Long meetings that drone on 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. Here is what you stand to gain with this approach.
WHY SHORT MEETINGS?
1. You will get more positive responses to your meeting invites
15 minutes is a much smaller commitment than an entire hour. Ask prospects for short meetings and you will likely get less meeting rejections.
“I have found that sending messages with the word ‘connect’ in the headline and a quick request for such a meeting incredibly successful,” says Ralph Grimse, partner at The Brevet Group. “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 more productive
There is an old project management adage: work expands to the time you schedule for it.
Research on attention spans shows that most people can pay attention for 10-18 minutes before checking out. There are physiological roots to this. Our bodies require a large amount of oxygen, glucose, and blood flow when the brain processes new information, so we eventually feel physically fatigued.
The perfect case for the validity behind 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 be more effective
Your conversation with a prospect, one that is not yet qualified as a lead, should be a short introduction – an opportunity for you to find out a little bit about their needs and problems and give them the “movie trailer” on how you help clients. At the end of the meeting, you should leave them hungry for more.
HOW TO MASTER THE SHORT MEETING
Though the meeting itself should be 15 minutes, the overall time to prepare, have the meeting, and follow up should take about 1 hour.
1. Do your research and prepare before you pick up the phone
You’ve heard this one before, but we are going to say it again: Preparation is 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
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 for these two qualification requirements
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 (Source: 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.
However, 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.
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 the 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.
4. Have killer marketing collateral
15 minutes is enough time for the “movie trailer” of your business and product, but it’s likely not enough time to go through all the benefits and details of your offering. That’s alright though. You can help your prospect fill in some of the blanks before your next call with quality marketing collateral. Use the initial short call to figure out what content pieces and educational material would best serve your prospect and make a commitment to send to them.
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. Follow up with an email immediately after the meeting
Jump on your email as soon as the meeting is over and send a follow-up note.
- Thank your prospect for their time
- Mention a few things that were discussed on the call
- Find, tailor and attach the perfect 1-2 pieces of marketing collateral
- Remind them of next and date of next meeting
After you’re done with the email, send them a calendar invite for your next conversation.
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About The Author
Researcher, consultant, and sales leader, Brian uses a data-driven approach to drive sales effectiveness. His clients include leading sales organizations in financial services, technology, healthcare, and professional services. Using insight from academics and change management, Brian helps senior leaders and sales enablement teams understand and succeed in today’s more demanding market. His research has been published in Harvard Business Review and other outlets.