This is one of those many questions for which the answer always begins with “It depends.” It depends, first of all, if this is a prospect (someone who has not purchased) or a regular customer (someone who buys regularly). Generally speaking, you can expect more time with a customer than with a prospect.

It depends, secondly, on the understanding your customer has about the purpose and agenda of the call. For example, if you asked for 60 minutes in order to detail your response to his request for a proposal or a piece of equipment, than you should expect 60 minutes. If you asked for a short period of time to introduce you and your company, than you are probably lucky to get 30 minutes.
It depends, next, on your personal reputation. If you are seasoned rep who, over the years, has built a reputation that you won’t waste your customer’s time, and that you are always prepared to share something you think will be of value to the customer, than you should expect more time. If, however, you don’t have such a reputation with the customer, than you should expect less time.
It depends, finally, on your objective for the sales call. If you want to check up on the delivery of an order, for example, it probably shouldn’t take you more than ten minutes. If you want to get a tour of the facility and meet four of the key people, it could take a couple of hours.
As an overall rule to guide you, the call shouldn’t take any longer than it needs to. Of equal importance to how much time you think the call should take is how much time the customer has to devote to it. As you know, time is the scare commodity of our age, and your customer doesn’t have much of it. You need to respect your customer’s time constraints. If you ask for an hour of your customer’s time, that’s 16% of his day. Are you that important? Will you bring him/her enough value to justify that? Never allow your preconceived notions to override your customer’s time constraints.

Dave Kahle has trained tens of thousands of B2B salespeople, sales managers and business owners to be more effective in the 21st Century economy. He’s authored nine books, and presented in 47 states and seven countries. To access Dave’s training, insights and tools online, visit The Sales Resource Center. Visit www.davekahle.com to check out a seminar near you

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