Sales Training Article: Proactively Gaining Access to Executives
By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling® – The Sales Training Company
In I offered suggestions for (reactively) gaining access to Key Players when sellers are contacted by lower level staff within prospect organizations. Inbound contacts usually provide sub-optimal entry points. Upward access is the hardest road to travel. Without identifying potential value many product evaluations will ultimately fall under their own weight. These “no decision” outcomes waste vendors’ as well as prospects’ time and resources.
Non-Key Player product evaluations violate Steven Covey’s sage wisdom to “start with the end in mind.” It makes little sense for non-Key Players to go to great lengths to evaluate offerings of multiple vendors having no idea if the potential value will justify the expenditure.
When sellers initiate buying cycles with Key Players:
- Sales cycles can be shorter
- Transactions larger
- Win rates higher.
To start as Column A, sellers must proactively:
- Take Key Player levels from latent to active need (identify buyer goals)
- Diagnose the barriers to achieving them
- Articulate the specific capabilities that empower the buyer to achieve the desired results
Access to Key Players can be dangerous if sellers aren’t prepared to talk about business outcomes rather than offerings. These initial Key Player discussions should be 180 degrees from inbound calls. The focus should be areas of potential value with minimal discussions of offerings. This approach aligns with the way senior executives want to buy.
Key Player calls are dangerous because sellers usually get only one shot. Key Players do the seller’s job of qualifying opportunities. If meetings end with no follow-up, it’s over as quickly as it began. If there are follow-up steps, the buyer perceives potential value and buying cycles begin. Beyond that it is unlikely other vendors will be evaluated concurrently. Key Players don’t have the time. They can have their staff bring in other vendors for leverage if it appears they want to do business with Column A.
If the initial Key Player call goes well, the seller may find access to other Key Players (downward or laterally) is volunteered without asking for it, a sure sign the call went well and the seller is Column A. At other times sellers can summarize the goal, barriers and capabilities in an email along with a request for introductions to the other Key Players the seller needs to have conversations with in order to sell, fund and implement the offering. Calling on these other committee members is the only way to get an enterprise-wide view of the total potential value as various titles have different sources of benefits.
In proactively trying to initiate conversations, many sellers set their sights on entry points that are too low. When trying to cause prospects that weren’t looking to consider your offering it’s necessary to get to levels that can cause unbudgeted initiatives to be funded. My belief is that when sellers call higher in organizations the potential lists of business goals or issues are more predictable. Higher levels have fewer, more important objectives than levels that report to them.
A seller’s entry point into an organization goes a long way toward determining success or failure in buying cycles. This saying applies: Don’t wait for your ship to come in. Row out to meet it.
- Sellers can wait for inbound contacts, but should be aware there’s a lot of work to do and relatively low win rates. Beyond that it amounts to “in-basket” selling in taking whatever prospects come to you.
- “Rowing out” is more challenging but the ability to target companies that fit ideal profiles and Key Player titles should yield higher close rates and transactions sizes.
Would you prefer one opportunity started with a Key Player or ten nurtured leads with lower level staff that already feel they understand their requirements?
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