When my clients tell me about a 30 minute call they had that they think went really well because it ended up going 45 minutes, I usually burst their bubble when I let them know that’s not actually a good thing. In general I believe that meetings, interactions and conversations with our clients are a manifestation of the most important part of the sales process, and as such, fall into the category of intent, action, result and measurement. So if my intent was to go for 30 minutes but I went for 45, then something didn’t go as plan.
Now the knee-jerk response from a lot of folks is, “Yeah, but that’s a good thing that it went longer.” So, I ask them to tell me why longer is better. “Well, we talked about more stuff and we learned more.” While that may be true, and while additional data points might have been gathered, there is absolutely zero correlation between a single meeting that went longer and the probability of closing a deal. In fact, I am sure all of us can think of many sales processes that felt like they were going well, where we were getting along, and where meetings consistently went longer in a “good” way, but that the deal didn’t close.
So the concept of a longer meeting is simply an emotional reaction to a conversation with a prospect. It feels good. It seems like it should be a good thing, but in reality has absolutely no correlation to a better desired outcome. Once you wrap your head around that and put it in the category of an emotionally pleasing event that was not necessarily a factually better end result, then you’re forced to assess the value of that meeting based on the degree to which it allows you to maintain momentum and consistent sales process that drive your entire system.
I will describe it in a simplistic example. In many respects, the career of sales is a lot like spinning plates. You are working multiple opportunities and your job really is to spin multiple plates on top of various sticks. Once you get one going, you have to wiggle the stick in a certain way and set another one up. The plates tend to slow down so you have to keep going back and hitting the plate again to keep it spinning, and the more plates you add, the more you have to move from plate to plate to plate.
Well, there could be one plate that you like to spin more because it’s closer to your audience. You can certainly spend a little more time on that plate to make it spin longer, but that output of energy will detract from the rest of your efforts. It can’t not detract from the rest of your efforts.
It’s the same with sales, and there’s no way around it. Anything we do in the sales process with a specific prospect always takes away from something else we’re doing. Selling is really about making bets as to where we spend our time since most deals end in no-decision as they are taken through a funnel. In reality, it inherently starts with a lot of hope at the top and very little reality at the bottom, so it’s very important to keep ourselves emotionally detached from each of the specific opportunities so that as a whole we increase our probability of closing the deal.
That’s a really hard thing to do, which is why selling is so hard for folks because as human beings we want to be emotionally attached to a specific opportunity. We want to think that because of our actions or our technique, that we are really affecting the outcome. However, the best salespeople in the world follow a sales process that gives them the best chance of yielding the desired outcome revenue from the most opportunities over time instead of following their feelings.
It’s not about fixating on a deal. It’s not about the odds of spending more time with a particular prospect to have a better chance of closing the deal. It’s about sticking with the sales process, which in and of itself removes the emotional element from the opportunity and allows salespeople to keep more plates spinning at the same time.
So think about this next time you’re with a client where the conversation is going well, you are feeling momentum and enthusiasm, and everybody is having a good time on the call. When the half an hour that you had set aside is almost up, ask yourself if it really is better to keep going or to schedule a follow up call. It’s the hardest thing to do in sales when all you want to do is have a longer conversation. It’s much more fun than prospecting, your next call or whatever it is that you need to prep for, which might not be as enjoyable, but your final outcome is what you really need to be focused on.
By Townsend Wardlaw
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Do you have a bad habit of letting sales calls run over? What is the worst thing that has happened as a result?
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