Want 5 Minutes of My Time? Then Don’t Ask Me for a Meeting

Like almost everyone with an email address today, I get a lot of email. I’m not just talking 20-30 new emails each day; I’m talking 100-200 new emails per day. To some of you out there, that may not seem like a lot, but to me – as someone who cannot leave a single unread email in her inbox – it is. If it weren’t for my trusty spam filter, I’d invariably loose my mind among the announcements, the solicitations, the offers, and on and on. Now please note, the majority of the email I receive is work-related, from my colleagues, and quite important to my daily workload, and there’s nothing I can do, or want to do about that. In order to stay on top of the latest industry news, competitor announcements, and other relevant information, I also subscribe to and receive emails several times a day from various industry-related Google Alerts, RSS feeds, Twitter alerts, LinkedIn Group threads, and industry relevant newsletters and announcements. So, even though I receive a ton of email each day, at least it’s email that I’m choosing to receive (minus the email that my trusty spam filter takes care of) and quite relevant to my daily routine. But, sometimes that’s not the case …

As the Online Marketing & Social Media Manager at Binary Tree, I often (and by often I mean everyday, multiple times a day) receive emails from Sales Reps who want to meet with me. I receive the old …”I just need 5 minutes of your time …”, or “ …I’d like to tell you how we can help you …”, and my personal favorite, “…I’m reaching out to you because I believe that your company is a great fit for a partnership …”. As a former Sales Professional, I completely understand that these folks are just doing their jobs. It’s tough out there and they have high quotas to make quarter-after-quarter. It’s definitely interesting to now be on the receiving end of a sales solicitation, and even more interesting to understand how the people I emailed and called (over-and-over) asking for a meeting must have felt. I used to send the same emails and use the same words and phrases like, “5 minutes of your time” and “partnership”. Sometimes it worked, but most of the time I was ignored, and now that I’m on the vendor side of the table, I have a much clearer insight into what a Sales Rep might be able do to get “5 minutes of my time”.

Don’t ask for a meeting Yes, you’ve done some research on my company, my industry, and my competition. You studied and combed through every page on my website. You know my boss’s name and job title and where I used to work. You know and work with some of my former colleagues. You even know where I went to college. All of this is very good stuff to know. It helps you get some insight into who I am and the “who, what, where, and why” about my company, how we work, and our possible needs. But knowing this information and how it possibly relates to your service and/or product doesn’t mean that I’ll meet with you. Just like you, I have my own “quotas” to reach. Not necessarily quarterly and yearly numbers to make, but projects and tasks that I’m accountable for and need to complete every week, every month, and every year. So, like you, I’m busy. I’m busy having meetings, making calls, creating documents, maintaining blogs, installing systems, instituting processes, and on-and-on. I carve out each hour of each day on my Outlook calendar and leave myself very little wiggle room. Any “5 minutes” that I may find during the day will most likely be spent pouring another cup of coffee or throwing a Pop Tart in the toaster. Just like you, I have deadlines to meet in order to be successful.

If you want to get my attention – if you want my precious 5 minutes – then you have to “wow” me with some compelling information. I need something that I can forward to my boss, his boss, and my Executive team that will distract them enough from their even busier day and make them say, “…that’s some very persuasive information, let’s meet with them.” Asking me for a meeting without nurturing me first with drips of information that can impact our bottom line and help us compete with our competition at a higher level is KEY to getting my 5 minutes. For example:

  1. Tell me how my top 3 competitors increased their sales last quarter by using your services and/or product.
  2. Send me a graphic that illustrates what I can expect to see over time if I purchase your services and/or product.
  3. Give me examples of who’s using your services and/or product, how they’re using it, and the positive impact it’s having on their bottom lines.

Nurturing me with that type of information – surprising me every once in a while with information that can impact our overall revenue – is what I want to receive. Then, if that information is compelling enough, you may ask for my 5 minutes. Otherwise, you’re just wasting your time.Want 5 Minutes of My Time?

Don’t tell me that you know some guy I used to work with – In the day and age of social media, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Google+, everybody knows someone that knows someone. Heck, I follow Bill Gates on Twitter, but I don’t claim to know the guy. In a world where anyone can be connected to everyone, using the “I know someone you know” sales tactic isn’t going to fly. However, approaching it differently by saying something like, “ …we were able to increase <insert person’s name here> and their company’s revenue by x dollars …”, well then maybe you have a chance. But simply stating that you know someone that I know (or even just barely know) isn’t going to get you my 5 minutes.

Don’t tell me you contacted my boss – Telling me that you reached out to my boss or plan on reaching out to my boss isn’t going to stop me dead in my tracks and respond to you. I can assure you; my boss is just as busy – in fact he’s even busier – than I am. Unless he receives the same persuasive and compelling information from time-to-time that I discuss above, he’s not going to waste my time.

