Paul shares his thoughts on meeting with high-level decision makers.
Our research shows that getting in front of the ultimate decision maker is the greatest challenge facing today’s sales professionals. That’s why only 10% of the sales population makes it to this level.
There are several reasons we need buy-in from a high-level decision maker. Price is less important at this level. Also, these high-level decision makers are comfortable making abstract decisions.
“Oddly enough, some salespeople believe that high-level decision makers don’t like salespeople.” Nothing could be further from the truth. They love salespeople, and many of these decision makers started in sales.
“Here are three ways you can schedule that high-level meeting…”
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How do I meet with and sell to high-level decision makers?
(Transcribed from podcast)
On today’s episode, we’re going to talk about high-level decision makers, ultimate decision makers, key stakeholders, whatever you want to call them. We are going to show you how you can meet with these types of decision makers and also why you should want to meet with these types of decision makers.
Before we get into that though, let’s do a quick shout-out to our sponsors, The Creative Impostor Studios. Again, podcasting is a great way to connect with your audience to build your brand. If you think podcasting is an option for you, check out the link on our website. We’re going to have a link over to The Creative Impostor Studios. Again, they’ve been a part of the Q and A podcast since the very beginning. So, if you need guidance and you need help all things podcast, reach out to Andrea.
Also, pick up your latest edition of Value-Added Selling. In today’s episode, we’re going to talk about high-level decision makers, and we have a whole section of the book dedicated to this concept and idea. So, if you’re eager to learn more about this content, pick up a copy. It’s available on Amazon and wherever you get your books.
So let’s get into it. How do you sell to high-level decision makers? Let’s give you a few data points here to consider. When we did our most recent focusing study where we asked salespeople, “What are your greatest sales challenges?” we gave them eleven options to choose from. The number-one challenge was getting in front of the ultimate decision maker, that high-level decision maker. Now we know this is a challenge for salespeople. It’s one of the reasons that salespeople constantly face price objections, or deals get stalled out. They just don’t have the buy-in that they need from the highest levels within the organization.
Now, beyond that challenge, the bigger challenge is how do I even meet with these individuals? That’s what salespeople are asking us. And our research further shows that most salespeople never make it to this level. In fact, 90 percent of your sales peers never call on high-level decision makers. So I think this is going to create an opportunity for many of you listening. Just keep in mind that, yeah, it is challenging to get in front of these decision makers, but it is worth it.
Let’s look at a few facts about high-level decision makers and why it’s so important to meet with them. Our research shows that high-level decision makers actually give fewer price objections. When we did our analysis of what’s important to high-level decision makers, price was towards the bottom of the list. When you work with lower-level decision makers, like procurement buyers and operations managers, mid-level influencers, price plays a bigger role. But with high-level decision makers, it’s toward the bottom of the list.
And the reason why is simple. With high-level decision makers, they’re looking at your solution. And if they believe that your solution will positively impact their business in a way that will help them achieve their goals or achieve their vision, they’re willing to pay the price. They’re willing to work the details out, and price is just one of those minor details. So number one, they give you fewer price objections. That’s why you want to call on them.
Number two: These high-level decision makers are more comfortable making an abstract type of decision. With lower level decision makers, like procurement buyers, they want to make very concrete and tactical type of decisions. They want to know what quantities, lead times, things like that. But higher level decision makers are more open to making abstract decisions—conceptual type of decisions. And many of you are selling a partnership, or a solution, or you’re selling a higher abstract idea that is sometimes harder to grasp within lower levels of the organization. And so we need that buy-in at the higher level because they’re more comfortable making those types of decisions.
The third reason why you should call on high-level decision makers: They say yes where other people say no. There are so many people within an organization that can say no to your idea and block it. But there are a few people who can say yes. If the budget isn’t available, these high-level decision makers create the budget so they can find the money. If other departments don’t want to get on board, these high-level decision makers can get everyone moving in the right direction. That’s why we call on high-level decision makers.
Number one again, because they give fewer price objections. Number two, they’re comfortable making abstract type of decisions. And number three, they can say yes.
Let’s go through a few misperceptions that salespeople have about high-level decision makers.
