The Three Minute Rule


Complex Selling used to be about the three foot rule; meaning that you needed to be within three feet of your prospect to influence their buying decision. (Face to Face) Today, with Sales 2.0 technology empowering the buyer with information they need to make a buying decision, we might need the three minute rule. I define the three minute rule as the three minutes a seller needs to explain to the buyer why we need to trade the information they need for information we need.

As we know, complex sales stall for one of or all of these reasons:

  1. Vendors Look Alike
  2. They Consider the Cost of Doing Nothing
  3. Camps Divide

To avoid these pitfalls, we as sellers need to devise a plan early in the sales cycle.

When vendors start to look alike we need to devise a competitive plan where we link our competitive differentiation to solving the pains of the decision makers. Therefore, we must know who all is involved in the decision-making process and their pain.

When the committee starts to consider the cost of doing we must devise a closing plan equipped with the steps needed to get ink on paper. Companies make large purchases only as choice of last resort. Therefore we need to know at what date they can longer afford to do nothing and the help of the buyer to create a business case for our solution.

Camps divide because there is no consensus for next steps.  Therefore, we must devise a political plan based upon our understanding of the committee’s preference for us, the competition, and do nothing to influence the outcome.

I recommend creating a checklist of the things we need to know to best position ourselves to win.

  • The evaluation, decision making, and approval processes
  • Understanding of the decision-makers pains
  • Understanding of the competitive landscape
  • Acknowledged competitive advantage to solving those pains
  • A date they can no longer go without a solution
  • Acknowledged business case our solution provides
  • Decision-makers’ preference for us and the alternatives
  • Access to the decision-makers

Next I recommend creating a list of things we can negotiate in exchange for this knowledge

  • Discovery session
  • Demonstration of capabilities
  • Competitive differentiators
  • Technical resources
  • Statements of Work
  • Pricing
  • References
  • Access to our executives

This is where the true selling in a Complex Sale 2.0 world and the three minute rule comes into play.  We need to convince our point of contact that it is in their best interest to give us the things we need in return for what they need.  William Ury writes in his book The Power of a Positive No that we gain respect in negotiation when position ourselves from a point of experience and empathy. After all, we as sales people deal in these types of evaluations on a daily basis where this could be the only time the buyer has been in this position.  By following our process we will give them exactly what they want – a thorough evaluation with the best outcome.   Think of it as a series of small confrontations to avoid the big one at the end.

From my experience working with sales forces using Sales 2.0 technologies, it is far too easy to let the prospect dictate the sales process. First calls and demonstrations can be done virtually and pricing comes from a template.  We as sales people need to have the discipline to withhold these treasured bits of information in exchange for what we need. You will find that prospects that are willing to go down your process are much easier to win and those who won’t were inclined to go another direction to start with.  It is quite liberating when you focus your best efforts on companies that will buy from you.

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