You’ve Got Five Minutes

By Lain Chroust Ehmann

You’ve got five minutes. According to the “Executive Buying and Selling Study” conducted by the Real Learning Company, a Scottsdale, Arizona-based consulting firm, this is the amount of time 40% of executives will give salespeople to establish credibility. “Executives want salespeople to get to the point. They don’t want to be asked about their kids or their golf game. They want to know how a salesperson’s product will help them overcome their business challenges,” says Real Learning Company president and founder Richard Hodge.

In order to use that credibility window to the greatest advantage, salespeople need to do their homework, says Hodge. Especially when dealing with high-level decision-makers, salespeople must be prepared to connect the dots between the customers’ needs and their product or service’s value proposition.

Hodge recommends using all sources available to a salesperson – Hoovers Online, for example, as well as the company’s 10Ks and 10Qs – to create a picture of what’s most important to individual customers. Because salespeople are action-oriented, they’re often too eager to get in the field and make things happen. Salespeople skip the preparation stage at their own peril, says Hodge. “You bust credibility when you don’t do your research.”

Use your first minutes with a customer or prospect to ask questions that can be answered elsewhere. Use your research to create one or two second-level questions that demonstrate your understanding of the company’s goals and business challenges, recommends Hodge. Figure out how your value proposition of goods and services – and you as a salesperson as well – can align with the customer’s concerns.

But forget about marketese or sales-speak. Salespeople talk too much about features and benefits instead of translating generic marketing messages into specific value for their customers. “Be very clear about your value proposition, not just qualitatively but quantitatively,” says Hodge. The more you can look at your product or service from your customers’ viewpoint, the better. “You have to bring something different in if you want to be treated as a partner and not just a vendor. Plain and simple, customers are looking for value – value through their eyes, not your eyes,” he says.

For more information, please click on