Jan 2, 2024 • Podcast

Why do salespeople struggle with high-level decision makers?

Paul debunks some of the myths surrounding high-level decision makers (HLDMs).

Show Notes

FE FI FO FUM. I SMELL THE BLOOD OF A…Salesperson. High-level decision makers get a bum rap!

Many HLDMs started out as salespeople. Salespeople generate revenue in their own organizations. Why would they have a problem with you?

A whopping 90% of salespeople do not call at the highest level in an organization! 

HLDMs focus on more than just a product. They want to know how your solution will help them achieve their long-term organizational goals. 

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Why do salespeople struggle with high-level decision makers?

(Transcribed from podcast)

Today we’re going to discuss high-level decision makers. It’s interesting, just this past week I was on a training, virtual training, and one of the biggest challenges the sales team was facing is getting in front of those high-level decision makers. So, we’re going to discuss that today and specifically, I need to address this. Why is it that salespeople struggle with high-level decision makers? And by understanding why salespeople struggle, you’re going to have some ideas on how you can approach them coming into the next year as well. So with that said, let’s go ahead and get started with that question.

Now, before we do, make sure you pick up your copy of Selling Through Tough Times. In fact, latest polls put a recession at about a 50% chance into next year. So, there’s a 50% chance we could be facing a recession next year. Now is the time to act. We’ve got the holiday season coming up, now is the time to act. Pick up your copy of Selling Through Tough Times. Read it, study it. Apply the techniques. You will be more successful in 2024. So, with that said, let’s go ahead and get started.

Why do salespeople struggle with high-level decision makers?

Well, the biggest mistake that I see, number one, they don’t reach out to high-level decision makers. Salespeople are fearful to call on these high-level decision makers, and so they let that fear prevent them from even reaching out to these high-level folks. And when we think about why salespeople fear high-level decision makers, there’s this misperception that high-level decision makers are hard to deal with: they’re brash, they’re rude, they’re demanding, they’re egotistical. And all of this is just not true. In fact, there’s plenty of evidence to show that the higher an individual gets in an organization, the higher level of emotional intelligence they have. So, they tend to be good leaders because they’re patient; they have a strong vision for the future. They’re great at interacting with people. So that’s misguided.

And, you know, another thought here. Salespeople fail to call on high-level decision makers because they think high-level decision makers don’t like salespeople. And I could find nothing further from the truth. On the contrary, they love salespeople. In fact, many high-level decision makers began their career in sales and that’s how they would rise to the ranks they’re at now. And not only that, they also love salespeople because salespeople generate revenue. They love their own salespeople, they love meeting with other salespeople. The key is you just have to reach out. The biggest mistake salespeople make is they just flat out don’t reach out to high-level decision makers, so that’s something to keep in mind.

In fact, our research shows that 90% of salespeople do not call at the highest level within the organization. Our research further shows that one of the greatest challenges facing salespeople is getting in front of that ultimate decision maker. It actually was a tie with that in differentiation, which is what we’re going to be covering on an episode here soon, And then finally, what we have found is that top-achieving salespeople actually call on higher-level decision makers at twice the rate as the general sales population. So, again, this is an opportunity for salespeople.

Now, one of the other reasons salespeople struggle with high-level decision makers, they fail to focus on the high-level decision maker’s specific needs. You’ve got to remember, high-level decision makers—let’s call it an executive, a vice president, it could be a business owner—they’re not focused on just product. They want to buy a partnership. That’s what they’re looking for. They want to know how your solution will help them be more competitive in the marketplace, how your solution will help them achieve their long-term organizational goals or help make their vision a reality. And so, we need to be able to speak to that. You’ve got to ask yourself, “Okay, what is this company’s vision? Where do they want to be in the next few years? How is my solution going to help them get there?” And if you can answer that question, you are certainly speaking the language of that high-level decision maker.

So, some key areas of concern for high-level decision makers: number one—they’re always obsessed with market share, with competitive posture. They want to know how they stack up in the marketplace and they want to hit that #1 spot. And once they get it, they want to keep it. So that’s going to be critical. Certainly, improving operational efficiency is going to be critical. Profit is always a key concern. They also want to know how you can help them free up their internal resources to be more effective in other areas. They want to know how they can leverage your value-added services to achieve greater profit. And so that’s the language we need to use when meeting with high-level decision makers.

Now, the final big mistake I see when salespeople are trying to approach a high-level decision maker—they fail to leverage their own internal high-level decision makers. You know, it’s interesting that salespeople, they don’t proactively reach out to their company’s leadership to go visit with customers. And I would do this all the time. When I was in sales, especially in the construction industry, if I was meeting with a business owner or if I was meeting with a high-level project manager, I would want to bring either my regional sales manager or my divisional manager, even the executive VP within our division. I want to bring them on the call because, number one, it demonstrates that our company is committed to them at the highest levels, which is critical. But also, high-level decision makers speak the same language. The executive VP of my division is going to have similar concerns, deals with the same challenges that a VP of construction deals with on a large project. They speak the same language; they have the same concerns, and so getting these two high-level decision makers together is a powerful way to persuade and then build that partnership. So, I would encourage you to leverage your internal high-level decision makers.

You know, one final thought here before we wrap up today’s episode. When you’re reaching out to high-level decision makers, a couple things are important. Number one, we need to identify a problem that they’re experiencing. When we surveyed high-level decision makers, we asked, “Why would you be willing to meet with a salesperson,” and the number one response was, “It appears this salesperson can help me solve a business problem that I’m experiencing.” So, hint at the problems you can help solve.

Another thing to remember, we asked high-level decision makers, “How can salespeople create more value,” and here’s what they told us: “Deliver meaningful insight early in the decision-making process.” So right there, they’re telling you, “Hey, if you want to create value, identify a problem to solve and give us some meaningful insight when we’re making decisions.” Ask questions they didn’t think to ask themselves. Make them aware of things they’ve overlooked in their buying process, and doing so, you are creating value.

Make it a big day.

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