From the time I entered sales in the late 1980s, the common barrier to accelerating B2B sales has been the ability to quickly and effectively connect to the "Decision Maker.” Books have been written about it, weeklong workshops have been created to solve the mystery; yet, it still ranks as one of the greatest challenges facing any B2B selling organization.
The common belief amongst most sellers is that it’s tougher than ever to connect to decision makers. There are certainly some important trends that are making it more difficult, and the zero moment of truth (ZMOT) has allowed your customers to do far more on their own than ever before.
That being said, there is a paradox for connecting. For most sellers, accessing the right decision maker is, in fact, tougher than ever. I believe, for this very reason, when done properly, connecting with the right person is easier than it ever has been. Here is the approach that I’ve honed over 20 years to connect:
Do your homework
Sorry, there are no shortcuts. You must do your homework. This is definitely easier when it comes to certain industries and contacts, but it can be done for just about any company you are focusing on.
It certainly helps when you already know who you want to connect with, but sometimes a big part of doing your homework involves the process of identifying who you want to connect with. There is nothing less productive (for buyer or seller) than beginning an effort without clarity about who you are trying to connect with, and I’m constantly amazed how often that happens.
While doing your homework is different for each opportunity you are pursuing, it includes reviewing:
- Their website
- Both the company page and individual contact’s LinkedIn, Twitter and other social media pages. (Read more about utilizing LinkedIn throughout the sales cycle here.)
- Industry reports
- Analyst reports
Identify critical issue(s)
The primary purpose of doing your homework is to identify a high probability critical issue. Senior executives have a dearth of time available, so if they spend it with you, there is someone or something else they won’t be spending time on.
Remember, they are not interested in your products, solutions or case studies. They’re interested in their business and their world. Drop the “we-do’s,” and make sure you connect with real-life issues that are high on their priority list.
Identify those impacted – directly and indirectly
Research demonstrates that more organizations are becoming consensus purchasers. The days of finding the “decision-maker,” knocking the door down, making an Academy Award presentation and “winning the business,” are over.
Now, more than ever, senior executives want to make sure you’ve built the need within their organization before they begin talking to you. When doing your homework, identify who’s impacted and who can influence your target executive.
If you’re not sure who the appropriate person you should be talking with is, start by explaining that to whoever it is that you have gotten in contact with. One of the most effective statements I make during the initial point of contact is, “I’m not sure if you’re the appropriate person, but…” I find that the person I’m talking with rarely lies, and provides me with great insight.
Also, remember that you’re making a sales call. Be honest about it. Tell me it’s a sales call, if you follow the steps I’m sharing here, it won’t be a problem.
Start before you need it
Don’t wait until you’re under the gun to hit quota or to meet your quarterly goal before starting the process. Nothing kills your effort like a whiff of desperation. The absolute worst thing you can do to your business is to attempt to shortcut the process.
Clearly articulate your proposition
As the saying goes, you only have one chance to make a good first impression. On top of that, you’ve got about 8 seconds to capture their attention, and about a minute and a half to keep it. Make sure you’ve got a clear proposition that you are ready to deliver tightly.
Even more importantly, make sure you’ve got two great questions ready to start the conversation. Asking questions that truly resonate with your prospect will separate you from the pack of peddlers, and allows you to earn their attention.