We all know that the key to a successful sales career is establishing relationships with high-level decision makers. Having said that, it is easier said than done because these folks don’t like to be ‘’sold’’. So your sales strategy has to adapt in kind.
High-level decision-makers are harder than ever to reach. If you are looking to develop strong connections to the most senior people in big companies, then consider NOT SELLING to them. Connect with them first. Bring them value on neutral ground and see if that opens the door for a business opportunity.
So, how do you do that? Well, every industry is looking for insight and best practices. Why not reach out to the marketplace leaders in your target-customer industry and ask for their opinions? It’s a good way to honor them and it lets you start off your relationship with greater parity.
Here are five techniques for reaching decision-makers. If they seem familiar, that’s because they are similar to the techniques used by top network producers, publicists, and event planners.
If you, your company, or industry trade association you are involved with has a newsletter, a podcast, a vlog, a Youtube channel, or a guest-focused blog, you have a great opportunity to be a guest journalist and interview someone for that outlet or media. The point is to ask them for an interview so you can connect outside of a sales situation. Contact their marketing department or ask them directly (perhaps through LinkedIn?). Ask for 15 minutes of their time to answer five questions. Getting their answers in person is a good way to establish a direct connection.
Call the decision-maker directly and ask his or her advice on a key industry matter or a comment from a best practices perspective from within their business or function. This could be about or a comment on a new piece of legislation, a trend in the market, or fluctuating economic conditions. The point is that you are seeking to connect and hear his or her advice and point of view.
3 Speaker/Panel Request
Trade association meetings, and national and regional industry events often have expert panels or speakers to discuss pressing issues in the market. Invite your potential contact to participate and then offer to be that person’s host for the day.
4 Research for a program
White papers and other documents that you may be producing offer an opportunity for research and quoting people. Use these for your benefit by reaching out to your possible decision-maker contact to get a quote to be used later.
5 Article contribution
Ask them to author an article for publication in one of your company or industry outlets. Offer to assist with the structure of the article.
What you ultimately want to create is a connection and an ongoing dialog with this senior-level decision-maker based on a shared interest or experience. If the outreach is genuine and not a blatant manipulation, your prospective customer has now reclassified you from ‘’vendor’’ to a combination of peer, advocate, industry networking connection, and possibly even friend. Once you have added value to them and/or their career, it makes it much easier and appropriate to talk about what you do and what services you provide, because that is not the foundation from which the relationship began. It evolved organically.
Conversely, please don’t:
– Ask to sell–Establish a connection first and then wait to be invited to pitch your services. The classic line, “Maybe we could set an appointment and I could tell you a little bit more about my company…” is death to trust. Be patient and let the person invite you.
– Waste their time–Be prepared. Have your questions–and how you will represent that person and what outlet you will use–figured it all out in advance. Prepare for your interview or exchange as professionally as you would a sales call, but remember that it isn’t one. It’s about them!
– Send a copy of whatever you quoted them in
– Get their permission to use the material
– Follow up and ask for their opinion and insight on the work
– Ask to contact them again in the future
Authenticity is the foundational word in all of this. This works if it is real. Don’t attempt these techniques if you don’t have a way to get your contacts quoted, published, or referenced. Believe me, it will backfire on you. On the other hand, use these techniques well and you will build a strong group of contacts that will see you with respect and be interested in taking your call in the future, and then maybe they will turn into not only customers but friends.