45-Second Rule

In which we're encouraged to set frequency guidelines for touching clients and prospects.

It’s late. I’m in a hotel room. I’ve spent most of the day traveling in cards, planes, and taxis. I’ve used pay phones, cell phones, and microphones. I’ve eaten fast food, fancy food, and plane food. I’ve had room service, bad service, and bus service. I turn on the TV.

Pictured there, a doctor.

The focus of the program: germs. Specifically, rinovirus and norovirus, slowing the spread thereof, and protecting yourself from E.coli contamination in food. Captivating late-night TV, yes?

The doctor speaks: “One of the best ways to protect yourself against the viruses is to wash your hands thoroughly before eating.”

I have spent my ENTIRE DAY coasting through a rino-novo-E.coli fog. Every breath, every contact with anything, now suspect. What? Me worried? Suddenly I have the urge to levitate from bed to bath to scrub myself for who-knows-how-long with brush and strong soap in a steaming shower. Maybe half the night would be long enough.

Interviewer: “How long should we wash our hands?”

Doctor: “About 45 seconds. Long enough to sing, ‘Take Me Out to the Ball Game.” [Apologies to our readers who have never heard this song, a 1908 American songbook standard.]

Ah-HA! A specific, simple, effective guideline that could tell me how much scrubbing would be enough.

These are good in sales, too. Many of us worry – Are we staying in touch enough? Are we connecting on the right issues? Will some sneaky germ of another vendor sneak in there? How many people do we need to meet in an account to really know the account and keep it safe from competitors? And on and on. Enough to make us crazy.

There’s a ton of useful folk-lore and practices gleaned from high performing sales forces that may or may not be relevant to our markets and clients. In the end, we need to set our own simple, memorable, “take me out to the ball game” standards if only so we can plan our time and determine whether we’re keeping up. Setting a bi-monthly frequency for touching A-list prospects, for example. Or a quarterly touch with “B” players at existing clients. Whoever it’s important for you to touch. These frequencies are more like guidelines than they are rules – appropriate to modify based on the circumstances.

So, if I were to ask you, what guidelines will you use for hand-washing, I’d hope you now have the answer. Take Me Out to the Ball Game, 45 seconds, before any meal.

If I were to ask you for your guidelines regarding frequency and focus of contact with your clients and prospects, I’m hoping you’ll have an equally clear answer.  Something like “eight times a year.”

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