Recently it has occurred to me that the fact that I am not always getting to the purchase decision maker is having a negative impact on my closing rate when trying to make sales for my clients. I am thinking in particular of my client Kingston Data and Credit. Just the other day I was phoning law offices on their behalf and I talked to probably about 5 receptionists that told me they were not interested or had no use for Kingston Data and Credit's services. Kingston Data and Credit provides 3rd party collection services. Now I know that most of these law offices probably could benefit from their services and probably half of them even have someone else providing collection services for them. I feel if I could talk to the decision maker I could probably persuade them to at least meet with me. After thinking about it I started to think of all the times I or my clients have trouble getting to the true decision maker in the buying process. This made me realize I should really do some research and do some studying to find out what tactics can be used to get to the real purchase decision maker. Below are the result from my research.
How To Get To The Purchase Decision Marker
1. Find Out The Purchase Decision Makers Name
Ask The Gate Keeper For Help
People naturally want to be helpful. This is why if you start by asking the gate keeper for help before even telling them why you are calling, you will greatly increase your success rate of getting the name of the decision maker. In addition, when you ask in this way often the receptionist will want to prove that they are good at their job, and they can prove they are by getting you to the right person. I have been using this approach for over a year and have a success rate of over 98% in getting through to the right person.
Do A Linkedin Search
If the gate keeper will not release their name try Linkedin. Linkedin is a great tool. Recently I have been able to use it to find numerous decision makers I was trying to find. The key to Linkedin is that the bigger your network is the more people you will be able to find and see their contact information for. With 1st degree connections you will be able to see all their contact information and also be able to send them a note through Linkedin. For 2nd degree connections (people who are contacts of people you are contacts with, but who are not your contacts) you will be able to only see their name. For people that are not a 1st or 2nd degree connection, you will not be able to see their full name. This can sometimes be solved. If you have the persons first name and company, if you do a google search you can often find their last name. Often their linkedin profile will come up in the google search results showing you their full name. For example when I search for the VP of Finance at Milton Hydro within Linkedin I found Mary-Jo C. When I search Mary-Jo Milton Hydro in google, a Linkeding profile for Mary-Jo Cockburn who is the VP of Finance at Milton Hydro came up. For people beyond a 3rd degree connection within Linkedin you won't even be able to see them. This is why having more connections is critical. The more connections you have the more people you can find in your search. If you have not developed a plan for how you will increase your linkedin connections I would advise you build one. I will definitely be looking to use this tactic even more in the future.
Phone An Alternative Department Or Person
If the gate keeper is not being cooperative try contacting someone else in the company. If the menu options include going to a particular department try a well connected, slower paced, department like accounts payable, receivables or customer service. The sales group can also be a good department to try as they like to talk and are usually very helpful. When you get the person just simply say you were having trouble finding how to get to the right person and wondering if they could help you. Explain who you are looking to talk to and then ask them for who that person would be and their extension. If you want to have some extra fun, say something funny when they first pick up the phone. For example if you are calling the accounts payable department say "I am calling to tell you that you don't owe us any money." If you start with something light hearted and fun I think you will find people are very eager to help you when you ask them for help. I can't at all take credit for this idea as it is one of the gems I found in my research.
2. Get Past The Gate Keeper
Repeat Attempt With Different Approach
If you try getting trough once, hang up and try calling again in a week. If you try again too soon the gate keeper will know it is you and be even more determined to not let you through. Instead try again in a week and try a different opening line and approach. Something you might want to try is "Can you please put me through to Mike" and when the gate keeper asks what you are calling about say something like "I have a business opportunity for him". Another line I have used that has given me good success is "What is Mike's extension?".
Ask By Name
Ask for the person by name, using only the first name of the person you want to talk to. This does two things, one it makes it seem like you know them and two it avoids you asking if they are available. If a gate keeper is protective of letting people through they will usually say no, when you ask if they are available. If you ask for the person instead, it makes them either seem rude by not letting you talk to them or it forces them to at least speak to the decision maker to see if they are willing to talk to you.
