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The 30-minute relationship

by Troy Harrison

Troy HarrisonRecently, while perusing discussions on my LinkedIn groups, I saw a statement that can only be described as a doozy: another sales trainer posted, “I can teach you to build a relationship, based on trust, that will last a lifetime, and accomplish that within a 30-minute sales call.” Wow. That’s quite a statement. And let me make a statement, as well: I cannot teach you how, within a 30-minute sales call, to build a lifetime relationship based on trust.

Of course, I suspect that the author of the statement can’t do so either. In fact, I’m sure he can’t; earning a lifetime’s worth of trust cannot be done within 30 minutes. People simply don’t work that way. However, if your sights and your goals are set correctly, you can accomplish some important things in a 30-minute sales call. Let’s talk about what they are.

Establish Dialogue: The first task on any sales interaction is to generate a comfortable dialogue for both parties. Any sales interaction begins with fear on both parties’ sides. Your customer has a fear of making a bad deal, or at a minimum, wasting time. You have a fear of not selling and not succeeding. Within the first 30 minutes, you can put at least some of those fears to the side. The fear creates a wall between the two of you; if that wall isn’t lower by the time you leave than it was when you started, you’ve missed something somewhere.

Become Memorable: One of the most difficult aspects of selling is being remembered when you’re not in front of the buyer. We all like to think that we are incredibly distinctive and memorable people, and that not only will our customers remember us, they love us after meeting us. It isn’t so. Years ago, I did an exercise with a company I was working for. In this exercise, we surveyed customers that had been seen the prior week by salespeople. We simply asked them if they recalled being seen by a salesperson from our company, who the person was, and what stood out about the conversation. (I should point out that my sales force was the top branch in the country for this company.)

The results were sobering. Sixty percent remembered being seen by one of our people. Less than 50% could recall a name. Only about 25% could remember any of the conversation. However, invariably, when someone did recall the conversation, their recollection was that the salesperson “asked a lot of tough questions.” This is what makes you memorable to your customers – asking questions that get inside their heads.

Deposit into your Emotional Bank Account: The Emotional Bank Account is at the center of all of your relationships. Essentially, the EBA is a measurement of how much “equity” you have earned with the other person. We are constantly making deposits and withdrawals in our EBAs; the key is to maintain a positive balance by making more deposits than withdrawals. We make deposits by making positive gestures toward the other person. We make withdrawals by asking things of the other person that might be unpleasant, tough or uncomfortable for them. In the first 30 minutes, it’s critical to begin making deposits into the EBA; if your balance is zero or negative at the end of the first 30 minutes, your customer is likely to close your account.

Gain Understanding of your Buyer: One of your first tasks as a salesperson is to begin to understand your buyer – and by that, I mean understanding his/her perspective and worldview as it pertains to business dealings. You do that by asking good questions about your buyer’s background, the things they enjoy about their work, and good big-picture questions about the company itself.

Align Yourself With Your Buyer: As important as understanding your buyer is aligning yourself with your buyer. When the sales call starts, one of the buyer’s assumptions is that you and he are on opposite sides of the table, and not necessarily working in the same direction to a common goal. You’re a salesperson, and the perception of a salesperson is that of someone who is trying to “push” a product or service off on the buyer without significant regard for the buyer’s well-being and interests. You can communicate, through word and deed, that you are on the buyer’s side and that you are working in the same direction.

(Maybe) Generate an Opportunity: This one depends greatly upon your offerings and sales environment – but, yes, it is possible to generate an opportunity for a proposal or even an initial order on a 30-minute sales call. What’s important is to keep this in perspective; even if you have generated actual business in 30 minutes, it does not mean that you have generated that “lifetime” relationship. It means that you have generated enough trust with your buyer to give you a tryout; what you do from there will determine if you ever have that opportunity to build a lifelong relationship.

Troy Harrison is the author of “Sell Like You Mean It!” and the president of SalesForce Solutions, a sales training, consulting, and recruiting firm. For information on booking speaking/training engagements, consulting, or to sign up for his weekly E-zine, call 913-645-3603, e-mail, or visit


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