Classic account-based selling advice instructs reps to "call high" in the organization by reaching out directly to decision makers. This is still a best practice, since they are the economic buyer by definition and might take your call. Even if they pass you to a direct report, that’s still an indication that whatever you are offering is important enough for someone on their team to spend time on it.
But more often than not, you'll get ignored. Chances are that your pitch won't be at the top of their priority list.
Today’s decision makers ignore salespeople for a variety of reasons:
- They're just too busy to spend time talking about things that aren't at the top of that list.
- Modern leaders empower their team members to independently identify improvement opportunities and identify and vet products and services that can help them capitalize on those opportunities.
- They use the internet to educate themselves.
Here’s the bottom line: Meeting with salespeople is usually something decision makers do once they've decided to investigate something, not something they do to educate themselves.
So how do you improve the chances of getting through to decision makers? You have to improve your chances of broaching a subject at the top of their priority list. And while it’d be nice to use a crystal ball to know exactly what a decision maker cares about at the moment you’re calling, there’s one really good non-mythical way of finding out: Ask the rank-and-file first.
Well-run companies keep their teams focused by spelling out priorities and key initiatives. As more and more companies transparently share more and more details about their business with their team, more and more employees are well-informed of company priorities.
How One Conversation Lead to Meetings with Two Decision Makers
Krista Moon is the owner of Moon Marketing, a sales and marketing agency. Among other things, she’s an expert at helping companies use social media to generate sales leads. But as with every small local business, she also understands the value of face-to-face networking. Most of her business to date has been virtually acquired and delivered; both her team and her clients are remote. Moon recently joined her local Chamber of Commerce. As part of her membership, her information is listed in a public directory, often used as a call list by local salespeople.
One such salesperson reached out to welcome her to the chamber. The company he works for provides direct mail services, a service Moon is occasionally asked to help clients with but doesn't know a lot about. So, she met with him to understand more about how to do direct mail effectively and how they could work together. As Moon always does, she looked up the salesperson and his company on Linkedin. While she found the company on Linkedin, she could not find the salesperson listed. (Let's call him Jack.)
During Moon’s meeting with Jack, she asked him why he didn't have a profile on Linkedin. He told her that he doesn't use LinkedIn right now but it was something that was being discussed by the sales leaders at his company which has a 250-person sales organization.
Moon realized Jack’s company had a need she could help with. After the meeting, she sent an InMail to each of the members of the company’s leadership team referencing the conversation she had with Jack. She also mentioned a free Linkedin training webinar she recently recorded with fellow sales expert Alice Heiman. Following prospecting best practices, she waited a day and followed up with an email to nine different contacts at the account. Here’s the message she sent:
Using HubSpot Sales, Moon was able to see that six of the nine contacts opened her email and one of them, the executive vice president of Sales, clicked the link to her webinar. (Let's call her Claire.) Here's Claire’s response:
Claire’s response showed clear interest in Moon’s offering, so Moon followed up and asked whether Claire would be interested in having a longer conversation about her experience using LinkedIn. Claire agreed, and her executive assistant Mary scheduled the call using Moon’s HubSpot Sales Meetings link. During the call, Claire acknowledged that she didn't know much about generating leads online or via social media, Krista’s real area of expertise. So, Krista booked another meeting to discuss how she might be able to help them more formally.
Five additional people from the company listened to the webinar. One of them, an executive vice president of another division, also reached out to Moon discuss how he could improve his LinkedIn presence and start a blog.
How to Get Meetings With More Decision Makers by Talking to Other Employees
Krista did a number of smart things to make these meetings happen. Here's a few of them:
- She spent time networking. Not all meetings have to be sales meetings. She met with Jack to learn more about direct mail and find ways that he can help her clients by referring him business.
- She did some research on Jack. No matter who you are meeting, it's smart to do some research. Ironically, it's what she didn’t find that helped her start a conversation.
- She asked why he didn’t have a Linkedin profile. That lead to an insight about a decision maker’s key initiative: The company is considering using Linkedin more.
- She did more homework on the company and their executives. She identified likely decision makers and reached out to them.
- Not only did she reach out to multiple people to increase her chances of getting a response, she didn't rely on just one message. She sent one via Linkedin and one via email.
- She used email tracking to know who opened and clicked her emails.
- She used content to connect with her prospects. By sending content, she offered them free advice on a relevant initiative. The content also helped her establish herself as an expert on the subject since she was one of the experts on the webinar.
- She suggested that they share the content internally, which lead to a meeting with a second decision maker.
- She used a landing page to capture information about the contacts who viewed her webinar.
- Once she was in a conversation with the prospect, she probed for bigger issues she might be able to help with.
What else did Krista do well? What could she have done better? How are you initiating dialogue with your prospect's employees in order to uncover decision maker's priorities?