"Fear came knocking at the door, faith answered, and no one was there."
I'd like to focus on the value of calling to the top that can eliminate many of the typical objections your sales team hears. We need to start calling the CEO, the business owner, partner or principal. There are far less objections at the top (not many other sales people are calling at that level), and your information gathering is much more qualified from this position of contact.
How many of your sales people are calling on the contacts that are thought of as decision makers in your industry? Buyers? Operation managers? Facility managers? IT managers? Human Resources? Office managers? Or whoever seems to make the decision on your product or service. When you speak to their assistant or to them you will hear the same objections in some form or another that come up, like; "We're all set", "We just bought", "We're under contract", "Not the right time", "No time", "not interested"...and so on. These are typical objections your sales people hear that come up in many industries.
Sure, they might be the final decision makers but by calling from the top you're going to get much better qualified information about the company and their decision making process along with the best point of contact for your offering. So before I give you the key steps I'd like to share an example of a recent call I made while cold calling with my clients sales reps in the field.
I had asked the sales rep to take me to an area of his territory where there were accounts ranging from $30 million to $100 million dollar businesses. Every time we pulled up to the front door of one of these companies we Googled the company name and CEO. I then took the CEOs name and re-Googled his biography. We found out all sorts of things about the company, his background, hobbies and interests. On one call we learned about the positions the CEO had attained through out the years in his company. I read a letter that the CEO wrote that had his email and phone number along with his direct extension right at the bottom. So we went into the small front lobby where we had to pick up a phone on the wall. The sign read, "Call front receptionist"... "appointments only". Instead I pressed his three digit extension that was in his letter and the phone rang.
"David Harris please"
"Hi Mr. Harris, it's an honor to speak with you. I'm working with one of my sales reps who is an alumni of Ohio State like yourself and we were very impressed with your achievements with the company over the years in various sales and marketing positions. (By the way...83% of CEO's had selling positions prior). I would love to have my sales rep learn a few things from you and also introduce our company and see if there is an opportunity to add value to yours..."
"I'll be right down".
As I hung up the phone the sales rep looked at me like I was joking when I told him he said he's coming down to see us. What happened next was what usually happens when you first meet the CEO. We told him what we learned about his company and then he started talking for 10 minutes about all the different countries they're in and how they work with satellites and much more. He was passionate about his business. We told him what we did and he was happy to introduce the sales rep to the head of their IT division. Take a genuine interest in what other people do and the world opens up. Before I do the keynote address or any sales training I always request to travel in the field with their sales people and demonstrate this technique firsthand.
We obviously don't always get the CEO to walk down to the lobby but we usually get their assistants to recommend the appropriate contact and then when we call down to that person we explain that the office of the president had recommended to contact them. Much more receptive when you're working your way down from the top then when you're working your way up from the bottom.
Here are the key steps to begin your fearless cold calling that gets you in the door at a higher level.
1. Do your research.
Everything can be found on the Internet these days. Search for the CEO and president's biography or any articles about them. Finding out what their hobbies and interests are is an extra bonus. We called on an accountant who is head of a large accounting firm and I found out he was an ironman competitor. That helped us sit down and spend 10 minutes with him learning about what he does at the firm.
Learn about what their mission is and their vision. Many websites have their biographies and background listed under "our leadership team". Don't be afraid to ask people outside of elevators, in the hallways to tell you a little more about their business or ask their thoughts about the CEO that you're going to call on. One person outside of the building gave us a whole history on the CEO and where they came from.
2. Make a connection.
You can't make any connection if you don't know what that person thinks is important and is passionate about. The information you have going in should give you some ideas of what to expand on during your conversations. Making the CEOs assistant or the receptionist laugh breaks through so many barriers. When I ask these contacts if they can help us out... The response is always positive when you've made some sort of connection.
3. Have a short, strong value statement prepared.
Or what you might call a GBS...General Benefit Statement. You don't have a lot of time to get your point across when they ask what you do. Make it short and to the point about what you provide and then turn the conversation right back over to the other person.
4. Use every contact as a source of information and build relationships on every level. The assistants to many CEOs seem to know as much as the person they report to about what's going on in the company. I met an amazing receptionist who handled 16 midsize companies in a building and new every single contact from the CEO on down on a personal level. You could tell from her amazing attitude once you walked in the door that she was someone special. Later we found out that she talks directly to the CEO whenever she wants. People listen to her because she's smart and has been there for 22 years. Never underestimate the value of information you can get at every level and how important it is to build those relationships.
5. Follow up and follow through.
Here's where the rubber meets the road. All the pre-research, all the fearless calls on the phone and in person to gain access to a high-level contact means nothing when there's no follow up or follow through. I still feel strongly about the power of a handwritten thank you note to people who have given you their time and shared their information. Maybe there's something you found out about the person that sparked you to cut out an article of interest and send that along with your note. It's the beginning of a relationship where the little things you do make the biggest difference.
Your sales people will need a deep seeded belief in the value you deliver and the confidence to present at higher levels.
When you have belief in yourself, your product, your company and the value you can bring to a customer it will fuel your enthusiasm and confidence to try new things.