Why Should Customers Spend Time with You?
Selling Power Editors

Andy Paul is the author of Zero-Time Selling: 10 Essential Steps to Accelerate Every Company's Sales, which appeared on the Selling Power list of Best Books for Sales Success in 2013. In this exclusive Q&A, Paul shares some of his expert advice for sales managers.

Selling Power (SP): Why is it so important today for sales professionals to respond quickly to customers?

Paul: Like people everywhere, customers are incredibly busy. As a consequence, they have a limited amount of time and attention to invest to research products and services and make purchase decisions.

Customers need to see a return on the time they invest in a seller, or they won't give them more of their time. Given the choice, customers prefer to do business with the sales professional who provides them the most value for the time they have been given. They don't have the time or inclination to wait for a seller to catch up to their buying process; therefore, speed becomes essential to consistent sales success.

SP: What is your definition of "quick response time"?

Paul: "Quick response time" is not simply the amount of time required to respond to a customer. What many sales professionals don't understand is how to be responsive.

To be responsive, you need two things: speed and information. A quick response to a prospect is great, but if you don't include in that response any useful information, then you've actually wasted the prospect's time. Your goal as a manager should be to continually fine-tune your sales processes to reduce to a theoretical zero the time it takes to be responsive to a customer.

SP: How can sales managers encourage reps to be responsive?

Paul: Building a responsive sales culture starts with making responsiveness a key sales differentiator. For instance, this means managers have to define and implement sales processes for lead follow-up. It also means putting in place metrics that measure the effectiveness of the process.

The second task for managers is to participate in the process. CEOs and sales managers are frequently guilty of managing sales by assumption. They assume that fundamental sales activities, like lead follow-up, are taking place, [but they're not] using the tools at their disposal, such as a CRM system, to ensure uniform compliance with their core sales processes.

SP: What trends do you see for sales management in 2013?

Paul: In my opinion, the biggest trend for sales managers to grasp is one that most spend little time thinking about: I call it "time utilization." How sellers manage their customers' time, across all aspects of the sales/buying cycle, is proving to be decisive in accelerating trust, building credibility, and truly differentiating themselves from their competitors.

The key for a sales manager is what I call "selling with maximum impact in the least time." This means coaching salespeople to ensure that every customer interaction is planned and executed to provide the maximum value with the least possible investment of the customer's time. Sales managers must train their salespeople to understand that a customer is giving them something of value – their time. And they must repay that by providing value for the time received (i.e., information that moves the customer closer to his or her goal of making a decision).

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