Decision Makers Are People, Too
For over a decade I put food on the table for a growing family selling technology B2B in Corporate America. Since 2006 I've owned The Sales Whisperer® and have continued selling B2B solutions to small and large businesses alike.
As the sole income earner supporting a family of nine plus two dogs, I have to be efficient and effective with my marketing, prospecting, and selling efforts because there is no safety net.
So after 21+ years of selling to decision makers at companies as large as Google, Dell, Apple, Sprint, and Facebook I can tell you that these executives you're trying to reach are people, too.
Sure, they seem like unreachable Greek gods sitting high atop Olympus, and that is partially true. (Not the god part, the unreachable part.)
They are indeed unreachable by sales mortals, which is good for you, because sales gods are welcomed by business gods...but you have to prove you're worthy of a seat at the table.
But the reason decision makers and high level executives are so hard to reach is threefold:
- Most salespeople are amateurs who do little more than pitch and pray
- Decision makers are stalked and pitched everywhere from the bathroom to the boardroom by anyone who crosses their paths
- They're actually quite easy to sell if you can prove you know a little something about them, their situation, their needs and pique their interest with a unique solution
Do B.E.T.R.™ Prospecting & Research
To understand them, their situation, and their needs you need to do your B.E.T.R.™ homework, which stands for...
Unless you're lazy or incompetent you can find out 80-95% of what you need to know to make a connection with any decision maker while sitting at a stop light.
You can find the charities or boards your prospect supports or sits on, where they vacation, if they are a cat or dog lover, if they have a family, what conferences they attend, if they speak at those events, how long they've been in the industry and with their current company, their political leanings, where they went to school, are they into beer, bourbon, or wine, and more your smartphone.
If you're on your laptop or desktop you can use tools like Nimble, a lightweight, affordable social CRM that sits on top of every browser and helps you quickly research and connect with the people you want and need to know.
As part of your research you can also re-connect with the people that are connected to the decision makers you're trying to reach.
If you're like me you have hundreds and thousands and even tens of thousands of connections on platforms such as LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook, which means you don't have close ties to most of them.
When you see that a first degree connection on LinkedIn is a first degree connection to someone you want to reach, take some time to really get to know your first degree connection to see how you can serve them before asking them to introduce you.
You could send them a message on LinkedIn like
Hi, Joe, you and I have been connected here on LinkedIn but we don't really know each other. I see that you are connected to Mary Smith over at ACME Bricks, Inc., which is a target account of mine. How can I help you at ABC Architectural, Inc. so you'll be comfortable helping me connect with Mary?"
It's better to be honest and direct and just ask your connections for the help you need rather than beat around the bush by complementing them on some esoteric thing you saw them share on a LinkedIn group with three members.
Be sincere. Offer to help first and you'll usually find that they'll pass along the introduction readily and happily.
How To Make First Contact By Phone
Let's look at a few scenarios for reaching out by phone. YES, you can make more phone calls to really grow your sales!
But Wes, cold calling is dead. I own all sorts of programs and read your post from a few years ago that say 'never cold call again.' Now you're telling me I have to make cold calls! WTH?"
Look, in B2B sales making outbound calls to targeted prospects will never go away. It's fast, direct, and free so why not add this sales tool to your tool box and become proficient at it?
Besides, if you successfully sold to AAA Bricks, Inc. and AtoZ Bricks, Inc. and Bricks International, Inc., is calling ACME Bricks, Inc. really a cold call?
I mean, what's your job as a sales professional? Is it to simply hand over the company's brochure that the marketing department created and take their order?
Since you or your company has done business with several competitors of your target account do you expect them to just notice and fax in a P.O. to you?
If that's the case—and it does happen and I can help you make it happen—then you as a salesperson are not needed.
All your company needs is a data entry assistant that can be outsourced to an overseas VA for $5 to $8 per hour.
So are you ready to pick up the phone now?
Scenario #1: The Receptionist Answers
If you're calling a truly big wig at a major corporation and you don't have his/her direct line, chances are high that you'll get the company's main receptionist or operator.
Despite what you might think, their job is not to screen you. Their job is to get you to the right person as quickly as possible because they have thre other lines ringing, five packages they have to sign for, and seven people in the lobby waiting for a meeting or trying to get their foot in the door.
The receptionist doesn't know you from Adam and is not out to get you.
You can tell it's a receptionist because they'll answer "ACME Brink, Inc., How may I direct your call?" That's a lot different than "Mary Smith's office, this is Shannon" or just "Hi, This is Shannon."
If you're calling for the VP of Purchasing and you know her name is Mary but Shannon answers, it's a safe bet that Shannon is the executive assistant, but we'll address that situation below.
When the receptionist answers simply ask to be connected to the executive: "Hi, Mary Smith's office, please." That's it.
Now in the rare chance that you don't know who the right person is for your situation you can do one of two things when the receptionist answers:
- Ask for the sales department.
Being from the same sales tribe we have a bit of sympathy for one another. We're getting a lot of voicemails and rejections and we're questioning our selfworth and career decisions on a regular basis (that's why I made the Make Every Sale course) and we're happy to help a fellow salespro.
So when Mark in sales answers simply say,
Mark, this is Wes and I'm in sales like you and I'm having a heck of a time finding out the best person to speak to there about purchasing our bricks. AAA, AtoZ, and BI are all clients of ours because our stuff is awesome but I'm at a dead end with ACME. Can you point me in the right direction?"I've been given the personal email and cell phone numbers of senior people many times following this approach. Try it and let me know how it goes for you.
