Adding Value for Time

BY: Daniel M. Savage

Those of us who call on senior executives and key decision-influencers are well-advised to remember one of Benjamin Franklin’s famous quotes: “Lost time is never found again.” That’s because time, or more specifically, adding value for time, often determines whether or not we get that so-called next meeting.

If a prospect or client derives value from our conversation, that next meeting is probably assured. If not, there may not be a next time, or they will delegate us to a subordinate. Both are dead ends.

Given these folks are time-starved and could easily fill their days twice over with meeting requests, why should they make time for us? According to sales and relationship expert Andrew Sobel, the answer may be found in the "four pillars of value for time" upon which we need to intentionally draw: Insight, Perspective, Relevance, and Resilience.

  • Insight: Insight is simply about having a deep and intuitive understanding of our clients and their circumstances. Insight consists of two basic types: 1) external (their industry, markets, competition, trends, and the economy) and 2) internal (company-specific challenges, opportunities, people, relationships, processes, efficiency, and culture). Both create opportunities to solve problems and improve outcomes.
  • Perspective: Our clients are like everyone else in that they have particular attitudes toward or ways of regarding some things. In other words, they have blind spots that can be very limiting; therefore, we have opportunities to benefit clients when we can improve or change their perspective about a given issue. Can we reframe a problem or provide a different big-picture view? Existing staff is probably not performing this valuable function…due to internal silos.
  • Relevance: Value for time is strongly correlated with relevance. Too many sales professionals and relationship managers approach meetings with their own agenda in mind (what they want the client to buy or do) instead of seeking to understand what the client wants to focus on. Relevance requires that we align our conversations with a client’s agenda of critical priorities. Sobel says, “Don’t blithely talk about something that’s going to happen in three months when your client is facing a crisis they need to navigate right now, today.”
  • Resilience: Senior executives are generally able to easily withstand adversity and bounce back from difficult challenges, yet they sometimes have doubts and need encouragement like everyone else. The key consideration here is that they often have no one they can trust to discuss them. One way to help is by simply reassuring them (You’re doing a great job under very difficult circumstances). Another is by diplomatically challenging them (I know you’ve set a goal of a 10% increase, but is that aggressive enough in light of your competitors actions?). Both are ways to help them improve as leaders.

The above pillars are also applicable to non-business relationships.

By considering these four pillars as you approach every meeting, your odds of getting to that next meeting or step will increase, whether your ultimate goal is a sale or deepening an existing relationship. By offering true value in exchange for someone’s time, you clearly demonstrate respect for that person, and you will likely be repaid in kind.

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