15-Minutes of Fame?
Last week, I got a call from a dealer salesperson asking for my help, which is something that happens on a regular basis these days. This salesperson was facing a challenge that’s familiar to many of us right now, especially as we all navigate today's tricky, mid-to-post-pandemic sales environment — and that’s how to get in front of local design firms and present to them.
She had been building and nurturing her relationship with the design firm for some time, and as our industry opens up, she requested a presentation time slot and finally got it confirmed. When the meeting invitation came through, she was really surprised to see the meeting’s time frame. After all the work and effort to get the appointment, she was given a whopping 15 minutes!
Really? Just 15 minutes? Look, I get it — we’re all busy (or at least we claim to be), and a salesperson, who is also a designer, asked for an opportunity to share her story and how she can be a resource to the design firm. And all they could offer her was a mere 15 minutes.
Come on, A&D friends — I know these requests take you away from billable hours, and honestly you may feel like people come at you way too often wanting to take part of your time. I challenge you to take a moment to think about this, though — if you give in and choose a few choice brands you’re impressed with, then you offer a few of their salespeople or ancillary experts the chance to come to your firm and present, what could you learn or discover? And, consider this, how would you react if a customer, you’ve been calling on, finally gave you a meeting — but all they gave you was 15 minutes? If you answer this question honestly, you’d be irritated, if not pissed off.
How can anyone effectively communicate who they are, what they do, much less the products they sell in 15 minutes. The reality is — you can’t! You cannot adequately present your talents, value, and story in 15 minutes flat, but sadly, multiple people across our industry have reported getting the same response in a variety of locations. It’s an unfortunate trend to see this happening by those in our industry who are important customers and influencers. Basically, limiting a meeting time to a mere quarter hour sends a profound message that the firm is too important and too busy to be bothered with learning about products and services — even if those products and services might help THEM solve the very problems that leave them feeling crunched for time.
Honestly, I could rant about this for the entire column and likely 2 more, but I’d rather focus the time you are taking to read this and provide you a few practical suggestions on what to do when you’re presented with your 15-Minutes of Fame and how to make the most of the every minute.
Let’s start with acceptance. Whether we like it or not, sometimes we have to accept the fact it’s 15 minutes and charge headfirst into presenting value to our clients, no matter how short the timeframe. So rather than moan and groan, let’s shift our mindset and look at this as an amazing opportunity to show a potential new client, in short order, why you are a valuable resource and how you can help them. Shifting your mindset is the first step to success with short sales meetings, so be sure you have a positive frame of mind before moving forward.
Next, it’s time to plan. Preparation is another key to your success here, especially when the timeline of your presentation is so short. You’ve got just a few minutes, so you need to plan specifically and strategically how you are going to spend that time. Research the company you’re presenting to, and work out a few practical, creative solutions to bring to the table — since your time is limited, it’s important to do your homework on the front end and come to the meeting knowing how you can help them. After your research, grab a colleague or co-worker and brainstorm what topics would be the best for you to cover while you’re with this client. Pick just 2-3 topics that can be covered in about 5-6 minutes each. I’d stay away from product-specific topics and focus more on the value you can provide and how you are a resource to them, solutions you can provide, and how you can help them solve the problems their customers are facing. Be sure to be problem centric and not product centric! The key here is to add obvious, tangible value!
Obviously, we make our living selling products and services, and I understand you need to share your products with them, but I’d suggest you do it in the form of a leave behind — such as a look book. Give each attendee something they can take with them to a review on their own time. Quick flip-through style booklets might focus on quick ship products, other products that support biophilic design, or neighborhood community based environments that accommodate modern social distancing preferences. Your options are limitless, but make sure you use imagery that connects with this community and addresses everyday problems they encounter — then while you’re in the room, you actively connect with the people and rely on your leave-behind item to tell the visual (and written) story of your products. As simple as it sounds, don’t forget to include your branding, logo, and contact info — you’d be amazed at things I get that have none of this included. Make it look great, print it on high quality paper or have it printed by a professional service, and make sure its professional appearance supports your brand quality and feel. You never know who might look at it once you leave it behind.
Finally, I’d recommend you plan your follow-up! You were only given a few minutes today, but a good salesperson won’t stop there. Be intentional about how you are going to follow up and communicate later on: connect with the individuals you met on LinkedIn, follow their firm on LinkedIn and Instagram, send a handwritten thank you note, take a selfie with them and post it as a thank you tagging them, and maybe create an email sequence you can send them over the next 90 days with a focus on industry topics and (again) not product information. Again, I recommend you focus on providing value in every interaction, not just product information.
You have a lot of follow-up steps and proactive industry connections available to you. Take a few minutes and plan out what you are going to do — then follow through with your plan, step by step, and keep that commitment to yourself. Your 15-Minutes of Fame is not going to get you specified on a project — your follow-up, candor, good work, and demonstrating your value in every interaction will get you specified on a project and then keep the same customers coming back... if you consciously choose not to focus solely on selling products!
No doubt that things are rapidly changing in the world of furniture and sales. Even though it feels useless and seems to be done just to plakate designers, the 15-Minute presentation appears to be here to stay. So, get your mind in the right place, plan the meeting, provide a value-packed leave-behind, and be consistent with your follow-up.
COVID is challenging all of us, especially those of us in sales, but with the right approach and strategy, we can win this battle! Let’s keep this conversation going. Please visit my blog at www.sidmeadows.com/blog and share your thoughts on what you are doing to make the most of your 15-Minutes of Fame!