- Go to the top...then come down.
You can find out the owner/founder/CEO of any company within 30 seconds of searching so when the receptionist answers say
Hi, Who on Mr. CEO's deals with new brick evaluations? I've put together a package of information but I'm not sure who to send it to."
You don't want to ask to be directed to them, yet, because the receptionist may not give you their name. When they say "Bill Gates" I'll ask for his title and if he has an assistant and if so, what their name is, and hang up.
I'll then take a couple of minutes to research the executive and the assistant then call right back and ask for "Bill Gates" by name.
The receptionis will route me right away and quite often the executive assitant (EA) answers without giving their name.
Now get this: when the EA answers without giving their name and I say "Is this Ashley?" she pauses and says, "Ahhh, yes it is. Who's this?" I've now separated myself from the 50 other boring calls she gets from amateurs trying to reach the boss.
I've proven that I'm different by being different from the beginning.
I know her name and used it, which is the sweetest sound to our ears, and this is just one of the many sales you must make on your way to making every sale.
Scenario #2: The Executive Assistant Answers
Do what you can to find out the name of the EA but don't waste time doing this. If you can't do a quick LinkedIn search or call the sales department and get the name quickly just pick up the phone and call armed with the research you have on the boss.
If the EA answers and does not provide their name just politely but firmly ask for the boss.
A good EA will screen you with "Is the boss expecting your call?" or "May I ask what this call is regarding?"
If that happens deliver your opening lines as if you are talking to the boss.
"Wes, WTH? The EA is NOT the boss! I'm a seasoned salespro and I do not answer to some assistant!"
Oh yeah? Let me know how that works out for you, Sparky.
The EA knows everything about the boss. Their schedule. Their mood. How things are going on the homefront. The pressing issues of the company and the department. Their favorite restaurants, sports teams, drinks, books, movies, and more.
The EA can become your most stalwart ally or your worst enemy.
So treat them like the boss and ask their feedback as if they are the boss and one of a few things will happen:
- The EA will play tough and try to shut you down.
- The EA will say that is not the boss's focus and give you the name of someone on the team that handles it.
- The EA will put you through to the boss.
The first couple of options are covered in depth in the full Make Every Sale program so let's look at what happens when you are put through to the boss.
Scenario #3: You Get The Decision Maker's Voicemail
For years I never knew if I should hang up or leave a cheesy, begging, weak-sauce voicemail...so I floundered between the two.
Over time I got motivated enough to call early morning, during lunch, and after hours to catch them at their desks, and that worked out rather well. (Hint: It still does.)
I'd also call them on their cell phones when I could get it. (I was—and am—tenacious when I want to reach somoene.)
Then I learned how to treat voicemail and it made all the difference in the world.
I wrote a detailed post with actual voicemail verbiage here but in a nutshell, treat your voicemails like your email follow-up / nurture sequence.
You need a series of voicemails that tell a story based around your Should Ask Questions (SAQs), which are vastly different and far superior to your Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs).
If this is a key prospect on your Dream 50 or Dream 100 ("The Ultimate Sales Machine" concept) then they are worth the effort, but you may have to dig deep to make it perfect.
Need some help digging deep?
Scenario #4: The Decision Maker Answers
The moment you've been waiting for, right?
I mean, how many times in the last several years have you said during a sales meeting, performance review, or at the bar at 1:15 AM...
"I'm great once I get in front of a qualified prospect. I just need to get in front of more buyers!"
That's like saying the cashier at McDonald's is really good when he's in front of a qualified buyer! That person is called an "order taker" and earns minimum wage.
When the marketing is great there's little to no need for great salespeople who earn great commissions!
Ultimately you're paid the big bucks to uncover the great opportunities.
In other words, prospecting is your #1 job as a sales professional.
>But I digress.
Here you are now face-to-face / phone-to-phone with the opportunity you've been waiting for. The part you say you're "great at."
How will you handle it?
If you haven't done your research...
If you don't have personal commercial...
If you've not practiced this at least a dozen to 100 times...
You've already committed the first of "The 7 Deadly Sins of Selling."
Now is not the time to be cute or "high energy" or loud or fast.
Now is not the time to dive into features and jargon.
Now is the time to sound like a decision maker because birds of a feather buy from each other.
If you sound like a desperate salesperson hungry to make a sale then you'll be shunted down to the basement where you can demo your solution to the interns until you beg them to take a free demo or you're fired.
If you sound boring, scripted, and/or just like everyone else you might as well do this to your prospect.
For an in-depth discussion on how to prepare for and make cold calls, check out the following interviews with sales experts on The Sales Podcast:
- Wendy Weiss, The Cold Calling Queen
- Anthony Parinello, "Selling to VITO"
- "Pitch Anything" with Oren Klaff
- "How To Master The Art of Selling," with Tom Hopkins
You only get one chance to make that first impression with this decision maker.
Are you ready?
Are you willing to bet your paycheck on your ability to set a meeting, uncover the truth, get the name of the person that evaluates what you do when you dial that phone?
Stay tuned for a detailed post on the verbiage you can use when you get this person on the phone.
In the meantime I recommend you get this little handy tool for overcoming your most common sales objections.
It's called the Sales Training Flashcards.
It's over 50 pages of objections and replies that can help you stand your ground when your prospects are trying to brush you off or push your buttons to see just how good you are.
Click the image above and order a signed copy of this life-saving / sales-saving tool today.
Now go make every sale.