Great Salespeople Never Pitch for More Than 9 Minutes — Here’s Why

By Chris Orlob, December 5, 2018

In the Gong Labs series, we publish what we learn from analyzing sales conversations with AI. Subscribe here to read upcoming research.

Everything that follows is true.

As far as I know.

There was once a regional sales manager—a rising star in her company.

Everyone knew she was destined to be crowned VP Sales.

One of her quirks was that she documented everything.

She wanted to nail down a deal-closing formula that everybody could follow.

One day, she started her most eyebrow-raising study yet.

Using a hand-held stopwatch, she timed how long her seven reps spent on PowerPoint decks during their sales calls.

She logged it all in a spreadsheet, along with each deal’s outcome.

At the end of the experiment, the data revealed something so clear, she almost didn’t believe it.

Every closed deal involved a sales deck presentation that lasted 9 minutes or less.

The winners all stuck to single-digit presentation times.

And deals that were lost?

Their sales deck presentations lasted 10 minutes or more.

Here’s what happened when we recreated that experiment analyzing thousands of sales decks with AI.

(Before you go on: Here are 9 tips for crafting sales decks that sell).

The 9-Minute Rule of Winning Sales Decks

The above story is a legend. I didn’t witness it myself.

Here at Gong.io, we wanted to know if that sales legend stood up under real scrutiny.

We recorded the audio and video of 121,828 web-based sales meetings and analyzed them with AI.

The audio of these meetings was recorded on web conferencing platforms like Zoom, transcribed from speech to text, speaker separated, and analyzed.

A single call dissected by AI looks like this:

Then we analyzed what the sales reps shared over video during each web conference (e.g., slide decks, product demos, webcam face time, etc.):

Here’s what we learned:

Deals that close use 9.1 minute sales deck presentations, on average, during the introductory sales meeting.

Lost deals involved sales deck presentations of 11.4 minutes, on average:

Be careful what you take away from this.

I’m not suggesting “the shorter the better,” or that you do away with your sales deck entirely.

In fact, I go against popular opinion by promoting the use of sales decks.

Today, many sales professionals loathe them.

What a waste.

Sales decks can be a powerful persuasive tool due to their potent visual impact.

If they’re used correctly.

So what’s the main lesson here?

Winning sales decks stick to the 9-minute rule.

The 9-Minute Rule: Rooted in Neuroscience

Brains get bored fast.

Neuroscientists have proven that our brains have a built-in stopwatch that stops around 9-10 minutes.

To command the attention of your customer, you must introduce a “brain-perking” changeof pace.

  • A new speaker
  • A video or demo
  • A dramatic story

Steve Jobs did this brilliantly on stage when presenting new products.

If you watch his keynotes on Youtube, you’ll notice a shift every ten minutes (or less).

He’ll introduce a new speaker, play a video, or do something so different, that the brain can’t help but snap back into shape.

Split Your Sales Calls Into 9 Minute Chapters

Here’s how to apply these insights to win more customers as a sales professional.

First, gut your sales deck.

Make sure it follows the 9-minute rule.

Don’t give your customer a chance to become bored.

Excess length robs even the most influential message of its persuasive power.

It’s like adding water to your favorite scotch.

A few drops bring out the flavor and make a great fireside drink.

But pouring 25% too much water creates a glass full of disappointment.

Second, plan the transition you’ll make at 9 minutes.

Once you’re finished with your deck, you have to “reset” your customer’s internal 9-minute stopwatch.

If you have a second team member on the call (like a sales engineer), now is a great time for them to take over.

Bouncing between multiple voices keeps your customer’s brain on high alert.

The same effect can be achieved by showing a short demo or telling a compelling customer story, full of ups and downs.

Third, keep each “chapter” of your sales call to 9 minutes

Whatever you transition to from your deck, keep that next chapter to 9 minutes or less.

If it’s a product demo, keep it short, sweet, and punchy.

Repeat this process of re-engaging your customer’s brain for the duration of the sales call.

9 Tips for Building Sales Decks That Sell

So far, I haven’t addressed the content aspect of sales decks.

What do you say and show in those 9 minutes to compel your customer?

I have 9 tips you can start using today.

Download them here:

Chris Orlob

Chris Orlob is Senior Director of Product Marketing at Gong.io

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