A friend of mine— I’ll call her Mary—told me about a sales experience she had several years ago. She was meeting with a prospect, someone who’d expressed an interest in buying from her company but hadn’t committed to anything. It took several weeks to get a meeting with him, but at last she succeeded.

“I can give you twenty minutes,” he told her. “Let’s meet at 10 AM I can free some time up then.”

She arrived on time (slightly ahead of schedule, actually) and was ushered into his office. She made her pitch, duly asking him questions, determining his needs, and so on.

She was very absorbed in the conversation and felt it was going extremely well. She was confident that her product met exactly the challenges in his ...

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