Sunday, December 18, 2011

How Is Sales Like Basketball?

College and pro basketball have a shot clock, ranging from 24-35 seconds depending on the league, to quicken the pace of the game and to ensure one team doesn't dominate the ball. Sales doesn't have an official shot clock, but you should adopt one if you want to be a successful sales rep. We call it the 30-Second Rule.

The 30-Second Rule improves communication and understanding between two parties because it keeps individual points separated, making them easier to digest and understand, even in long, in-depth conversations. Basically, the guideline with any discussion is to talk 30 seconds or less each time you speak so you don't jeopardize the effectiveness of the conversation. If you talk longer than 30 seconds at a time, the higher the likelihood the person will miss your point. Obviously, this is not a hard-and-fast rule, but it's a good guideline to make sure you don't overwhelm the other person with too much information.

To be effective with the 30-Second Rule, provide small pieces of information on the topic you're trying to convey. Follow up by asking for feedback (QACF). Doing this provides improved communication between two parties because you actively engage the other person in the conversation. While more complex topics require more explanation, the information will be more easily understood if you stop and ask for feedback during the explanation. Resist the tendency to keep talking until you exhaust the subject.

Here are some techniques to help you stay within the 30-Second Rule:
1. QACF
2. Ask for feedback or questions every 30 seconds.
3. Plan your conversation in advance of you opening your mouth.
4. Ask more questions. An excellent (and brief) question is "Why?"
5. Ask the person if they need more data before you continue. Speak for them, not for you.
6. Lead with the punchline. Nobody likes it when you "beat around the bush." So don't.
7. Use silence.
8. Warn the person in advance if you are going to break the 30-Second Rule.

The Erie Sales Club is a joint effort of four leading local businesses: Jameson Publishing, Marsha Marsh Real Estate Services, VertMarkets, and Howland Peterson Consulting.

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