Paul shares four ideas when going above or around your existing contacts.
What is the greater risk, losing a sale, or losing a relationship? “Remember, your job is to sell, not just build relationships.”
“Try asking the buyer for forgiveness, and then asking for their permission.”
“If you have a strong relationship, then ask the buyer why they’re hesitant to introduce you to the ultimate decision-maker.”
Coordinate a high-level schmooze. Have your high-level contact meet with their high-level contact. Those two high-level decision-makers speak the same language.
If all else fails, offer a new decision for your prospect to make. Recommend a bigger solution that has a greater impact across multiple departments.
Make it a big day!
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How do I engage high-level decision makers without damaging my existing relationships?
(Transcribed from podcast)
On today’s episode, we’re going to talk about how we can get to that ultimate decision maker without offending our lower-level contacts.
So here’s what happened on a recent virtual training. At the end of our session, a salesperson was asking this question. They said, “Paul, I have my main contact who I’ve been interacting with. Now, when it’s time to push this deal forward, my main contact said that we need to get other people involved. They need higher-level approval. And, although I’ve asked for the meeting, the main contact basically told me, ‘Hey, I’m the one that has to present this to my boss. I’m the one that has to take it. Don’t contact that decision maker.’”
This salesperson is in a tough spot, right? They know that they’re going to need to get in front of that high-level decision maker to make things happen, but their main contact told them not to reach out. And so he’s stuck. He’s blocked from that high-level decision maker. The risk, of course, is if he reaches out to that high-level decision maker, he jeopardizes the relationship that he currently has. So we’re going to answer this question, or address this challenge, rather, in today’s episode.
Before we do that, though, a quick shout-out to Andrea over at The Creative Impostor Studios. Podcasting is such a great way to connect with your audience, to build a brand, connect with your customers, whoever it might be. If you’ve ever considered starting a podcast, reach out to Andrea. She can guide you, provide some ideas. She’ll ask you questions that maybe you didn’t think to ask yourself. And all of that is in an effort to help you create a great podcast. There’s going to be a link to her website on this episode’s webpage, check it out.
Also, in Value-Added Selling, we have a chapter called Target Account Penetration, and it’s all about getting there early in the process, going deep enough to create pull for your solution, and also, getting high enough to that ultimate decision maker—that high-level decision maker—that can say yes to your solution. So pick up your latest copy of Value-Added Selling. What we’re talking about today is going to be one of the biggest challenges you face in sales. In Value-Added Selling, we teach you how to do it. So pick up your copy, available on Amazon; available at Chapters, Barnes and Nobles—wherever you get your books.
Let’s get back to that question. How are we supposed to get around or how are we supposed to go around our main contact to meet with a high-level decision maker? And we have to do this without damaging our relationship with our main contact.
The first thing I would do is ask for forgiveness. I was working with a group of software salespeople, and typically what would happen in their sales cycle, a group of engineers would reach out to them and they try to demo their software. They gather information. But they need to get higher-level approval to make any sort of decision. What will happen is these engineers will try to sell the idea to their boss. These individuals, although they’re very technically sound, and they understand the product, their job is not to be a salesperson. It’s to be an engineer. Here’s what I recommended actually to this group of salespeople.
I said, “When you talk to your engineers, ask for their forgiveness. Say to those engineers, ‘You know what, Mr. Engineer? I really put you in an impossible position where I’m asking you to try to sell the value of our software to your boss. And I know that that is not what you do as an engineer. Your job is to make things work, to keep things up and running, to enhance productivity, whatever it might be.’ I said, ‘I really put you in a tough spot asking you to try to sell this idea. So for that, I apologize.’”
Let’s take a stop here for a moment and pause and think about that. When we mentioned to the buyer that, “I’m sorry for this, please forgive me,” it changes the whole tone. It changes the whole tone because now, this engineer, whoever it is that you’re interacting with, they’re on your side. You’re appealing to their, I guess, emotion a little bit. And they’re going to soften up a little bit. They might be a little bit more open to your request. So once you apologize and ask for that forgiveness, you want to follow it up by asking for their permission and say, “I’m sorry that I put you in this position. Can I reach out to that high-level decision maker just to fully explain the value of our solution and address their specific needs?” So you ask for forgiveness, then ask for their permission.
