Approaching The Elusive “Decision-Maker”
Have you noticed that making cold calls, dropping in unexpectedly, sending e-mail, snail mail, and voice mail messages just doesn’t work the way it used to?
Technology permits salespeople and vendors from around the world to use those same tactics you use to try to get an appointment with the decision-maker, and those decision-makers have become immune to those approaches.
Your market has changed dramatically, the Internet has changed the way your customers’ customers buy, and new media competitors are springing up daily.
So your market has changed and the media industry has changed, yet many of us still try to reach decision-makers in the same old pre-Internet way.
When the world around you changes, you need to change too. Old school tactics like “always be closing” or “only talk to the decision-maker” are about as useful as a knife at a gunfight today.
Let’s address the frustrating pursuit of the decision-maker. In most organizations, there isn’t one!
Why? Organizational structure has changed. With staff cutbacks, new products, new technologies, and rampant multi-tasking, most major decisions today are a collaborative effort between several people in an organization who are affected by those decisions.
Most owners and managers today have attended classes or seminars to learn how to rally their troops and get staff buy-in to company decisions. And of course one of the ways to get buy in on decisions is to have your staff participate in those decisions.
With rapid introduction of new products and technologies it’s also impossible for one person to have the knowledge or expertise to make decisions unilaterally. There is usually someone on staff who understands the technological implications of a purchase, someone else who understands the financial ramifications of a decision, another who understands the impact on branding, and yet another who understand how a purchase might impact staff and operations.
Last, but not least, comes the perceived risk that comes with every purchase. The Internet, searches, and easy online price comparisons have squeezed everyone’s margins and profits.
As profits are squeezed, every buying decision is more critical and your prospects are doing everything possible to minimize their risk. When profits were more lucrative, entrepreneurs like John Wanamaker could joke, “I know half of my advertising is wasted, I just don’t know which half.” That’s not funny today, because business owners can’t risk wasting money.
Therefore, they consult with trusted staff members, vendors, and professional advisors to minimize their risk and maximise their profits from every decision.
Do you have a strategic plan to call on each of your prospects key influencers before meeting with the decision-maker, or are you still running straight to the top without having your ducks in a row?
Here are a few of the strategic advantages to starting at the bottom and working your way up the buyer’s food chain:
1.) No more cold calls to the decision-maker. You can pick up the phone and say, “I was talking to your sales manager and they suggested I should talk to you about selling more extended warranties.” It’s literally a referral.
2.) While your local, global, and off-shore competitors are bombarding the decision-maker, seldom do they contact the key influencers or staff on the front lines. These people sincerely appreciate the interest and courtesy you show when soliciting their input.
3.) You can often learn more about a business’ problems and opportunities from front line people who talk to customers every day than you can from upper management.
4.) When management asks their key influencers for input on your proposal, you’ll have covered the bases with their input, and more likely get their approval when asked.
5.) That front line staffer you have built a relationship with, may actually be the decision-maker at some point in the future.
Building relationships at the bottom of the pyramid will always give you a better foundation for asking questions and capturing appointments at the pinnacle.