As you read the title of this blog you might be thinking that this would never happen but the fact is it happens thousands of times each and every day. More often than not it takes the form of, “I’d like to talk to you about Product X today. Do you have a minute?” Obviously, the average salesperson would never make a statement like the title of this blog; however, many do begin conversations with their customers using the example stated above. The question we must ask ourselves is how our customers interpret these statements. Or better yet, when you are approached by a salesperson using this line, what do you think? If you’re like me, you think to yourself, “Uh oh, here we go…”
I used to feel sorry for goldfish swimming in that small bowl, day after day. But then I learned that goldfish have a 9-second attention span. They likely don’t realize they’re going around in circles. Certainly that wouldn’t apply to humans—but then I learned that our ability to pay attention has decreased dramatically in the past 100 years. Humans used to be able to pay attention for 20 minutes—now our attention span is the same as that goldfish. What this means for us in sales is that we better capture attention pretty quickly—or else our customers won’t listen to what we say. And if we can’t get them to listen, we certainly can’t get them to buy our product.
“I only have 30 seconds.” Unfortunately, this is something that physicians tend to say with some regularity to representatives. So what exactly can you accomplish in 30 seconds? Quite a bit if you view this short amount of time as the opportunity it is. A good start is to understand why you are limited to 30 seconds. It’s probably due to the inane conversations this doctor has had with other sales representatives. Unfortunately, what these representatives had to say could actually be captured in 30 seconds and the physician’s time is too valuable to give any more than that for future conversations.
The average person has an attention span of 9 seconds—about the same as that of a goldfish. (At least, that’s what the BBC news claimed.) 9 seconds is an awfully short period of time. This means that we need to capture our customer’s attention immediately—and that what we say as our opening truly matters. Because if we don’t capture their attention right from the onset, the odds are the customer will lose interest and what we say afterwards probably won’t be heard.
Most business professionals stop listening to a presentation almost as soon as it begins—within 60 seconds (according to expert Joe McCormack). It’s not any better if you send an email—they’ll stop reading it after 30 seconds. And what is perhaps most alarming is that they stop listening to colleagues after 15 seconds. If that’s the way they treat their colleagues, how much time do you think they’ll give to those of us in sales?
First, let me state upfront that I’m a big advocate of asking questions. I often find they are the best way to learn what we need to know about our customers—how they make buying decisions, what is important to them, their passions, their business challenges, etc. More than that, questions are among the more effective ways to capture attention and get your customer to think. But asking questions is not always the best approach—because asking the wrong question can do more harm than good.
With so much at stake with each sales interaction, why do reps set themselves up for failure? I’m referring to their lack of planning and delivering a great opening. As I have often said, “A great opening does not make a great call but without a great opening you won't have a great call.”
“I probably shouldn’t say this but…” That statement got your attention didn’t it? This is the right way to begin your sales call—to say something that will make your prospect/customer stop and listen. The reality is that in today’s environment where people are being pulled in multiple directions and are accustomed to multi-tasking, your opening [...]