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What Is Better, Selling Fast or Selling Slow?

Sales leaders are notoriously impatient. In sales meetings, they talk about time-based competition. It’s Not the Big That Eat the Small…It’s the Fast That Eat the Slow: How to Use Speed as a Competitive Tool in Business They quote from the book It’s Not the Big That Eat the Small…It’s the Fast That Eat the Slow: How to Use Speed as a Competitive Tool in Business. They sketch on white boards, explaining the current sales pipeline and asking everybody to accelerate sales. The battle cry in the sales office is “Speed is your friend.” Every sales leader wants fast sales; the trouble is, there aren’t many fast buyers. Prospects take their time, and they aren’t going to speed up their process just because you are in a hurry.

Unfortunately, speed often kills more sales opportunities. I’ve seen too many salespeople chase prospects at high speed until they realized they were chasing garbage trucks. If they had done their homework, they’d have identified and gone after the money trucks.

I’m reminded of a story I heard recently: Two bulls checked out a herd of cows in the field across the street. The younger bull said, “Let’s jump over the road and get ourselves a couple of cows!” The older bull responded, “Let’s walk over quietly and get them all.”

Speed is often the result of ignoring and avoiding a thoughtful life.

My neighbor is in the insurance business, and he has a dock next to ours. On weekends, he drives a powerboat with twin engines that deliver 500 horsepower. I like to kayak. It gives me a good workout, and I always take my camera with me. At the end of the day, I may have a great shot of a bald eagle, a blue heron, or a deer. Since he drives his boat fast, it pounds the water, and most of his pictures end up blurry. He tells me that he doesn’t see wildlife from the boat, but he sees deer from his living room window. Sure, he covers more ground in 10 minutes than I do in two hours, but he ends up seeing less and going nowhere fast. And since he doesn’t work out, he’s developing a beer belly. The lesson: Travel slowly, see more.

What’s better for you, fast food or healthy food?

Fast Food Nation You may have read the book Fast Food Nation.

There is nothing in the book that you didn’t already know. Fast food is unhealthy. It’s too fat, too salty; it’s got too many unnatural ingredients. It is a quick fix for the hunger pains but causes more health problems for you later. Too much fat blocks the arteries, and too much salt leads to high blood pressure.

The same is true for offering prospects a quick deal. A deep discount or a great incentive may tempt buyers to sign the order, but chances are higher that they will cancel the order or default on their payment. The result: an unhealthy business.

What’s more productive, multitasking or completing one task at a time?

In the pursuit of reaching our goals faster, we often switch from one task to another or try to complete two tasks at once. An example: talking to a client on the phone while sending an email to a co-worker. Research shows that following a conversation takes 60 to 70 percent of our cognitive abilities. Sending an email may take another 60 percent. Performing two tasks at the same time stretches our mental capabilities, and the result is lower productivity.

Multitasking often leads to unexpected errors. When we talk on a mobile phone while driving, we tend to miss the exit. When we check our email while we’re talking on the phone, we may forget to respond. Switching between tasks, such as answering the phone while writing a proposal, can disrupt our mental flow, and we’ll have to restart the thinking process when we switch back to the critical task at hand.

What’s more useful, doing what’s fast and enjoyable or pursuing productivity?

Take a moment to observe rookie salespeople. They have lots of nervous energy to burn. Instead of focusing on the slow and productive, they invest their energy in what’s fast and enjoyable. They spend too much time on Facebook during working hours, researching friends instead of researching prospects. They spend too much time surfing the Web, looking for trivia about the prospect or the prospect’s company. They are fast to get on the Internet but overshoot their information goals, spending too much time searching for the “nice to know.” They often set up meetings without a specific agenda and end up discussing personal matters more and exploring sales opportunities less. They perform a fraction of a task instead of completing a task. For example, they may not be able to resist the fleeting impulse of getting a soft drink while finishing a customer presentation. While they are getting the drink, they are interrupted by a co-worker, and 20 minutes later they remember the unfinished presentation. Leaving unfinished business expands work and drops productivity.

Success isn’t about getting there fast; it’s all about success that lasts.

Consider the story of Evelyn Adams, who won the New Jersey lottery not just once, but twice, to the tune of $5.4 million. Today she lives in a trailer.

Andrew Whittaker Jr. lost his lottery winnings in four years flat. He won $114 million. He’s the fastest loser on record among all lottery winners.

Don’t obsess about speed; try to be in synch with your prospect.

Someone once said that selling is like walking the road of agreement with your customer. If you are too fast, you’ll lose the customer; if you are too slow, the customer will lose you. Selling at the right speed is an art. It’s the art of reading your customers and staying in synch at all times with the customer’s sales process. The right speed is best determined by the customer need.

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John Davis

I really enjoyed this post. The analogy with the speed boat vs kayak was especially effective in making your point. I always remind myself of the following: don't confuse activity for productivity.


Really great points. Speed can be a good thing when we're racing against ourselves (many of us spend too much time waiting until everything is perfect before we make the call, release the product, try the ad, etc.) However, with prospects you are so right. Timing is everything. That is why you can't hound someone... but you can't disappear either - because when the time is right - someone else may just be there!

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