It has always been a challenge to get sales people to call high, not high as in stoned, but high in the hierarchy of their target companies; in fact I sometimes think the former happens more often. One reason is that they are not comfortable engaging with senior executives, I hear things like “ho, you can’t call them”. To which I say I have checked in Ottawa, DC, all the provincial and state legislations and there is currently no law on any books preventing a sales person from calling senior executives. Leaving us with will and ability as the only barriers, and I will put my money on willingness, because once you have the will, ability and skill follow; where as I have seen very capable sellers lack the will, and there for lack success.
One reason I hear for not wanting to call on senior executives is “they don’t want to talk to sales people”. Well that is probably right, which why I and almost everyone in sales is encouraging you to transcend being just a “sales person” to being someone of value. An advisor that can speak to their specific challenges, not those challenges identified by your marketing teams; speak in their language, and most importantly in a provocative and challenging way. They probably have a slew of yes men and women already on their payroll, what they are looking for is value add, they want to be provoked and challenged in a way that helps them achieve their objectives, organizational success, usually in the form of profit. This calls for you to be different than the crowd, be more substantial than the crowd (internal to them or external), focus on and deliver bold things.
But again, when I suggest this, I get a common concern from sales people: “well I wouldn’t like that, I would not react well to that type of approach”. Frankly who cares, who cares what and how you would respond, you are not the buyer! Because you really do not know.
No offence, I am not trying to be mean, but if you are selling a big ticket item to say the president, vice president, or CFO of a $125 million company, then you need to think like they do in specific situation they face, and from their vantage point, not from the perspective you have now as a sales person, no matter how good you may be at selling. Most “solution” sales people, selling “complex” sales, have never spent the kind of money they are asking their buyer to spend. They have not run companies, or lines of business, few have had P&L responsibilities, and as a result not in a position to speak to how or if a senior executive may or may not react. Not many get insulted when I ask them “have you ever held that position?”, they do when I tell them that if they had not, they are not in a position to talk, until they either try a new approach, or they land a new job with that title.
The challenge is to suspend your current view, and as the old saying goes, walk a mile in their shoes. Once you have, you’ll find that things look different from their perch, and solutions look different too. How one feels, sees and evaluates specific facts, challenges, and solutions is very much determined by where they are and the filters these factors bring to the matter. How you see things now, as a sales person, with a quota, is not how an executive with different responsibilities reacts to the same fact. Either adopt their understanding and the reaction it will cause, or find that no one may care about how you feel.
There are a number of ways to do this, start inside your own company, and then move to current customers. Pick up a book that will enhance your base of knowledge, not just confirm what you already know, look at a book like The Ten-Day MBA, then move to reading the top books on your targets’ reading list not yours. Anything that will move you out of your sphere in to that of your target.
What’s in Your Pipeline?