High-level decision-makers are harder than ever to reach. If you are looking to develop strong connections to the most senior people in big companies, then consider NOT SELLING to them. Connect with them first. Bring them value on neutral ground and see if that opens the door for a business opportunity.
So, how do you do that? Well, every industry is looking for insight and best practices. Why not reach out to the marketplace leaders in your target-customer industry and ask for their opinions? It's a good way to honor them and it lets you start off your relationship with greater parity.
Here are six techniques for reaching decision-makers. If they seem familiar, that's because they are similar to the techniques used by top network producers, publicists, and event planners.
1. Interview--If your company or industry trade association has a newsletter, you have a great opportunity to be a guest journalist and interview someone for that publication. Perhaps you have a company blog, personal blog, podcast, or other outlet. The point is, ask them for an interview. Contact their marketing department or ask them directly. Ask for 15 minutes of their time to answer five questions. Getting their answers in person is a good way to establish a direct connection.
2. Advice--Call the decision-maker directly and ask his or her advice on a key industry matter. This could be a new piece of legislation, a trend in the market, or fluctuating economic conditions. The point is that you are seeking to connect and hear his or her advice.
3. Panel Request--Trade association meetings and national and regional industry events often have expert panels to discuss pressing issues in the market. Invite your potential contact to participate and then offer to be that person's host for the day.
4. Research for a program--White papers and other documents that you may be producing offer an opportunity for research and quoting people. Use these for your benefit by reaching out to your possible decision-maker contact to get a quote to be used later.
5. Best Practices Summary--One of my favorite approaches is a Best Practices Audit. In this conversation, you are asking what the contact believes are the best practices for three specific business areas and the best examples of those practices.
6. Article contribution--Ask them to author an article for publication in one of your company or industry outlets. Offer to assist with the structure of the article.
What this connection creates is a reason to converse. Through that reason to converse you can create a mutual respect and a natural curiosity of what you do and the problems that you solve. But it won't work if it is pure manipulation. Be sure to follow these guidelines
- Ask to sell--Establish a connection first and then wait to be invited to pitch your services. The classic line, "Maybe we could set an appointment and I could tell you a little bit more about my company..." is death to trust. Be patient and let the person invite you.
- Waste their time--Be prepared. Have your questions--and how you will represent that person and what outlet you will use--figured out in advance.
- Send a copy of whatever you quoted them in
- Get their permission to use the material
- Follow up and ask their opinion and insight on the work
- Ask to contact them again in the future
Authenticity is a big word right now. This works if it is real. Don't attempt these techniques if you don't have a way to get your contacts quoted, published, or referenced. Believe me, it will backfire on you. On the other hand, use these techniques well and you will build a strong group of contacts that will see you with respect and be interested in taking your call.