First, an apology to my readers! A number of people have somehow made their way into my Blog as “administrators” and have posted spam publications. While I work on this issue with IT, please know that I never invite anyone to post on my Blog. The purpose of this Blog is to provide observations, insight and advice regarding the sales process from the perspective of the corporate Buyer. I am the only person who is posting legitimate publications and I apologize if bogus posts have made their way to your screen. So until I get the site fixed, if you see any new posts written by anyone other than Christopher Locke please disregard them. Thank you. And now, back to todays Post . . .
In my years in purchasing I’ve sat through countless introductory meetings with Sales Professionals; meeting in which their company and product capability is presented for the first time in the hopes of doing business. And except for a few instances, most of them cover the same material, the same details, in the same format, over the same requested time frame of 60 minutes. The meeting starts; we shake hands and exchange business cards. A Powerpoint is then presented either in paper form or on a laptop. Company history and key corporate information is explained, usually followed by technical capabilities, usually followed by a list of current clients, usually followed by numerous photos of products. After nearly 40 minutes the presentation ends with one of three outcomes: #1. I’m interested in the company and products and have a current project for them to quote. #2. I’m interested in the company and products but currently have nothing to quote. #3. I’m not interested in the company or their products because either they’re not capable of fulfilling my needs or they offer product my company doesn’t buy. The last two of those outcomes could have been saved us both time with a Ten-Minute Meeting.
Generally speaking, Ten-Minute Meetings are preferred by Buyers for the simple fact that it can quickly determine if your company can provide what I need. I’ve been in so many sales meetings that wasted both my time and that of the Sales Professional because there wasn’t a fit. But now we’ve both wasted 40-60 minutes of our day when we could have found that out in 10 minutes.
As a Sales Professional you need to understand is that it’s NOT the amount of time you spend with the Buyer that’s important. Rather it’s the information provided during the meeting that’s important; information the Buyer wants and needs to hear in order to make a decision about your company. Even an all-day meeting won’t be beneficial if the Buyer doesn’t receive the information he wants or needs. That’s why the approach of a Ten-Minute Meeting makes perfect sense and the majority of Buyers will agree to one when they wouldn’t have agreed to an hour. “Mr. Locke, I can only imagine how busy your work day must be. That’s why I’ve created a short 10 minute meeting that quickly demonstrates our product line and what it could do for your company. Then at the end of the meeting we find there isn’t a fit I won’t have wasted much of your time. When can we meet for 10 minutes?”
Most initial sales meetings Buyers set up with potential suppliers are WAY too long. The Buyer sets up a half-hour or hour meeting with a Sales Rep and it ends up being a complete waste of time. Because part way into the meeting either it’s very clear the Sales Rep didn’t do their homework, or the Buyer isn’t hearing anything he needs to hear, or the Buyer can’t use the Sales Rep’s products or services in his company’s operations. But now the Buyer is stuck for the next 20-50 minutes because he committed that time to the Sales Pep. And if that’s the case, the Buyer probably won’t agree to a second meeting. However, if the Buyer had the opportunity to only commit ten minutes of their time and found that the Sales Rep’s company isn’t what he’s looking for, the meeting would end and the Buyer wouldn’t have wasted his time, nor would the Rep. However, if after ten minutes the Buyer decides he’s interested in you, he would either ask if you wouldn’t mind extending the meeting (which you’ll have to be prepared to do) or set up another meeting when you both have more time.
The use of Ten-Minute Meeting isn’t simply for cold-calls with potential clients. A Ten-Minute Meeting creates the perfect opportunity to keep your current clients updated on what’s going on in your company that could be of interest to them. Too often, Sales Professionals make that initial sales call to the Buyer to inform him of their products and commercial capabilities, but never do it again once they receive that first order. Your job as a Sales Rep is to keep in front of the Buyer and there’s no better way to do it than a Ten-Minute Meeting at least once a quarter. Keep the Buyer updated on products and topics of interest to his company. Keep him updated on your current trends in technology and commercial capabilities. Go over your warranty again, your payment terms, your service and spare parts locations, and what you’ve done for their company in the last three months. You don’t need more than ten minutes to do that.
So think like a Buyer. Step into the Buyer’s shoes for a moment. If you were a Buyer, what advantages do you see for yourself in a Ten-Minute Meeting? If you were a Buyer, why would it be beneficial that a supplier reviews and refreshes their technical and commercial capabilities at least once a quarter? As a Sales Professional, how can you research your own company to find out what new technical and commercial information is available that would be of interest to the Buyer?
Ten-Minute Meetings are also valuable to get in front of the Buyer if you happen to be in town and don’t have much time yourself. Many times I’ve had a Sales Professional call and say, “I’m only in town for a few hours and I have some free time. I know you’re busy, but if you have just 10 minutes I’d like to stop by your office to quickly discuss our product line and how it can be beneficial to you.” Phone calls like that work on me as well as the other Buyer’s I’ve shared notes with.
So the question is, how do you cover your products and everything you want to tell the Buyer about your company in 10 minutes? Simple: by covering the HIGHLIGHTS and not the DETAILS of your company. Think of it as submitting your resume. Experts tell you that when applying for a job your resume should cover the highlights and NOT the details of your career. Because the purpose of a resume is to get your foot in the door with hopes of eventually receiving the job. Initial sales meetings should be treated the same way. The purpose of a first-time sales meeting is to get your foot in the door with hopes of eventually receiving an order. Covering the highlights of your company in 10 minutes will quickly determine if the Buyer can use you and will greatly reduce the amount of time that could be potentially wasted, both yours and the Buyer’s. But keep in mind that if the Buyer DOES want to cover the details you should be prepared to discuss them.