Whether it’s struggling to find qualified leads, meet key sales activities or remain polite while a prospect prattles on about something painfully irrelevant, not a day goes by when selling on the phone doesn’t test your skills. And, sometimes, the challenge to top all challenges presents itself:
The Five-Minute Phone Sales Challenge.
Typically following a request for a follow-up meeting, it tends to go something like this:
Customer: "Well you've got me on the phone now, so I'll give you five minutes. Wow me."
Suddenly you’re under the gun, the clock is ticking, and a potential customer is grinning maniacally on the other end. Your heart begins to race. Why wasn’t this covered in the training seminar?
Upon hearing the challenge, your first instinct may be to stuff as much information as possible into the allotted time slot. But spitting out features and benefits like an auctioneer in a rap battle is a rookie mistake.
To maximize your five minutes and obtain a face-to-face by the end of it, consider the following strategies:
Strategy 1: Reject the premise
Preferring to go by his Reddit username, Cyndershade is a New England-based sales veteran, prolific advice giver, and active member of Reddit’s Sales page. Having worked in the sales industry for more than 15 years, Cyndershade has led directed sales training for corporations such as Comcast and headed marketing campaigns for multiple Fortune 100 companies — and even he has not escaped the The Five-Minute Phone Sales Challenge.
Cyndershade has developed an effective riposte, and has been kind enough to share it with us. What follows is his time-tested response, broken down for clarity:
Step 1: Prove you understand where the customer is coming from.
“I understand that your time is valuable, that's something that I understood before I looked you up, before I researched you, before I pressed the buttons on my phone to make this call. I understand this because it's the nature of your business, the nature of our business.”
Step 2: Put yourself on an equal playing field.
“One thing a lot of people don't understand, however, is that my time is also valuable, and I've spent this valuable time creating a solution to a problem I already know you have.”
Step 3: Explain why you’ll be unable to accommodate their challenge.
“Unfortunately or otherwise, I won't be able to give you a five-minute pitch, because that would be doing both of us a harsh disservice. This is a lot of quality information that can't possibly be packaged into five minutes. Do you know what gets packaged in five minutes? McDonald's. Would you seriously solve a critical issue over a five-minute pitch? I certainly wouldn't.”
Step 4: Explain why a follow-up meeting is a wise decision.
“I will tell you one thing, though: If you give me a chance to actually sit down with you and go over my solution, like two businesspeople doing business, I can guarantee you will leave the meeting with a new perspective, and I guarantee you'll be happy with the time you spent.”
Step 5: Call to action.
“So, what time do you want to set up to sit down with me? I am available next week, I can do in person or over the phone if you have access to a computer.”
Cyndershade says that this response has netted him a roughly 70% appointment close ratio over the last 11 years.
Why is it so effective?
“I think it works so well because it’s a challenging approach,” Cyndershade said. “Challenger sales techniques are great because they impart some sort of action or inaction on the point of contact. If they fight back, you have leverage to respond. If they don't fight back, you have a way in that they can't say no to.”
Cyndershade explains that if you respond to the customer’s challenge in the way outlined above, the customer won’t have an opportunity to write you off unless they’re willing to be rude. This happens much less often than most people think.
“Saying what I say with confidence, and a little bit of knowledge of the owner's business, also helps represent that your own time is important, and you're trading it to them for nothing,” Cyndershade said. “I think small and medium-sized businesses, and even big businesses, really respect that sort of integrity.”
Strategy 2: Focus On Pain Points
Liz Rodriguez is a digital strategist and account manager at Design House, and like Cyndershade, she has also encountered The Five-Minute Phone Sales Challenge with great frequency.
Her counterstrategy, however, differs from Cyndershade’s in a big way. Rather than reject the challenge’s premise, Rodriguez focuses on uncovering the challenger’s pain points.
“When you have less than five minutes to land a face-to-face meeting, you have to be quick on your feet and zoom right into the pain points of your prospect,” Rodriguez said.
After the customer presents the challenge, Rodriguez spends the first minute explaining what she, and her company, can do for the customer.
For example: “We will increase visits to your website, which in turn will convert into tangible customers, and increase sales."
Then she explains why her company does this better than anyone else. She might mention some of their higher-profile clients. She may focus on justifying the savings or value of their product or service.
Then she starts asking the prospect questions.
For example: "When was your website built? I've noticed it’s not mobile responsive. Are you aware Google will rank your website higher if your website was mobile compliant?”
Finally, she wraps up the call by letting the prospect know that she values the prospect’s time, their time is up, and that she would welcome the opportunity for a Skype or face-to-face meeting.
“If you were able to make some valid points to your prospect, it’s incredible how a five-minute strategy can help to generate new business,” Rodriguez said.
Strategy 3: Build Rapport
Jordan Wan is the founder and CEO of CloserIQ, a service that connects sales professionals to top venture startups. While Cyndershade’s strategy challenged the customer, and Rodriguez’s strategy focused on the customer’s pain points, Wan’s strategy relies on building a rapport with the customer, and leveraging an emotional connection.
“The goal of your five minutes is not to pitch,” Wan said, “but to demonstrate expertise and credibility, build rapport, and build confidence that your solution is worth exploring, given the prospect's current priorities.”
Here is what Wan advises salespeople to do when responding to The Five-Minute Phone Sales Challenge.
- Don’t jump in and start pitching.
- Be extremely courteous and positive.
- Spark a personal connection.
- Uncover a major pain point.
- Get to know the customer and what they want.
- Ask insightful questions to demonstrate you care about finding the right solution.
When the five minutes are almost up, Wan recites a variation of the following script:
"I think I have a firm grasp of your pain points and I think I can help you out. Unfortunately, we are out of time, so I'd love to schedule a demo to go over how I think our solution works. I can show you how Client X and Client Y are leveraging our solution to solve Z. We'll keep it short and on-point now that I know what you need. And if it’s something you're interested in, I'll try to do the best I can on price."
By getting to know a customer and what they want, your are better positioned to solve their problem and build trust, Wan said.
The Clock Is Ticking...
The Five-Minute Phone Sales Challenge is often a prospect’s way of saying no. They are presenting you with an insurmountable task and expect you to fail it. But if you control the urge to do nothing but pitch, and employ one of the above strategies, you just might surprise the challenger with your candor, your rapport and your understanding of their needs.
While the methods outlined above will certainly increase the likelihood of obtaining that follow-up meeting, nothing is foolproof, so it’s important to understand that failing The Five-Minute Phone Sales Challenge is, in a way, its own victory. NOs, believe it or not, lead to sales, so if you get a NO, mark it as lost and move on. The more NOs you get, the closer you are to a YES.