sales prospectingIf you want to talk to the CEO, you better have something important to say.

It happened again this morning. It happens all too frequently, and it has got to change. Like many businesses, well-intentioned sales people trying to secure time on my calendar contact our company. Their promise: Show me how their solutions can help our business be more efficient, spend less money, or better protect our information. Do I want to be more efficient? Definitely. Do I want to spend less money and better protect our information? Who wouldn’t? Am I taking their calls? Absolutely not!

You have to know me to help me.

In today’s hectic business climate, decision makers all have far more priorities than time to address them. Every day there are tasks we don’t get to, balls dropped, and important issues that don’t get addressed. In this environment, one of the most important tasks for an executive is to make absolutely certain the critical things, what Stephen Covey referred to as the Big Rocks, get done. Failing to take care of the critical priorities can mean the difference between success and failure – and failure simply isn’t an option. So why didn’t I talk with this sales person this morning? Simple, he isn’t relating anything he does to the big rocks in our business. I certainly can’t afford to let one of them go undone while I educate this person about what the big issues are.

If it is a Big Rock, many people know about it.

What’s interesting is he may actually have something relevant to the top priorities in our business, in which case I should and would meet with him. I simply cannot spend the time BEFORE I know if this is the case. This is the point at which so many well meaning sales people fail in their prospecting efforts, and it was the failure point for this sales person today as well. Rather than asking a few questions of our executive assistant about our business and the issues that matter most to us, this person insisted that he could only speak with me. Not only am I the wrong person to evaluate his solutions, he missed a terrific opportunity to learn more about our business in order to ensure he wasn’t wasting his time or ours. The result? He didn’t get through to me, offended the person who could have helped him to be more successful, and he sent an email that was summarily deleted.

His mistake may have been any one or combination of these three assumptions:

  • Only the C-level contact knows the information needed to uncover a sales opportunity
  • Only the C-level contact has the authority to evaluate a solution and commit the company to buying it
  • The gatekeeper is intent on keeping me from the C-level contact

Make every call count

Don’t fall into the same trap. When prospecting for new opportunities follow these three simple steps, and you will get more meetings with higher quality prospects:

1. Know what problems you can solve

Before making a single call be certain you know what it is you are looking to uncover. When businesses have and care about problems you can solve, you have opportunities.

2. Make every call count

Even the person who answers the phone may have information that will help you better understand what value you can bring. Be certain you gather information BEFORE you reach out to a decision maker as this person likely will have neither the time nor inclination to educate you.

3. Be compelling

When and if you find a meaningful business problem you may be able to impact, share it with the targeted contact. Don’t be secretive and don’t make crazy promises. Simply share what you’ve learned and if it is a real business priority, securing an appointment will be the easiest part of your day.

By following these steps, you will be able to fill your pipeline with more opportunities and likely end up with a higher closing ratio as well. Don’t make the mistake of assuming you can help – know you can.

Oh, and if you tried to get an appointment with me this morning, read this blog one more time, then reach out to us again. We have lots of big rocks and are always looking for helpful partners.