When I started selling technology I was told to get to the office at 8AM so I could cold call CIOs and catch them before their assistants came in.
When I did succeed in catching a CIO on the phone (one in say 50 dials) they nearly all dismissed me as a time waster. In fact, looking back on my efforts, I agree with them. I was a time waster.
I didn’t have any knowledge of their organization and issues. All I did was ask for a meeting. But I did a lousy job of bringing value and conveying why they would want to spend their precious time with me.
I did not get many meetings and pipeline was dry.
Getting in your prospect’s door is not easy, it’s where most companies and reps struggle.
Some of what I am about to write applies mostly to the big accounts you want to land. Accounts that matter to you. Accounts where it’s worth it to you to put in enough time and effort to get in the door. If you’re only going after lots of small businesses then these recommendations may be overkill.
For bigger, more strategic accounts, start your efforts by calling low.
Contact people in your target account that are not the decisionmakers for your product or service. Stay away from the “CxOs”. Don’t try to sell to VITO. Yes, this is completely opposite to classic sales advice.
The point of calling low is to speak to someone in the account that knows something about what is going on. They may know which projects are priorities, which projects are getting canned, which people are on the rise and which are about to exit stage left.
Much of this information is not going to be available in the public domain. There’s no need to look for it on the company’s website or in your favorite sales information tool but this information is invaluable to you as a seller. Using it, you can start to really customize your approach and messaging to your decisionmaker’s priorities.
You don’t even has to limit “calling low” to your target account. You can often get good information on what is going on there from people outside the company.
Consider that all companies have many stakeholders, including suppliers/vendors, clients, investors, board members and consultants. All these people have access to information about the company that you may not have. Connect with some of these people as well as trying to connect to employees at the target account.
A coach is the key
If you cultivate your relationships with people that know about the company, you can turn some of them into a “coach”.
A coach is someone that is going to “coach” you to win the deal. They are someone you can go to get insight into what is really going on in the decision-making process. Based on my experience of large sales, I would say having a coach is the biggest indicator of whether you will win or lose the sale.
If you don’t have a coach you are on the “outside”. You don’t know what people are thinking and who is about to torpedo your deal. With a coach you can show an almost clairvoyant ability to do the right thing at the right time to keep your deal moving to contract.
Call high when you’re smart
Once you know the company’s main issues and are pretty confident you can help them solve them, that is the time to approach the C-suite. Approach as someone that has done their homework.
I recommend tipping the CxO off that you have done your homework. In your initial messaging include something like “I carried out some research and I believe one of your priorities for 2020 is XYZ and I have some ideas on how to effectively tackle that”.
It’s important for the CxO you are approaching to know that you are different from the vast majority of sales and marketing people they will hear from today. You have done your homework. You are not going to waste their time. In fact, you are likely to help them do a better job (and keep their job…or even, get promoted.)
Getting in any door that is relevant to your target account is a step forward in generating a sales opportunity. Don’t always bang on the most heavily-guarded door first. Slip in the side door when you need to.