Why start high?

Aim highIn Getting the initial sales appointment, we begin to stress the point that you need to start as high in your prospect’s company as possible for the initial contact. When you start high, one of two outcomes are likely. Either (a) the contact will give you immediate buy-in, or (b) they will point you to the correct subordinate to talk to – this is the most likely scenario.

Let’s imagine that you contact Susan, VP of Logistics at Wal-Mart to sell your new tracking hardware. She tells you to “Talk to Larry, he’s in charge of innovative logistical technologies.” Now when you talk to Larry, you can say “Susan thought that our new tracking technology was interesting enough for further consideration and suggested that I contact you to see how we should move forward.”

Well if Larry’s boss said to look into it, you better believe Larry will look into it.

There is a key word in the above quotation. Note the use of “how we should move forward” instead of “if we should move forward.” Subtle indeed, but a very powerful difference.

Consider the alternative of starting with Larry. He’s a busy workhorse that already has a solution that no one is complaining about, why would he want to spend time evaluating a relatively unknown technology. You’re now dead. A company’s top brass consider themselves as ambassadors to the public and most often won’t immediately shoot you down.

A quick story to illustrate this point. I invented a garden product a few years ago that allowed those of us with challenged green thumbs to create our own little garden patch in five minutes. Users didn’t even have to remove the grass or sod from the ground. Anyway, I wanted to try to team up with Pennington Seeds to provide seeds and help distribute the product. Now Pennington has sales of well over $1 billion and I was at that time probably selling about $5,000 worth of product. Doesn’t seem like I had much of a chance of even talking to the right person.

I did my research and read their annual reports and got the CEO’s name, but the only number I had was their corporate headquarter number. How could I possibly get through to such a busy man who had to have five gatekeepers guarding his phone all day? Simple, call when the gatekeepers aren’t there, but not in the middle of the night when it’s painfully obvious that that’s what I’m doing. I called very early in the morning and got the automated phone system that let me put in the CEO’s name to get his extension, but it didn’t tell me his number, it just dumped me in his voice mail – no matter this is my big shot.

“Hi, I’m in the process of launching a new gardening product that allows green thumb challenged consumers to take seeds and create a garden plot right over their existing lawn. I’m not calling to make a sales pitch, and I know that you are extremely busy – I’m just hoping that you can spare a few minutes of your time to talk with me and tell me if you think my idea is crazy or not. I have initial sales that seem to point to an exciting future, but would truly value your experienced opinion before I invest too much more money into the project. My name is Eric Bono and here’s my number – I would be so appreciative if you would give me a return call at any time that may be convenient for you.”

I got a call that night at about 11:00 as he was driving home from the airport. He didn’t talk long but gave me the right person in the company to talk to. Bingo.

This is getting slightly lengthy, but I can’t pass up this opportunity of relaying a story told to me by a good friend. He worked in the marketing department and was getting a lot of calls from designers, printers, mailers, etc. pushing their services on him. He teamed up with the IT guy and set up a voice mailbox for a fake person called Tom for the receptionist to send these hopeful vendors to. The messages that were left were hysterical. One of the most common was along the lines of “Hi, Tom, not sure if you remember or not, but we met last year at a networking event. Anyway, I’m calling ….” That is absolute gold. I tried to talk him into putting the recording on-line for the world to enjoy, but he was afraid of legal ramifications. My point here is to be sincere and honest with folks – don’t forget that they’re people too.

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