Next thing: Ask about their hesitation. First of all, if you have a close relationship with your main contact and they seem hesitant to introduce you to their higher-level contact, you want to ask why. And, if you have that strong of a relationship with that main contact, you should be able to ask why and you should get a response. When the buyer says, “Don’t reach out to that high-level decision maker,” I would counteract by saying, “I understand that, you and I have been working on this, but they’re going to be part of the decision-making process. If we really want to get some legs on this deal, we’re going to need to get them involved. But what’s the hesitation? Why don’t you want me to reach out to them?” See what they say. And, hopefully, they’re going to be honest with you. They could say things like, “My boss told me that they want me to handle this and if I get you involved with them, I’m kind of going against what they said.”
The key is we’ve got to figure out what the real issue is. Once we get to the root cause of what the issue is, then we can begin crafting our response. So again, ask about their hesitation.
The next idea is what we call the high-level schmooze. The high-level shmooze. It’s a very technical term, right? And I think I mentioned this on previous podcasts. But, when your buyer indicates that, “You’re not meeting with our high-level decision makers. Stop asking. Stop doing all that,” we want to bring in one of our high-level decision makers. Here’s how you present this to the decision maker.
“Mr. Decision maker/Mr. Customer. We value our partnership at the highest levels within our organization. In fact, my vice president recently reached out to me regarding your company. And he’s planning on reaching out to your vice president of production, because, he’d like to have a conversation with him or her about the value that we can bring, how we can better support. And I asked our vice president to let me see if you could help arrange that meeting. He was going to reach out directly to that VP, but I thought would make sense if we can run that meeting through you.”
Let’s think about what’s happening here at this point. Your main contact has just heard you say, “My VP is going to reach out to your VP.” It means that he’s going to make that call, whether it happens or not. And you’re basically letting your main contact know, “You can either be part of this, or, we can be part of this, or, we can let them take it from here. Now, if that main contact is thinking long term, he’s going to say, “Okay, I want to be part of this,” and so, maybe he will help arrange the meeting. Then, once you get your two high-level decision makers together, they speak the same language, right? They’re going to be on the same wavelength. That can be a very powerful meeting. And also, that can be helpful in taking price off the table as one of the issues on the backend.
So again, we call that the high-level schmooze.
The final tip for today is to offer a new decision, a bigger decision, to your current customer. Many of the companies we work with, they sell multiple different types of solutions, broader solutions. And so let’s say you’re meeting with one of your main contacts who runs just one division within an organization. And let’s say you’re selling a solution like software, we’ll say. You’re selling just one aspect of your software to this decision maker. Well, what if you could do this? You get a sense that this decision maker is not going to be able to make the final decision.
So here’s what you can do. You can offer a new decision, and you can say, “You know what, Mr. Customer? The more we explored your needs, and the more research that we’ve conducted, it turns out that other divisions within your organization, other departments within your organization, could significantly benefit from a different solution—an overall solution that’s more comprehensive. What we’re going to need to do, though, to make that happen is we’re going to have to meet with a couple other decision makers. And we’re certain that this type of decision, it’s going to require a significant investment that will also include other decision makers. So here’s what we’re going to do. Let’s do some research. Let’s figure out how we can make this a better overall solution for your entire organization. And let’s get some of those individuals involved.”
What you’re doing is you’re offering a bigger solution, which is going to bring in more decision makers. And, in some cases, this might be perceived as risky. Why try to sell a bigger solution when you haven’t sold the solution that you already have? Well, the reality is, if you’re not able to get in front of the ultimate decision maker anyway, you’re not going to close the sale, regardless. You are relying on your main contact’s ability to sell your solution. Whereas, if you truly do have a better solution that can impact other areas of their business, it gives you a reason to bring in more decision makers. It also will, then, stand to reason that you’re going to need to get higher-level decision makers involved as well.
So again, the whole idea here is being able to get in front of that high-level decision maker. And once you get there, your chances of success will significantly go up.
Make it a big day.