June 25, 2014

Does selling directly to decision makers work?

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Searching for a better way to sell


It's easy to get discouraged with the lack of response when trying to connect with executive level contacts. Understanding how they function and what catches their eye is essential in successfully landing an in-person meeting or even just getting them on the phone.

In most sales scenarios, the process starts with targeting low to mid level employees -- most of whom aren't decision makers -- hoping that they relay your message to the top and do it accurately. Using a bottom-up approach is a multi-step system that usually leads to prolonged games of phone tag, inaccurate or secondhand information and, more often then not, your original sales pitch or value proposition being destroyed as it moves up the rungs to the eventual decision maker.

So how can we simplify this process and make it more efficient? While it might not always be appropriate, targeting high level executives can lead to closing sales quicker. It makes sense, right? The people making these decisions should be the same people who are getting the all the facts, and in this case, they should be getting them directly from you.

The top-down approach has great advantages, but there are a few things to consider that will affect how you approach these top-level executives. Below, I've broken down some important steps to take in order to ensure you're ready when you do engage a decision maker.


1. Choose the right person to connect with


The Harvard Business Review suggests that, when targeting executives, you make sure to target those who "stand to gain or lose the most from your sales opportunity." Clearly, it isn't as straightforward as googling who the right person for the situation is. Start by doing some preliminary research about the company and its history. Check to see if there is any press coverage or publications that talk about the company, and who is involved with it. If you know anyone at the organization, ask for their input or try to connect with some at a lower level, and ask who the right person to talk to would be. Any sort of 'insider information' can be invaluable in terms of understanding the company's needs and how to approach them. If you are able to successfully connect with someone who would feel a direct effect from your product or service, it will be much easier to gain their attention and can even lead to having a supporter within the organization -- which greatly improves your chances of closing.

Lastly, don't be shy! If someone in your network is connected with a target of yours, ask for the referral. Colleen Francis, Found and President of Engage Selling Solutions, says that leads coming from a referral are twice as likely to result in a sale as opposed to un-referred leads.

2. Get on their radar early in the process


A study conducted in association with WordPress says that 90% of executives check their email daily, with 65% using LinkedIn and 55% using Facebook regularly. This means that you must look and be prepared on all social sites. When you are targeting senior level decision makers, you don't get a second chance. Make sure your LinkedIn and other social profiles accurately reflect you and your product. Sending a message to someone via LinkedIn can sometimes be more effective as they are able to see what you do and who you are involved with. Also, if you plan to send an email, the best time to send it is between 8 and 3pm.

3. Know what they want and how you can help them


Do not get on the phone with a decision maker if you plan on asking them what they are looking for and how you can help them! Make sure you know about the company's needs and background, and have a clear, concise plan on what you can bring to the table. Executives don't have the time, and will not entertain those who are unprepared. You are much more likely to close the sale if you understand their business and the challenges they face.

You can do better than this.


At this point, you may be asking -- how you are supposed to know what a business wants or needs? Unfortunately, there is no simple or straightforward answer. Leverage connections you may have with the company to get information. Speak to others who may be in the same industry or market to see what challenges they face. Find credible sources that address your target company's industry and what's going on in it. The most powerful information, which will not only guide your strategy but also help support your proposed solution, are cold, hard facts. Executives love seeing numbers. They can justify spending money when they can see how it will impact them, as opposed to just trusting you or a "gut-feeling." Always be prepared with statistics, case studies, success stories, and any other credible information that supports your solution.

4. Get Straight to the Point


Executives don't want to deal with all the minor details. That's what they have the rest of their team for. Forget about the details and focus on the payoff - cost/money savings or improved services. If you can't get this point across in less than 1 minute, you might as well stop right now.

Doing your research and setting a meeting is only the first leg of the process. As long as you directly address their needs and provide an effective and efficient solution, though, any executive will respond positively. If you keep it concise and drive value, you will be closing more high-dollar sales faster than you ever have.