Your Enemy is Time. Not Your Prospects.

What is the one valuable commodity that is in short supply for both your prospect and you, the seller? It is time.

If you’ve read my article on The Economics of Attention you know that your prospects are making economic decisions on how to efficiently allocate their limited time, and attention, among the many demands that are placed on it. In this excerpt from my award-winning book, Zero-Time Selling: 10 Essential Steps to Accelerate Every Company’s Sales, I discussed the concept of a Return on Time Invested (ROTI) and its importance in selling:

“A sell/buy transaction is essentially an investment opportunity for both the customer and the seller. For each party to do its job well, both have to invest a certain amount of time (which we all know is money), as well as money. Both the customer and the seller want to maximize their Return on Time Invested (ROTI) in their respective buying and selling cycles. For the buyer this means making an informed decision to purchase a solution that meets their value, budget, and feature requirements with the least investment of time possible. For the seller this means supporting the buyer with the information they need to make the optimum informed purchase decision in the shortest period of time possible.”

If you make good use of the time a prospect invests in you as a seller; if the prospects realizes value and a good return on the time they invest in you, then you will be rewarded with more time, and have the inside track to win the order.

The concept is so simple and yet it seems that every day I encounter examples of bad sales service that needlessly waste a prospect’s time. At the same time, the sellers appear to be completely clueless about the negative consequences of their actions, and as you will see below, even celebrate their poor sales service..

The Story: I returned home from a vacation to find that a prolonged drought had driven several million thirsty ants to relocate from my backyard into my kitchen in search of water. They were marching in thick black lines from one end of the white tile floors in my kitchen to the other. I needed help and immediately hopped online to find a local exterminator. The first company listed on the Google search returns, which I’ll call Ant-Away Exterminating, claimed they had an organic, technologically advanced solution for exterminating pests that was safe for people and pets. Perfect! Riley and Nico, my golden retriever and exuberant poodle-type mutt, would appreciate that. Plant friendly, pet friendly (unless your pets are insects…), people friendly, environmentally friendly, and absolutely lethal to bugs of all stripes. What more could be better?

Ant-Away published a number for their 24-hour hotline on their website. Twenty-four hours a day. Wow, good service! Help when I needed it. I was ready to buy. I dialed their hotline number which offered up a recording that invited me to leave a message for one of their customer service technicians. Then the exuberant female voice on the recording proudly trumpeted “our company policy: your phone call will be returned within 24 hours. Guaranteed!”

Twenty-four hours. They thought that was fast. But their fast was my slow. I had ants all over my house and I didn’t have 24 hours to wait for them. I needed to take care of the problem now.

Ant-Away had the perfect opportunity to capture my business. But, like a lot of companies, they prized their convenience over being responsive to their customers. And they had the chutzpah to attempt to turn their shortcomings into a virture. Instead, what they communicated to me, and all their other prospective customers, were three negative messages:

1. Your call is not that important to us. In fact, you are not going to talk with a salesperson or customer service rep when you call. In fact, you won’t even speak to a live person at all.

2. The only guarantee we can offer is that we won’t call you back until tomorrow. What’s the rush? We’ve given ourselves 24 hours!

3. We need to have a company policy in place to force someone to call you back at all.

I called the next pest-control company on the search returns.They actually answered their phones with a live operator and set me up with a same-day appointment with their technician. Within a few hours the ants had been persuaded to quench their thirst outdoors.


Andy Paul is author of the award-winning book, Zero-Time Selling: 10 Essential Steps to Accelerate Every Company’s Sales. A frequent speaker, Andy conducts workshops and consults with B2B sales teams of all sizes and shapes to teach them how to sell more by selling faster. Sign up for our monthly newsletter, “The Speed of Selling.” Enjoy what you just read? Subscribe to our blog!

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