The first thing that salespeople falsely believe is that these high-level decision makers don’t like meeting with salespeople. Nothing could be further from the truth. These high-level decision makers love salespeople. And in organizations that I work with, and previously when I was in sales, high-level decision makers love salespeople because those are the individuals bringing revenue into the organization. In fact, many of these high-level decision makers started their career off in sales, so they absolutely love salespeople. What they’re frustrated with salespeople about is salespeople who come in and don’t sell to them the right way. They focus on products and features and attributes and benefits, and they’re selling a product versus really selling a partnership. They’re focusing the conversation on performance rather than on how your solution can actually impact the areas of the business that they care about: profitability, competitiveness, deploying resources more efficiently. So they do love salespeople. We’ve just got to make sure we communicate the message in a way that resonates with them.
One other thing to think about, calling on these high-level decision makers, there’s less noise because fewer salespeople are actually reaching out to them. They falsely believe that they can’t get a meeting with them so they don’t even attempt it. The noise level is pretty low. So that’s just a few of the realities about high-level decision makers.
How do we get in front of these high-level decision makers? I’m going to share a couple of ideas—a couple of thoughts.
Number one, when you’re pursuing a new opportunity, make sure you start at the highest level within the organization. It might take you a little bit longer, but identify who that key decision maker is and then start with them. Meaning you start making the requests, meeting with these individuals. Let’s say it’s a five minute phone conversation. That’s fine. The key is you want to initiate contact at this level because you’re going to have to talk to other key decision makers. But once you establish contact at this level, you can easily navigate between lower level and higher level decision makers. So you want to start at the very top.
Next thing you want to do to try to get that meeting, a referral is going to be your best bet. That’s going to be the primary mode of introduction. So if there is an individual in your industry that can help open up the door to a higher level decision maker, reach out to them. Connect with them. Use a referral. A referral is the most likely way you’re going to get in front of these high-level decision makers. You can reach out to him, individually—a cold call. You can send a letter of introduction, email, phone, call, message, things like that. But a referral is going to be your best bet.
One piece of insight when you’re requesting this meeting or you’re trying to gain a referral, whatever it might be, we actually surveyed high-level decision makers and we asked them why they would be open to meeting with a salesperson. The number one response was it appears this salesperson can solve a problem that I’m currently experiencing. Think about that. If you’re going to reach out to a high-level decision maker, take a few moments and think about some of the common business problems that this individual is experiencing. And that’s how we lead in with our messaging. We focus on that business problem. And just by identifying the problem, this high-level decision maker now has a sense that we can solve that problem or we have an idea to approach this problem in a different way. Either way, we’re grabbing their attention right away and we’re more likely to get a chance to meet with them.
The next way we can get in front of these high-level decision makers is through a technique I call the high-level schmooze. If you’re trying to get in to meet with the executive vice president at one of your prospects, you should bring along your executive vice president. The reason why is simple. These different decision makers—these high-level decision makers—they like interacting with each other. And your high-level decision makers within your own organization… having their big title is going to help open up some doors that maybe you can’t open up with your title. So having these folks get together, it’s an easier way to open up that meeting. It’s an easier way to get the conversation started. So I would encourage you to bring your high-level decision makers along with you. Even have your high-level decision maker reach out to their high-level decision maker. By doing this, it’s going to help open up the doors easier. And again, that’s called the high-level schmooze.
The final tip: If you’re trying to get in front of high-level decision makers, you need to go where they go. When they go to conferences, when they go to trade shows, that’s one of the best ways you can casually meet with some of these high-level decision makers. One salesperson at a training seminar… this is several years ago. They by far demonstrated their commitment to meeting with these individuals.
Here’s what happened. This salesperson identified three prospects, three high-value targets that they were going to be focusing on over the next several years. These were huge opportunities. He found out that all three of the high-level decision makers were members of the same country club. And so the salesperson ended up joining this country club just because that’s where those three key decision makers were. And eventually he was able to meet with several of them. That shows commitment. And he probably had fun playing a lot of golf along the way.
Those high-level decision makers are critical to selling value. Again, they give you fewer price objections, they’re comfortable making abstract decisions, and they can say yes where other people can say no.
If you want to get in to see them, number one, start there. Start at the very top of the organization.
Number two, get a referral from someone that they respect or another high-level type of decision maker.
Third, try the high-level schmooze. See if that will work. Get your high-level decision makers to help you score that meeting with that prospect high-level decision maker.
And then finally the fourth one, go where they go. If it’s trade shows, conferences, and, hey, maybe even country clubs, you’ve got to go where they go.
Make it a big day.