The Ten Critical Minutes to Close a Deal



Trying to close a deal? Get a commitment from a big donor? Or, just build a stronger connection with someone? The most critical time for achieving that goal may be the ten minutes before you talk about business.

We’re going to combine several research findings into one strategy for closing a deal or reaching any kind of agreement.

Ten Critical Minutes to Close a Deal #Neuromarketing #sales Share on X

Step 1: Allow Time to Socialize

First, we know that just ten minutes of social conversation dramatically improved the chances of a successful “deal” in the Ultimatum Game.

Nobel Prize winner (and Brainfluence Podcast guest) Al Roth showed that allowing the participants to converse socially (with no discussion of strategy or the game) prior to dividing the funds cut the number of failed deals from about a third of the total to an almost negligible 5%. (See It Really DOES Pay to Schmooze.)

Social Effect

This is why top salespeople never launch into their pitch right after shaking hands. Getting to know your potential partner socially, even for a few minutes, will help both of you work together to strike a successful deal.

Just 10 minutes of socializing greatly increases chances of closing a deal. #sales Share on X

Step 2: Focus on the Other Person

During this socialization period, the most effective topic of conversation is… the other person!

As I described in Our Brains Make Facebook Worth $90 Billion, people love to talk about themselves because their brains reward that activity. Our brains get a dopamine boost when we talk about ourselves.


Getting your prospect to do this will put him in a more relaxed and better state of mind. Letting the other person we are with talk about himself can be difficult for many of us, of course. That’s because our own brains are seeking this same kind of reward. It’s easy to ask a question and, before the prospect has even fully answered, jump in with a story of our own.

Control your impulse to talk about yourself, at least for a while.

Step 3: Find Common Ground

The one exception to the “don’t talk about yourself” rule during this initial phase is to establish common ground.


One of Robert Cialdini’s six principles of persuasion is “Liking.” His research found that we tend to prefer people with whom we share common characteristics. The more your prospect feels that you have similarities, the more favorably disposed she will be toward accepting your ideas.

So, if you find you went to the same school, grew up in the same town, both own dogs, etc., introduce this information without taking over the conversation.

It’s possible that the better results from socializing in Roth’s experiment were due, at least in part, to the liking effect. If you give two people ten minutes to chat, chances are they will find one or more common characteristics or interests.

Be honest, though.

I recall a story, perhaps apocryphal, about a very successful auto salesperson who would always find something in common with a customer, even if he had to invent it. If the customer grew up in Detroit, he’d “remember” he had an uncle there. This might work, but don’t do it. Persuasive techniques are great, but not at the cost of your integrity.

Step 4: Add Coffee

You may not always be in control of the environment or your prospect’s choice of beverages, but if you can add a cup of hot coffee or tea to the process you’ll “warm up” your prospect further.

hot coffee

As I described in Heat Up Sales – With Coffee!, researchers found that holding a warm beverage made subjects rate the person they were talking to as “warmer.”

Serving someone #coffee or tea makes YOU seem warmer to them! #sales Share on X

The way to accomplish the desired result is simple: hand the person a warm beverage, preferably using a mug without a handle so he must hold the cup directly.

Even if you aren’t meeting in your office or home, there’s good news: most take-out cups from Starbucks and other coffee shops fit this description perfectly! Your prospect will appreciate your thoughtfulness when you show up with coffee or tea (find out her preference in advance), and will also be primed to find you a warm human being.

Not only will these simple steps increase your success rate when you get down to business, you’ll find you actually enjoy them. Use these ten minutes wisely!

4 Things to do in 10 Minutes to Close a Deal #Neuromarketing #sales Share on X

  1. Roman says

    Great article! I understand even I am Russian 🙂

  2. Carolina says

    It’s always a pleasure to read you.

    1. Roger Dooley says

      Thanks, Carolina!

  3. Marti Barletta says

    These ideas are likely to work even better with women than men, as women will usually weigh “Do I like the seller?” more heavily than men in their decision to buy, their decision to give the seller the first shot at the next purchase, and the decision to provide referrals.

    However, because women will usually describe what benefits they’re looking for from the purchase in terms of stories about how various people will be affected (rather than a product description or listing the top priority features, as men tend to do). This often confuses male sellers, who don’t register “small talk” (stories about something personal) as communication of women’s wants/needs.

    For example, a woman talking to a Financial Advisor might remark that “she and her husband each have kids of different age groups from previous marriages, which makes estate planning complicated…; and she’s worried about her niece who has special needs…, etc..” When a Financial Advisor follows that discussion up with “Well, let’s get down to business, shall we? What kind of financial advice were you looking for?” the woman is likely to think, “Jeez, he hasn’t been listening to a word I said! I just TOLD him what my concerns are. I thought it was HIS job to know what solutions are available to address my problems.”

    Net-net – I agree 100% with your points above about socializing for 10 min and hot coffee. But men would do well to learn to tell the difference between women’s social talk and their needs communications, so they don’t miss out on the cues they’re being offered. Picking up on the cues results in a woman feeling heard and understood; missing or ignoring them will annoy her, and worse – can often trigger the suspicion “I bet he would have listened to me if I were a man.”

    Given that women buy 80% of everything consumer (and 50%+ of everything B2B); plus already hold over 55% of financial assets (expected to be 65% by 2020), you’d think salesmen would be motivated to apprise themselves of some core differences in female culture to avoid these kinds of meanings and misunderstandings. *Sigh*

    1. Roger Dooley says

      Thanks for the thoughtful comment, Marti.

  4. Suresh says


    What an amazing articles, Regarding the 3rd point, Now I feel it’s necessary to know the prospects likes and dislike to stir up the conversation. I came across couple of such startup in the research.

    Pretty cool.

    Happy Thanksgiving day Roger.

  5. Tanvir Hossain says

    Hi Roger,
    You deserve a thanks for such a nice write up. As I’m a business graduate and working as a business development specialist, this article is gonna help me a lot.

    I have a question for you. How could I make the “Ice Breaking” session a pleasant one?

    Thanks in advance.

  6. Nitesh says

    Amazing tips Roger. Thanks for sharing!

  7. Nick Hughes says

    I work with executives on a daily basis in terms of improving leadership effectiveness. What always works best is trying to take people out of their environment a little to help relax, build a rapport and get them talking about things that interest them. This helps build trust, but also when focusing back on the ‘deal in question’ they are much more likely to be forthcoming and ultimately close a deal, especially if they feel as though they can do business with you. It is a two-way process – thanks for the article.

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