The Five Second Rule For Business

One bright spring afternoon in 1951, a young man in a grey suit approaches the door of a well-kept bungalow on a tree-lined street, and knocks on the front door.   He adjusts his tie and stands straight with his hands on his large worn briefcase.  He practices his smile quickly before the homeowner answers his knock.  He is selling Encyclopedias, and when the door opens and a housewife stands before him, he has about five-seconds to grab the imagination of this stranger and present her not only with an idea that she can’t resist, but to convince her to pay a large sum of money for his books.  His stomach is as tight as a wet twisted towel.

Of course, he has some options.  He can start his five-seconds relating the features of the books – that the books are designed to meet the curriculum needs of elementary through high school students; it serves the needs of adults as well; the entire series is bound in beautiful leatherette with gold embossed titles; or he could tell her quickly about the affordable monthly payments.  Or he could decide to quickly point out the benefits – her children will get better grades, better grades mean a better future and as a parent, isn’t that what she wants?  Or a more emotionally manipulative statement – isn’t that what she owes her children as a good mother?  Or he could smile, introduce himself, and say, “Right here in my hand, I hold a University degree that can make your son a doctor or make your little girl an astronaut”.  He can engage by surprise or paint a picture that emotionally moves her.

Door-to-door sales is one of the hardest jobs in the world, along with in my view, still the current practice of religious proselytizers. Today, with the Internet options of selling products, services and ideas, we have “cover.” While we don’t actually have to go door to door and don’t suffer personal rejection, we still have to present our message or product to people we don’t have a relationship with.  The same five seconds the door-to-door salesman had sixty years ago, is the same five seconds we still have today – albeit with a different delivery system.  We actually have it a bit tougher today, because we have hundreds of people knocking on the same virtual door every day.

If you only had a five-second window (which you do), would the message on your website be the same?  Would you try telling a story or use a metaphor that would capture someone’s imagination?  Or using words that create images in your prospects’ mind?  Would your headline be the same?  Would you have columns of copy and a stock photo or would you try to enchant a stranger to find out more about your company?  Would you think more clearly about the “subject” line on your email blast?  Would you send a “Dear friend” email?  Would your tweets be the same? If you have five-seconds, would your prospect see what you want them to see on your web pages, in your videos, tweets or in your emails?   Would you rethink how you respond to a customer inquiry or complaint?  Would you have them on a phone loop if you had five seconds to establish a relationship?  Would you insist on the “policies” of your company, “We can’t give you a refund because it’s against our policy” or would try to try to find out (direct consumer feedback) what is wrong with your product?  If you had five-seconds to invite a stranger to have a relationship with you and your product or service, would you be doing what you are doing right now?

Cicero once said, “If you wish to persuade me, you must speak my words, think my thoughts and feel my feelings”.

When you stand in front of a strangers’ (virtual) door, you can either be invited in because you have spoken their words, thought their thoughts and have empathy for identifying a problem they have that you can solve, or you can continue running down the street knocking on as many doors as you can, hoping someone lets you in.

Is there something you would change in your business practice, if you only had five seconds to engage a new customer?  Or do to keep an existing customer?  Can you share a story about a change you made in your business that changed your business?