3. When Leaving A Message For The Decision Maker
Focus On The Benefits, Not The Details
If you focus on the details of your product you probably won't get too far. When doing my research I thought about the sales messages I disliked the most and the ones I liked the best. The ones I disliked the most were ones that were trying to push things (like product details, company information etc) on me. The message I liked the best were ones that outlined the benefits they had to offer me and that those benefits happened to be benefits I was interested in. If I was really not interested in the benefits they stated I would delete the message. When leaving a message for the decision maker focus on the benefits for them of talking to you again. Once you get them on the phone, talk about the benefits of meeting with you, not the benefits of the product. For example "When me meet to give you a demo I can show you how the user interface will save you time" not "The user interface saves you time. It is a great feature." The other key thing is to state benefits in terms of how they can benefit, which is often just a slight wording chance. For example say "We can probably save you 50% on your digital plans rooms software" not "Our digital plans room software costs $49.95 a month"
Keep It Short
If you leave a long message the person will not listen to it. Think about messages you get, do you listen to long messages left by sales people? Probably not, but I bet you are more likely to listen to the whole thing the shorter it is. Lots of other research I found supports this. Keep message short and succinct.
Act Like You Know Them
If you act like you know them, they will wonder how they know you and will call you simply to find out who it is that called them. A great way to do this is to leave a message stating their name. Something like "Hi Bob, it is Chris calling. Looks like you are not at your desk right now. Give me a call back when you have a chance XXX-XXX-XXX." Or "Hi Bob, I bet one of your objectives this year is to reduce your costs. We can probably save you 50% on your digital plans rooms software. Looks like you are not at your desk right now. Give me a call back when you have a chance XXX-XXX-XXX."
Talk With Authority & Seniority
People of authority respond to people who also display authority and seniority. To convey authority and seniority you will want to keep your message brief, tight, personalized and involve issues that are important to the recipient. Keeping your sentences and voice abrupt can also be very good.
4. Get A Meeting With The Decision Maker
Talk To The Decision Maker
In order to get a meeting with the decision make you will probably need to talk to the decision maker. There is a rare chance they may email you but most likely you will need to get a hold of them and talk to them to get a meeting. I have found the best way to do this is to simply call them once you have their name and extension.
Explain Why It Is Beneficial To Meet
Once you get the decision maker on the phone you need to focus on why the decision maker should meet with you, not why your product is worth purchasing. A good example of this is a meeting I booked for Unique Embroidery. I was able to talk with someone at the Flying Dog here in Waterloo and they told me they would like pricing on shirts and uniforms. The lady requested that I pick some items and send her pricing. In response to this I explained that Unique Embroidery has over 10,000 different items and that we would be able to better match what she was looking for if we could meet to discuss her needs, take a look at what they currently have and discuss what might be possible to be improved. As a result she agreed to a meeting to review what she currently has. Taking this approach the extra benefit is that I actually got agreement to two meetings. The first being to review what they currently have and the second to review options.
Don't Give Pricing
If you feel you are forced to give pricing and the prospect will end the discussion if you don't give them it, give them a pricing range instead. This meets their requirement but does not allow them to shop you versus other suppliers. This approach I have just started to use and has been very successful at getting meetings with prospects. If you give a price range you can also explain that if you meet you can get the information you need to give an exact quote. This will then get you the meeting you want. To follow up with this and ensure they don't just use you for price shopping when you meet you can state that you will only come back with exact pricing if they give you a price target to hit and if you hit the target they will award you the business. If the disagree to do this, you can just walk away from the meeting and save yourself the time.
Confirm They Are The Decision Maker
Probably the best advise I found in my research was to ask the decision maker you are talking to if they will need to have their purchase approved by anyone. This will let you know whether you really have the decision maker or not. If you don't, you will need to start working on any alternative plan for how to get that person at your meeting as well. How to do this is a whole other article. Hopefully I will get to write about this in the future. Be sure to watch for this article in the future.
I have already started to implement some of these pieces of advice from my research into my approach will work to make the other habit in the next few months. I feel like I have already improved my results but I hope to actually track these results and report back on my actual results. Be sure to watch for this article too! If you feel you need further help getting to the decision maker check out our sales training resources.
My name is Chris R. Keller. I work at Profitworks Small Business Services helping various B2B small businesses in Waterloo and Kitchener Ontario generate new customers. Feel free to connect with me on Google+ or if you are just interested in getting new customers for your B2B small businesses enter your email in the box provided below and click the "Send Me Free Updates" button.