You found a prospect that has everything you ever wanted and more, and you’re sure that if you could just get an appointment with their top executive they would buy from you.
What do you do? You could just pick up the phone and ask them for the appointment, but so many things could go wrong, and you definitely don’t want to squander the opportunity.
If you want to shoot for the stars and go straight to the top, here are seven tips that will help you do it every time.
7 Ways to Reach the Decision Maker
1. Know the Players
Research the company’s leadership structure and do a quick bit of digging on their website and on LinkedIn. This will not only help you decide who the decision maker is but will also give you more insight into what the leadership dynamic may be and what type of influence other people might have on purchase decisions.
P.S. You get bonus points if you identify possible gatekeepers during this research — we’ll talk more about them in a bit.
2. Plan Your Approach
Before making any attempt to make contact, you should have a great valid business reason (VBR). Your VBR is the reason THEY should WANT to talk to you NOW, and it never focuses on you, your product, your price, or even your great ideas.
Your VBR says “I know about YOUR BUSINESS, here HOW I can help, and here’s why we need to meet NOW."
“Hello, I was recently on your website and came up with a few ideas I’d like to share with you. Can we meet?” They don’t care about your ideas…sorry.
“Hello, I was recently on your website and saw that you are hiring two new salespeople. We have a process that has helped businesses like yours reduce seller turnover and increase sales performance by helping them hire salespeople who are 165% more likely to become top performers. Before you look at another application, I’d like to meet with you to discuss this process and how I can help you hire you next two best salespeople.” YES, they do care about solutions to their problems.
3. See and Be Seen…Then Act Like You Belong
Take a page out of the “How to Become a Socialite” guide book.
Plant yourself in places where you’ll be noticed, then act like you’re supposed to be there.
The idea here is that your name won’t be totally unfamiliar when you call so they don’t immediately dismiss you, it can also help establish some credibility.
If they have Twitter and/or LinkedIn start engaging them in a relevant but completely "non-salesy, just an expert passing through” way.
Follow them, add them to a flattering list like “x industry thought leaders”
Start retweeting and commenting on their posts
Join some relevant groups they’re in
And find any common connections you have
4. Don’t Fear the Gatekeeper
How do you get past the often-dreaded “gatekeeper”?
The first step is to stop seeing them as an adversary and start embracing them as an important ally.
This isn’t a scary troll under a bridge, it's usually just a perfectly nice person who’s been told by their boss to never put through salespeople. The best way to get them to put you through is to be confident, kind, relaxed, and personable and try to pull them out of gatekeeper mode by getting them to laugh or chat as soon as they answer.
Be prepared for questions about who you are and why you’re calling, answer these confidently and simply to avoid sending up any red flags.
5. Leave Effective Voicemails
When you have to leave a voicemail, the outcome will likely be one of three things: they never hear it, they dismiss you and delete it, or they call you back.
If you leave your name, company, and your full VBR, they’ll know you’re selling something and have enough information to decide if they want to call you back. Keep in mind that as soon as they know you’re trying to sell them something, their walls will go up and your chances go WAY down. Here’s how to avoid the delete button.
Before you call, make sure you’ve reached out in some other way so you have something to reference. Speak in your normal, friendly voice and lead with their name instead of yours, then dangle a carrot that will hopefully make them interested enough to call you back. Also, don’t worry about saying who you’re with unless your company is one he knows that might pique his interest.
Here’s an example: “Hi Jim, it’s Bob. Thanks for connecting on LinkedIn yesterday, I need to get in touch with you this week. I have a quick question for you about the open positions I saw on your site. I’m not applying but I have a great recommendation you need to hear about. You can reach me on my cell at 123-456-7890, again that’s 123-456-7890 and I’ll send you an email with my contact info when I hang up. I look forward to hearing from you Jim. Have a great day!"
6. Put in Extra Effort
You will EASILY stand out from the crowd just by making a little extra effort in your research and communication.
Even in such a competitive environment like B2B sales, most salespeople don’t put any time or effort towards learning about their prospects or customizing their approach and then give up quickly.
You will make a bigger impact and be more successful just by spending a little more time, doing a little more follow up, and expressing your genuine desire to help.
7. Know When to Break Up
Breaking up is hard to do, and it’s harder when you’ve already calculated your commission, but knowing when and how to give up on a prospect is very important and will ultimately make you more successful.
Your time is valuable, and at some point you need to know when your time would be better spent on other prospects that are more likely to do business with you. It can be hard to decide when it’s time to give up on something when you felt so sure about it when you started. We've heard sales managers say things like “You can’t feed your family with a wish sandwich!” or “You can’t pay your electric bill with hopes and good feelings!”.
Our rule of thumb is that after about 7 different attempts (get some ideas here) it’s time to cut them lose. Get closure and a possible last shot for a response by sending a good break-up email.
Above all, your attitude and outlook will be what determines your outcome and none of these tips will make any difference if you don’t have confidence, commitment, and a positive attitude (that’s swagger for you young folks!).
Whether you believe you can do a thing or not, you are right. — Henry Ford
Do you have any other tips for getting through to decision makers? We'd love to hear them!
*Editor's Note: This blog was originally posted in 2016 and has since been updated.