How to handle, “I only have 15 minutes.”

How to handle diminished time available for an Initial Appointment.

If you’ve been selling long enough, this has happened to you. The target informs you as they greet you that he or she only has 15 minutes instead of the normal hour set aside for an Initial Appointment. How should you handle the situation?

First of all, let’s make some assumptions:

  1. We are calling at a director level or above, so last minute things can come up that trump a sales professional calling on them.
  2. It is a last minute situation that occurred and the target would not have had time to contact you to reschedule.
  3. Our solution is a complex/custom one that takes an understanding of our prospect’s situation or environment in order to determine whether or not, or how, we can help them.
  4. Our typical Initial Appointment requires 45 minutes to an hour.
  5. It is the target him/herself that is informing you of the need to cut the time short.
  6. You believe that you have value to bring to this person.

There are two directions we can take when this happens. Which direction you take all depends on your read of the situation. Do you think the target is still definitely interested in what you have to say, or do you think you’re seeing a case of ‘buyer’s remorse’ and they don’t want to meet with you anymore?

Let’s tackle the first situation first because I’m going to assume that on the appointment-setting call, you used Bridge Questions™, or something like it, for you to have established value in the target’s mind.

Assuming the person is very apologetic, the first thing we want to do is to be empathetic and thank the person for making the effort to inform you personally. Then, say something like, “I know that your time is valuable and so is mine and from our conversation on the phone, I know this topic is of interest to you. In order to provide enough time for us to truly explore your situation and together decide whether it makes sense to move forward or not, I suggest we reschedule. Why don’t we pull out our calendars and do that while we’re together?”

Be very matter of fact about this, but also be strong and confident in how you deliver it. You are making an impression on the target by doing this that you are a professional, just like he or she is and you won’t be pushed into doing something you don’t want to do. If they truly are interested, you’re also using the old ‘take away’ sales technique that will make them look forward to the next meeting even more.

Remember, if your goal for that meeting is to discover whether or not they are qualified, you’ll have to ask a lot of questions. In order to be fair to the target, you’re also going to have to share some information about you, your company and/or what you’ve done for others (avoid the temptation to talk about the solution). You cannot do that in 15 minutes. Heck, a reasonable time frame for building rapport will take you five or more minutes of that and it is important to do.

Now, let’s tackle the second scenario. You sense that perhaps the person no longer sees the value in meeting with you.

My suggestion here is that you simply treat this as an appointment-setting call and use a Bridge Question or two in order to once again build the value for the call.

In either event, do not attempt to ‘squeeze in’ a call hoping that you can say something that will get you invited back or extend the time available. I see way too many inexperienced sales professionals even fall back to asking for only 10 or 15 minutes when they are attempting to set the appointment. This causes them to conduct the Initial Appointment in a one-way fashion, just hoping that they will say something that interests the target. You will come across as desperate and you will fail anyway.

You must believe that your time is every bit as valuable as the person you’re calling on, regardless of their position.

If you’d like more information on why no team of sales professionals has ever failed to at least double the number of Initial Appointments they were setting after going through one of our programs, give us a call or drop us a line. We love talking about the challenges of appointment making!

Caponi Performance Group and Contact Science jointly market the appointment setting solution called Coldcalling101™.  It is the only comprehensive solution to solving the biggest barrier to success in most selling organizations—the inability to secure enough Initial Appointments to begin the selling process. We accomplish that through simultaneously addressing both the efficiency and effectiveness of the process.  We can be reached at 817 224-9900 or at You can also find answers to many of your challenges in our many published articles on LinkedIn and in our books: Contrary to Popular Belief, Cold Calling DOES Work! Volume I: Effectiveness, The Art of Appointment Making and  Volume II: Efficiency, the Science of Appointment Making.


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