“I Only Have Five Minutes—What Have You Got for Me?”

5-minutes-for-the-saleEvery salesperson will eventually find themselves in this situation. For whatever reason, usually owing to an interruption or last-minute emergency on the buyer’s end, your scheduled thirty-minute first appointment has been whittled down to almost nothing. When this happens to you—and if it hasn’t, it will—context is key to determining your best response. Here are two typical situations.

Situation #1: Your prospect is a major account you’ve been researching for weeks and you had finally landed a half-hour on the buyer’s calendar.

Understand that when this happens, you’d better have your game tight. If you can’t deliver something compelling, with no hype, in less than five minutes, you probably weren’t ready for the appointment in the first place.

Your response: Cut to the chase.  Open with your purpose statement and your value statement together. Summarize your preliminary findings about a business issue your prospect faces that your company is in the business of resolving and tell them that is why you requested the meeting. 

For example, “I understand that you have excessive shipping expenses because of inefficiencies in selecting proper packaging material and carriers. Because my company specializes in reducing both fixed and variable shipping costs by addressing needs just like these, which is why I asked to meet with you. However, these are only preliminary findings, so my purpose is to sit down with you and confirm my numbers, look for other areas for improvement that I might not know about yet—which is something we often discover when we take a deeper look—and make some recommendations for solutions to lower your costs and get you that money back. I’d like to get on your calendar for an hour, now or whenever works for both of us, so that I can ask some questions of you and your team.”

Situation #2: An initial meeting set by a cold call has been cut from thirty minutes to five.

You haven’t had time to prepare as you would have for a major account and, in fact, because you haven’t fully qualified the customer, you don’t even know yet whether investing in that kind of preparation is worth your time.

When this happens, say this: “Let’s look at our calendars and find a good time for us to reschedule this meeting.”

You might even offer to meet offsite or buy your prospect a cup of coffee nearby, so as to lessen the potential for future interruptions.

Several good reasons exist for this gambit. First, you communicate to your prospect that you’re not desperate; on the contrary, you’re confident. Second, you send the message that what you have to say is worth taking time to hear. And third, you are not really risking much by avoiding a shortened presentation. With some emergency distracting your prospect, they are unlikely to remember much about your five minutes with them anyway.

Losing most of your meeting time on a first appointment can feel like a disaster to a new salesperson. It doesn’t have to be. A confident rep knows what to say—depending on the context—to turn unpredicted schedule changes from an unpredicted setback into a future opportunity.