20 Seconds of Magic
If you’ve ever found yourself staring at a row of stony faces barely minutes in to the pitch of a lifetime, you’ll know how it feels to get the first twenty seconds wrong. But getting it right means just spending a few extra minutes on preparation before diving straight in.
Build on Experience
I started off my career as a ‘phone crasher’.
Long before mobiles were dropped in everybody’s pocket, my leads list was simply a telephone directory of clients. I’d get through to the main switchboard, ask for the boss, and moments later the grey trimphone on their desk would start warbling.
With a minimum number of calls a day to keep my job, I didn’t mess about much with preparation, I blurted out whatever came to mind. If it failed, I didn’t care, I just started dialling the next number.
‘Crashing’ the phones worked wonders for my call rates, but my conversion rates were abysmal.
Because in reality, once the call started my heart hit my mouth, I choked on my words, and I was lucky if the customer even knew what I was calling about.
Not really a recipe for success!
It was about a year before someone sat me down and asked what I was trying to do – and they gave me a set of tips that still work to this day.
Whilst phone crashing is a thing of the past for many of us (the first contact might be a social media note or an email), getting those first twenty seconds right is still as effective today as ever.
Those twenty seconds are not just about cold calling, they’re about socialising at events, sharing a cup of coffee, or even the first few seconds of a formal million-dollar pitch!
Getting it right means doing your preparation - there’s no avoiding it. But the nice thing to know is that if you get it done once, you’re probably not going to have to do it again!
Most introductions go wrong because people don’t know what they want.
Too many people think that first twenty seconds is about trying to pitch their product or service. It’s not.
The first twenty seconds is about pitching for permission and getting the conversation started.
We created a framework – called the 5 ‘C’s – that dramatically increased our chances of getting this.
Make a Commitment to the 5’C’s
Commit yourself now to writing a script!
That’s not because you should follow the script when you make the call, it’s too artificial for that. You’ll need to be more flexible and responsive.
You need to script it because making those notes will help you frame your thoughts, provide you with a structure, and create a neat memory aid every time you’re about to pick up the phone.
In time, it will become second nature, but right now… script it.
Visualise the Outcome
As we said before, the first twenty seconds is about pitching for permission and getting the conversation started.
If you need to know what permission looks like, it is about more than getting the OK to speak. Effective conversations only work when we’ve obtained five key conditions.
We call them the 5 ‘C’s
When preparing your first script, jot down those five headers, and that will ensure you don’t miss out on any vital component.
I get too many calls from telephone canvassers who lack so much confidence they try to avoid saying who they are. They rely on my politeness to sidestep requirements for credibility and charge right on with their script.
It doesn’t work.
Even if the recipient is too conflict averse to reject the call immediately, cloaking your identity just drives anger and resentment. Clarity is key: you need to state your name and your role.
The key is to state in terms that meet your customer’s needs.
I used to work for a production house, so my default introduction was:
The problem was I failed to establish a value by revealing a problem that I could help to solve. So, a more effective approach was:
That way I’ve created a value in the conversation, in this case it’s customer acquisition.
We can create comfort with a customer by expressing a common source of reference that demonstrates you have their interests at heart.
We found a few ways of doing this:
- Name check a colleague who referred you, and let them know why
- Refer to a recent news story or advertisement you saw about the customer or their competitors
- Refer to a known industry problem
- Reference your product to a point made by a prominent individual or authority
Approaches such as these helps provide a context for the conversation and provide them with a foundation to consider your proposition.
Follow it up with a sincere compliment about their expertise in this area, and your desire for their support, and you’re often good to go.
Having established an environment where your customer knows who you are, and the context of the conversation, now is the time to really pique an interest.
Generating interest means making a clear statement about your business proposition that connects with their underlying motivations.
We know from previous articles about customer motivation that there can by a variety of reasons to buy, from opportunity to gain, through comfort and convenience to security and protection.
This early on in a conversation you need to take your best guess. Good angles to try include:
- A key question
- A statement that forces people to sit up and listen
- A case study about their competitors
- An analogy that captures the listener’s interest
The idea is that these questions and statements provide an incentive to continue the conversation, they are your hook, not your solution.
You have only one objective here: to encourage your customer to agree to find out more!
A comfortable, curious customer means this is the right time to ask for consent.
So just ask!
A wise pitch will look to give the customer options:
- Do you have a few minutes to talk now?
- Do you have a few minutes to talk later?
- Can we arrange a time and place to meet up and chat further?
If you receive a negative answer at this stage, that’s absolutely fine! Use the opportunity to ask more about what the customer’s overall goals are, what their priorities are, and what you can do to help them achieve their goals.
If they need more information to make the decision, then identify the specifics and aim to provide them. Try and find one thing that would make the call valuable.
The final task after twenty seconds of magic is to set the scene for a more complete conversation:
- If your customer has the time now, lay out the ideas you want to discuss and ask if there’s anything additional that they would like to explore
- If your customer wants to postpone the call to later, establish the time and the date, get an email address and confirm the call with an email
- If your customer has agreed to meet, identify their favourite location, a time and a date and agree the agenda alongside any further information they need. Confirm the meeting with an email and a calendar invite
And now you’re good to start your pitch!
The 5 ‘C’s are a framework that works for us, they’re not a pre-written script that guarantees success.
Your task is to go through each of those stages and ask yourself what you could say or offer that would help to meet the overall objectives.
Don’t simply write one solution, write half a dozen ideas that may help meet that goal and try different ways of saying it.
Most importantly, script it!
If you don’t get started, or if you don’t get those scripts down, you’ll likely never do the preparation and never reap the benefits.