Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Who Are They Calling On?

Over at ChangeForge, Max Rosenthal has written an interesting article about selling and contacting at the right level - the C-Level...I have re-published below, and you can find the original and more from Max and Ken Stewart at ChangeForge.

Who Are They Calling On?

Published by Max Rosenthal at 10:15 pm under Business, Change, Culture, Solutions Selling

At a recent sales manager executive training meeting, I asked the question, “Are your reps calling on the executive level decision maker?” The hands ceremoniously shot up in compliance. I then rhetorically asked, “Who do you think you are fooling?”

We have been down this familiar path too many times before. At the most fundamental level we all know that we need to present first to the decision maker. The decision maker must initially see the potential of our services being a fit. And now through the power of clairvoyance, I am betting that little voice in your head is whispering something like:
  • “Normally I would agree but he does not know our marketplace in X state.”
  • “It is IT that makes the decision on the solution we offer.”
  • “The way we do it is to start at the ground level and then work up the ladder to the decision maker. That way we have developed our case ahead of time.”
  • “Well, my tenured reps do, but I have a bunch of newbies who do not have that type of experience yet.”
  • “You know, everyone still thinks of us as just a copier company. Our contacts will not like it if we go over their heads to the CFO.”
  • “The CFO is not interested” or “The CFO delegates these types of things to the to decide and merely rubber stamps it.”

The following two analogies help to clarify my position:

A six-year old child is savvy in asking his father for a new tool for the “family” toolbox. He prepares a carefully thought-out argument for a new power drill that works as a screwdriver, too. He purposely avoids asking his mother, who believes the tool is too dangerous for his small hands. Although he knows he cannot get past this reality, he hopes his father will agree with the clarity of his argument, relent and then buy the drill (which, of course, he wants too, because it will make his jobs around the house a lot easier).

Maybe just this one time, the father will give in and make the decision without discussing it with the child’s mother first. The truth is that even though the father completely agrees with the child — a new power drill is something the whole family would benefit from — he knows that these decisions require buy-in from the mother.

One of two things happens next. Mother will not share the logic and there will be no new drill. Or, she requires the entire presentation to begin anew, requiring the child (and father in this example) to explain, from the beginning, why the power drill is necessary when the old handheld screwdriver works just fine. Time is wasted. Had the “decision maker” been involved in the initial approach, the toolbox would be the home of a new power drill and the child would be well on the way to scheming his next desired toy.

If you are not into new power tools, consider this analogy:

When a case is brought to court, how effective would it be to plead to the court reporter? Sure, the court reporter needs to hear everything that is presented and will ask for clarity if necessary, but ultimately, no judgment can be made without the judge. Furthermore, the reporter has no effective power in the final outcome. It is only the judge who has the authority to decide the case, as well as the way the case is argued.

As sales managers, one of our top priorities is to discipline our reps to call on qualified opportunities and, therefore, to condense the time getting the order closed. The less time spent on any one deal equates to more time to stuff the pipeline. While it is important to have buy-in from others in the company, the parties that need to be at the initial meeting(s) are those who have the authority “to sign on the line that is dotted.” I cannot stress that enough.

So I will say it with a little more flare — if you do not have an executive level decision maker at your initial sales call, you are just spinning your wheels and falling prey to the most addictive and rampant sales drug on the street — “hope-ium.” Only until you have the agreement of this person or people do you have a qualified sales opportunity. Our job as sales managers is to guide, empower and teach our reps. Teaching them this one idea and helping them to understand it quickly should be one of your primary initiatives.

If you are still not completely sold on this idea, consider this scenario: We have two competing sales reps calling on the same six suspect companies. Rep “A” blissfully subscribes to any one of the six “voices” stated earlier and will schedule an appointment with just about anyone in the company willing to meet. As a result, he (or she) has convinced himself that he is productive and, for a short while, is perceived to be busy. However, he has only created the illusion of being busy — performing the right strategies, just at the wrong time.

With the exception of pre-call company research, it is a criminal use of time to be conducting on-site needs analyses, user interviews and any other activity that creates a falsely engorged sales funnel. Think of a snake after it ingests a fat rat. It looks so full that it will soon burst. However, time passes and that swollen bulge has not moved; it just sits there decaying with rot; nothing is coming out the other end.

On the other hand, the mantra of Rep “B” is to maximize the time calling on qualified prospects and he believes that this is systematically fulfilled by scheduling his first meeting with the CFO. He is not buried in piles of paperwork or onsite at a prospect’s company delivering unpaid consulting advice. In fact, although he thoroughly researches the company he is to meet with, he goes no further until both sides mutually agree on the potential of an engagement.

Click to enlarge the image and tell me which style rep you would want to help you hit your numbers.

And my final question: Currently, which style most resembles your team?

Max Rosenthal As the rules of business change, thinking must change as well. For us sales professionals, I believe antiquated thinking will only lead to frustration, unhappy clients and a dwarfed income. The purpose of my blogs is to provoke a deeper level of thought about achievement in business and to challenge the comfort zone in order to provide a new level of selling and lifestyle.

Max always welcomes questions and comments. Visit Max on LinkedIn.com

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