"Got A Minute?"--One Of The Wimpiest Sales Questions Ever Devised


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There’s always one very nice person in my seminars who shares his favorite opening line in telephone calls: “Do you have a minute?” or its cringing cousin, “Have I called at a bad time?”

I have to restrain myself from bellowing, “Never, ever ask that question, again!!!”

Why am I so adamant?

It’s a loser’s line, designed to avoid rejection. It puts trying to sound gentle ahead of the true goal: to make a sale or an appointment, now.

Let’s examine the dynamics of this limp overture. In context, it is usually uttered this way:

“Hello, I’m Gary Goodman with Customersatisfaction.com. Do you have a minute?”

What kind of reply can I expect to get?

“Sure, I have a minute. In fact, I have all day, because I have nothing better to do than to talk to an insecure bozo like you!”

This line is a showstopper. If the listener says yes, he’s going to kick himself for green-lighting what could turn out to be a talk-a-thon.

If he gives you a qualified yes, “Well, I guess so, but just a minute, ” then you’re racing against the clock, to catch his interest. Why put yourself at such a disadvantage?

In seminars, I offer this example. If I walk up to 100 strangers and ask, “Would you like a twenty-dollar bill?” I’ll bet at least half will reflexively say no. That’s human nature. Given a chance to resist something new, most people will find resisting, well, irresistible.

What’s the alternative?

Simply leave this line out, or if you must get a signal that it’s okay to continue, ask the person, “How are you?”

Better yet, after announcing your name, the name of your company, use a credibility statement. It says, here’s what we do, our claim to fame, why I’ve earned the right to talk with you, today.

That should make the person want to listen, while signaling that there’s even more valuable information to come as the conversation progresses.

I know, a lot of attention has been paid lately to so-called permission marketing, opt-in lists, and other devices that supposedly help us to sell only to the already qualified and interested.

Let me tell you that “permission selling” is a contradiction in terms. Selling is always an interruption. The best we can hope to do is to make it a successful one.

Dr. Gary S. Goodman, President of Customersatisfaction.com, is a popular keynote speaker, management consultant, and seminar leader and the best-selling author of 12 books, including Reach Out & Sell Someone® and Monitoring, Measuring & Managing Customer Service. A frequent guest on radio and television, worldwide, Gary’s programs are offered by UCLA Extension and by numerous universities, trade associations, and other organizations in the United States and abroad. Gary is headquartered in Glendale, California. He can be reached at (818) 243-7338 or at: gary@customersatisfaction.com .


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