Last week I served on a Panel on Sales at the HubSpot User Group Summit (#HUGS11) VAR Day, where Value Added Resellers and Certified HubSpot Partners got together to learn from each other and from HubSpot. I ruffled quite a few feathers by stating that it should be possible to reduce the sales cycle for inbound marketing services down to 5 minutes, when it often takes months. Now I get my chance to explain and maybe ruffle a few more feathers along the way.

The 5 Minute Sales Call

the perfect 5 minute inbound marketing sales callIn the 5 minute sales call, a would-be client calls, tells you that they are ready to sign-up for your x-month retainer and asks you what they need to do to get started. That’s it. Done deal. Total cost of customer acquisition – 5 minutes.

I was actually surprised at the level of push-back I received during and after the Panel. Why wouldn’t the 5 minute sales call be everybody’s goal? Why wouldn’t we all be working 24-7 to make this goal attainable? Clearly we have become used to spending a large amount of time and effort convincing would-be clients of the value of inbound marketing prior to making the sale. We have spent hours and hours talking, fighting off objections, negotiating and customizing our proposals. We let our prospects control the timing, content and resolution of the conversation and we let them dictate terms. We are helpless and frustrated, often settling for lower fees and higher deliverables than we should ever contemplate. Why? Either because we don’t have a valid sales process in place or we regularly fail to live by it.

Here’s the 5 minute sales call strategy:

  1. Tell your would-be clients absolutely everything they need to know up front. Put it on the website, blogs, e-books, webinars, everywhere. Educate them. Answer their questions. Leave nothing to conversation.
  2. Tell them how to work with you. Tell them what you expect from them and what will they get from you. Tell them how the services process will work. Tell them exactly how much it will cost.
  3. Tell them to reach out to you and your team in social media. Talk to them about what’s going on, where they can get more information and why they should be retaining your services now.
  4. Reject the usual process. If they send you an RFP or ask for a presentation, politely tell them that they aren’t ready yet. Send them back to the incredibly rich resources you have out there and let them know that all of their questions are answered there. You can even point out specific resources designed just for that purpose. You can soften the blow by explaining how your successful clients have learned all about you first and have used that information to select you. The alternative is a huge waste of time for both parties with no real resolution.
  5. Build a relationship first. You don’t want an adversarial client-vendor relationship, you want a partnership. The old presentation-courtship cycle is just setting you up for failure. The old tried-and-true bidding round and negotiation scenario is a recipe for distrust and unfulfilled expectations. Don’t go there.

I know this sounds pie-in-the-sky, but think about it. Everybody wins in the 5 minute sales call. Your client already knows you, what you sell and how you are different from your competitors. They know what to expect and how much it will cost. Most important, they have a realistic set of expectations upon which you can set project milestones and deliverables. But haven’t we done away with the conversation part? No, not at all – we’ve just transferred it to the top of the sales funnel where it belongs.

So stop thinking about your customers as “targets” and start reaching out to them as soon as they express some interest (like a visit for example). Engage and educate them with your top and middle of the funnel content. Tell them everything they need to know about inbound marketing and how you deliver the goods. Set expectations and policies before you ever get to a proposal or contract. You stand a great chance of transforming them into ready buyers by the time they migrate to the bottom of the funnel. At that point, all you need is 5 minutes.

Photo credit: China Shop Bull . Tim Shapcott . Portishead . UK .