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Why the first four minutes matter (part 1)

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Have you ever gone to an appointment and known instinctively in the first few moments that your prospect would buy from you?

Have you ever sat in a restaurant or a party, conscious of someone nearby you’d like to meet, but didn’t know how to open a conversation with that person? When was the last time you met someone you liked immediately, so much that you knew you would be best friends?

In each of these interactions, you faced a four-minute threshold. This make-or-break period has enormous influence over whether you will become best friends or acquaintances, do business together or receive just one more rejection. These first four minutes are so important that relationships are created or lost based on what you say during this critical period.

According to Los Angeles psychiatrist Leonard Zunin in his book, “Contact: The First Four Minutes,” this is the average time in which mutual strangers decide they will part company or continue developing a relationship. This four-minute barrier is actually a “breakaway” point at a party or gathering when it is socially acceptable to move to a new partner or another activity.

The death of a cold call
A cold face-to-face meeting can often be successful or die in the first four minutes of contact. Your goal should be first to develop rapport. High rapport will result in trust. When you gain trust from a prospect, he will usually buy. This barrier is even shorter on the telephone. Without non-verbal cues, the four-minute barrier turns into a 30-second wall. You will be dismissed or accepted by telephone in the first 30 seconds. This also makes sense in terms of attention span. The average TV commercial is only 30 seconds while the accepted camera shot lasts only 4.3 seconds. You have only a slightly longer period of time to connect face to face.

Your goal in the first minutes of face-to-face contact should be to give and take, talk and listen. If you elicit a response within the first seven seconds, you will maintain a better chance of breaking through the four-minute barrier. If you talk at your prospect, instead of gaining participation, you will violate the rules of contact and wonder why they didn’t buy.


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