Leaders who push for sales velocity have things backward. Any suggestion that a salesperson should try to speed up the sales conversation is more likely to cause problems at best, and a loss at worse. Longtime readers will know that you want to dominate your client’s time because the amount of time a client spends with one salesperson is a better indication of a deal’s momentum.
A client that doesn’t give you time signals that you are not creating value. This could also be a sign that someone else may be capturing their time, attention, and imagination. A client who spends more time with you than other salespeople believes you are creating value and are a potential supplier or strategic partner.
Recently, I met with a large client. Five contacts there spent two hours with me, an enormous amount of time. The second meeting matched the first meeting in length. I was certain I would win this deal. Later, the client told me that they had also met with most of my competitors.
Value Creation and the Impact on Client Time
As you have a more positive effect on your contact and the stakeholders that show up in a meeting, they will share more information and time with you. The more your conversation is valuable to your contacts, the more they will continue to engage with you.
The impact you make during client time seems connected to your ability to create value in the sales conversation. Greater value creation provides you with more time; low-value creation leads your clients to limit the time they spend with you. As clients spend less time with you, they become more likely to call to tell you they are going in another direction—if you don’t get ghosted.
When we use the term value creation, we are referring to educating the contact. There are sales methodologies built on value creation and others that lack the concept altogether.
Leading Clients and Client Time
When I wrote The Only Sales Guide You’ll Ever Need, I included the skill of leadership. You sell what you sell every day, so you have much more experience with the buyer’s journey. As your prospective buyer is in unfamiliar territory, you have guided a lot of clients through a decision to get the better results they needed.
To play for time, one strategy is to lead the client, linking the meetings, and covering the 10 commitments you will find in The Lost Art of Closing. Salespeople who have adopted its methodology have sent me notes to tell me they make more money.
How you sell and the advice and recommendations you make can earn you more client time. They can also create a preference to buy from you because you are helping your client understand and make a decision that will ensure they produce the results they need.
Overtime and Dominating Time with Clients
When a contact is still sitting in front of you after you have used up all your time, you are scoring points. No busy leader will continue a conversation that isn’t worth their time. Overtime is evidence you are doing well, and it may also deprive your competition of time, especially if they aren’t getting back the time you are taking.
The Strategy of Dominating Client Time
Let’s do a thought experiment. You are competing for a client, and you know two other competitors are being considered. The buyers and decision-makers have dedicated six hours to meet with the salespeople from the companies that interest them. You must choose between trying to create velocity, which will limit the time the client gives you, or trying to dominate the client’s time, potentially taking time from your competitors. What do you do?
If you acquired an additional hour with your client, would you believe that is an indication that you are in the pole position? Were the client to reduce your time, would you feel the need to explain to your sales manager why they should not forecast this deal?
We keep many metrics on all aspects of B2B sales. Client time isn’t one of them, even though it can tell us a lot about how we are doing with a prospective buyer. The number of people in the room indicates how well you are performing. If your main contact includes others in a meeting, they believe that you are creating value and they are most likely developing a preference to buy from you. Why else would a decision maker invest their team’s time in a sales conversation?
How to Acquire More Client Time in B2B Sales
Keep in mind you are in a competition, something difficult to remember because you rarely ever bump into a competitor on a sales call, although you may see their names on the sign-in sheets. See Eat Their Lunch: Winning Customers Away from Your Competition for more on how to beat your competitors.
Of all the things you might do to improve your chances of winning a client, the ability to command your client’s time is right at the top of that list. Following that, the more time you have face-to-face with your client, the more you can create during those meetings. Leading your client and helping them find their way to a decision feels like value creation for your contacts and their stakeholders.
Time is presence. It’s a gift. Even though you have been told relationships don’t matter, they matter now more than ever. More time allows you to build relationships with your prospective clients and their teams. Leaving this article, write down how you can create value for your prospective clients so they will allow you to spend more time with them. Do good work.