Don’t tell me my company is a great fit for a partnership – I know you did your homework. You read through each page of my company’s website, you’re familiar with our products and services, you know our competitors, and you know what we develop and sell. Yes, “partnership” sounds much nicer than saying, “your company is a great fit to buy our products and/or services”. But honestly, how do I know if we’re a “great fit” for your offering and if we should enter into a “partnership” with you if you don’t tell me how your offering will help my company, for example, increase market share? It’s like casting out a fishing rod. You cast it out in an place where you know there’s fish and bait the hook with what you know the fish likes and is interested in eating. When you finally get a fish to bite, you start reeling the fish in – you reel in a bit, and release a bit, you reel in a little bit more, and then release again – you perform this action until you have the fish in your boat. This analogy is critical – you need to “bait” me with what I like, and slowly, over time, you’ll get me in your boat.

Don’t forward me things you think I might be interested in – We never spoke on the phone and we never met, so what would make you think that I might be interested in information on an upcoming webinar or trade show? Again, the only way I’ll be interested in attending one of your webinars or meeting up with you at a trade show is if you can first educate me with the compelling information I need to persuade me to give up my “5 minutes”.

Again, I completely understand the plight of the Sales Rep. It’s hard out there and people can be brutal and rude. I, too, fell prey to the pitfalls I discuss above and often felt quite discouraged by the lack of responses (and thus sales) I’d receive. The interesting thing is that some of the most successful Sales Reps that I’ve had the pleasure to know and work with were first buyers before they became sellers. Having experience on the buyer side of the table seems to give them a better sense of exactly how to engage with a potential customer. They know what compelled them to give up their “5 minutes” and use that knowledge to educate and sell to customers.

Maybe that’s the solution …hire Sales Reps that were once buyers. Sure, that would be ideal, but probably far from realistic. If you want to get on my calendar you need to think like a buyer, not like a seller. What makes you purchase one item over another? Why does one product get your attention more than another? Why do you invest your time and money in one store over another? Asking yourself questions like these may just be the strategy you need to embrace in order to get my “5 minutes”    🙂

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About Rennie Filler
Senior Manager, CRM/Salesforce at Shutterstock and creator of SwellCrowd - a CRM blog.

5 Responses to Want 5 Minutes of My Time? Then Don’t Ask Me for a Meeting

  1. Great information about what it should truly mean to qualify your “target.” The real pre-sales work in developing relationships is often underestimated. Paragraphs three and four should be in the slide deck for your sales team training.

    What is your take on real personal connections with those that are trying to do business with you? And, for that matter, developing relationships out of generosity where you’ve learned how to truly help someone meet their personal objectives (like meeting your quota or completing your project deadline on the road to a promotion) which in turn is also beneficial to the company and its objectives.

    I’m not suggesting you send your spammers to get your dry-cleaning, but It pays to have your ear to the ground. Our business environment has picked up speed and therefore our expectations are higher. Does it pay to give an audience? What if the sales rep calling you does have value to offer that you would not want your company to overlook? Instead of sending this post as an auto-response to email spammers (apologies to Paul Young) how about having your boilerplate auto-reply of the week or month that goes something like:

    “I’ll tell you what problem I really could use some help with is..” OR “My top three initiatives this quarter are…” “How would you help? Do you know others that you could introduce to that could help?” OR “Actually, we’re trying to build credibility and relationships with ABC Co., are they a customer? Can you help us with that?”

    If a representative of a company trying to sell you something solved a few problems for you, wouldn’t you give them an audience? If they can’t solve your problems at hand, who lost? Please keep in mind that

    Five minutes is a ridiculous request. No one on either side of the table can learn enough. Can we do a free audit? Will you answer some survey questions online and I’ll discuss the results with you? May I interview you and a few folks from your leadership team in order to produce a clear vision? Would you and some members of your team attend a webcast that also includes some education in this area? Again, it all works better if I know you somehow or we’ve been introduced by someone I KNOW or you’ve been recommended to me.

    Extending the dialogue should be embraced. You never know where good help or answers to big, hairy problems might come from.

  2. kevin egolf says:

    Great post Rennie. Can we meet soon? I actually do think our respective companies can help each other!…

    • Rennie says:

      Nice one, Kevin 🙂

  3. Paul Young says:

    I’m considering setting a rule in Outlook to autorespond with this blog posting to anyone who sends me an email, but who isn’t in my address book. Great post, Rennie!

    • Rennie says:

      Thank you, Paul. I figured my fellow former Sales Reps would appreciate my insight 🙂

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