar for a brief amount of the time – typically 15 minutes. Between the headline and the timing, this approach is incredibly non-aggressive, non-confrontational and difficult to say no. Can you really not spare 15 minutes on the phone or in person?
2. Your meetings will be far more productive.
There is an old project management adage:
Work will expand to fill the time you schedule for it.
Research on attention spans shows that most people can pay attention for 10-18 minutes before "checking out" - and there are physiological roots to this claim.
Our bodies require a large amount of oxygen, glucose, and blood flow when the brain processes new information, so we eventually feel physically fatigued.
A perfect example for the validity of this are TED talks.
TED has produce some of the most influential presentations (they are viewed more than 2 million time a day) and they are all approximately 18 minutes long.
Carmine Gallo, keynote speaker and author, explains the science behind TED’s 18-minute rule:
Researchers at Texas Christian University are finding that the act of listening can be as equally draining as thinking hard about a subject. Dr. Paul King calls it ‘cognitive backlog.’ Like weights, he says, the more information we are asked to take in, the heavier and heavier it gets. Eventually, we drop it all, failing to remember anything we’ve been told.
3. Your meetings will pack more punch.
Your conversation with a prospect (one that is not yet qualified as a lead) should be a short introduction and an opportunity for you to find out a little bit about their needs and problems.
Give them the “movie trailer” on how you help clients. At the end of the meeting, you'll have hit them with some of your best talking points and you should leave them hungry for more information.
How to Master the Short Meeting.
Though the meeting itself should be about 15 minutes, the overall time to prepare, have the meeting, and then follow up should take about 1 hour.
1. Research and prepare before you pick up the phone.
You’ve heard this one before, but I'm going to say it again: Preparation is the key to success.
Put 15-30 minutes on the clock before your call and find out everything you can about your lead. Browse their LinkedIn page and their company website and see what you can learn about their business and their buying process.
Use all the tools available to you to find valuable information to help you engage, connect, and bond with your prospects.
2. Shorten your opening remarks.
Although building rapport is an essential part of the selling process, it should not be a focus when you are prospecting. It’s tempting to kick things off by talking about your company, your background, industry trends, etc. Don’t let these intros drag on and distract from your mission.
Say something along the lines of “Let me tell you a little bit about us” and follow this with a short 30 second success story – preferably one that your prospect can relate to.
3. Check the prospect's qualifications.
First, make sure you are talking to the right person.
The most frequent reason sales reps are outsold is that they didn’t talk to the right people and the competitor did - Geoffrey James.
If you are talking to the wrong person, do your best to use the conversation to find the proper contact in that company might be and ask your initial contact to make an introduction.
But be careful with this.
Keep in mind that in a typical firm with 100-500 employees, an average of 7 people are involved in most buying decisions. Although your contact may not be the person that ultimately signs contracts, that does not mean that they are not an important influencer in the buying process.
Don’t be too quick to cross them off and make sure to include them if you have future conversations with others in their company. You don't want to upset someone who has significant weight in the purchasing decision just because you thought you were talking to the "wrong guy".
Second, if you are talking to the decision maker, figure out if they are primed to make a purchase (i.e. they are not just fact finding and wasting your time).
This is the toughest task of the prospecting conversation.
Most people fail here – research has shown that 50% of leads that are qualified are not ready to purchase.
Lastly, if you’ve checked the box on their qualification criteria – you’ve got a decision maker who is interested in your product and is primed to buy – be sure to lock down your next call or meeting ASAP.
4. Have killer marketing collateral.
15 minutes is enough time for the quick overview of your business and product, but it’s likely not enough time to go through all the benefits and details of your offering and that's okay.
You can help your prospect fill in some of the blanks before your next call with quality marketing collateral. Use the initial call to figure out what content pieces and educational material would best serve your prospect and make a commitment to send them to him.
In our experience at Brevet, we’ve seen most success with 1-pager PDFs that outline a particular offering. If possible, see if you can dig up a 1-pager case study that would be relevant to your prospect.
If your marketing materials are lengthy brochures or presentations, you need to update.
No one cares to look through your 30-page PowerPoints. Take some time and perhaps collaborate with your marketing team to create 1-pager summaries. Keep it simple and to the point.
5. Send a followup email after the meeting.
Jump on your email as soon as the meeting is over and send a follow-up note.
Here's a checklist of things to include:
- Thank your prospect for their time.
- Mention a few things that were discussed on the call.
- Find, tailor and attach those perfect 1-2 pieces of marketing collateral.
- Remind them of your next meeting and when it is.
After you’re done with the email, send them a calendar invite for your next conversation.
What has your sales team done to reduce call / meeting time? Let us know in the comments.
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