By Gary Walker, EVP of Channel Sales & Operations, CustomerCentric Selling® – The Sales Training Company

Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong at

I was recently reading some blog posts (I can’t recall if it was Sales Best Practices, Linking Sales Leaders, etc.) where people were commenting on and debating the direction being given by a well-known sales bottom-stairtraining provider. As best I could tell, the provider was directing salespeople not to waste their time attempting to contact senior executives when prospecting and developing new sales opportunities. Instead they were advocating that salespeople should engage with low-level people. Why were they advocating this? I don’t know. The blog had more than 40 entries and I didn’t have the time to go back and plow through them. 

However, I can attempt to guess why. Maybe the person giving the advice:

  • Had lack of practical sales experience.
  • Was ill-equipped to speak with senior executives about business issues.
  • Had a lack of professional courage.
  • Had no business development plan.
  • Possessed poor prospecting and business development skills.
  • Had concluded that prospecting is too difficult.
  • Couldn’t handle the rejection, etc.

I could go on and on with why some someone might take the low road. However, stop for a moment and:

  • Think of all of the time you would be spending with people that can’t buy, that don’t have a business goal, problem or need that has to be addressed?
  • Think of all the ‘opportunities’ that end up in a pipeline or on a forecast that will never turn into business.
  • Think of all of the uncomfortable conversations explaining to your management why you are wasting your time.
  • Think of the opportunities you’ve lost because your competitor was engaged with executive decision makers and you were stuck attempting to sell to people who were unable to buy anything. 

Let me see if I can make it a little clearer.

Imagine for a moment you are a door-to-door, in-ground swimming pool salesperson in Phoenix. It’s summer. The first week in August. The temperature is brutally hot, in excess of 110 degrees. The streets in the neighborhood you are targeting today are desolate, as people remain indoors to escape the excessive heat. Your ‘market’ should be very receptive to what you are selling! You approach the first home and ring the doorbell. Within moments the door opens and two young boys, approximately 10 and 12 years of age greet you. Let’s call them low-level people within the organization. After saying hello and introducing yourself, you ask them, “Would you guys like an in-ground swimming pool?” They come unglued! They go out of their minds responding, “YES!!!” Finally, Mom or Dad, the senior executive team, comes to the door. You ask them the same question. Dad tells you he has no interest in purchasing and installing an in-ground swimming pool. He recently accepted a new job in another state, and the family will be relocating within the next 120 days. Get the picture? The needs and requirements of low-level people are very often different than the people who have the ability to make a purchase decision and authorize the expenditure of the organization’s money.

Simply stated, you can’t sell to someone who can’t buy. When prospecting, target the individuals who have business goals, problems, or issues; are responsible for addressing them; and can cause the money to be spent to purchase your product or service.

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