(By Bob McCurdy) Getting through to the decision-maker is simply everything. The challenge is that these individuals are sometimes difficult to identify and, once identified, are difficult to pin down.
Miller Heiman’s book Strategic Selling refers to key decision-makers as Economic Buyers (EB) — the people who have veto power over a proposal and release the money. Getting an audience with them is one of the most challenging aspects of any salesperson’s job.
The sale often begins and ends here and it usually takes some creativity to get through to these individuals. A few suggestions:
– Dig deeply and utilize all existing current contacts. Find out everything you can about the individual you want to meet. Build a dossier. We’ve all heard about six degrees of separation. Locally, it’s more like two. Your entree to your EB could even be your next door neighbor, be sitting in your building, or in your rolodex.
– Scrub all of the social sites. Google everything written about them — articles, interviews — all of which provide insight as to the best way to initiate contact. Identify hobbies, family, college, charities, awards, etc. Chances are you will find something to “soften” your outreach.
– Pull a TopLine appointment prep profile. They can be most helpful in determining which type of “approach” might work best.
– Compile all of this data/info in one place for easy review.
– Some stalking is OK. Go where the EB goes, for what appears to them to be a random “encounter.” Be prepared to throw out some fact or insight so that you’re remembered. It should sound off the cuff but should be far from it.
– Experiment with different approaches. Dylan sang, “When you got nothing, you got nothing to lose.” You are not yet on their radar. You have nothing to lose.
– Work the “family” angle: spouse, kids, grandkids. Tickets, meet-and-greets, etc. that enable the EB to look good to their family go a long way.
In my previous professional life, one of my responsibilities was to get in front of marketing and advertising leaders and tell the radio story. I quickly discovered that this kind of meeting was far more important to me than to them and that getting in front of these execs required some creativity and homework. What follows are a few ways we were able to make these meetings happen.
– The second year of Advertising Week in NYC, we dispatched limos to several high-level, difficult-to-reach agency execs to transport them to and from their various panels around town. They were not alone in the car.
– The CMO of a large automotive corporation was being non-responsive. A deep dive on this individual’s work history uncovered that he had worked previously at an SE agency. We had the owner of that agency write an email to the CMO confirming we were not chipmunks. “Meetings” occurred.
– We wanted to discuss radio creative with a guy who had just been voted Worldwide Creative Director, not of the year, but the decade. He seemed like a cool dude. He had just finished a presentation at an industry event and was walking to the exit, which we had staked out. As he was passing by we said, “Great hair, man.” He stopped. We talked. And subsequently did a number of radio creative seminars at his agency.
– We learned that a senior automotive marketing executive was flying to New York, arriving late in the evening, and was unable to meet with us. A limo was waiting that night and we had 45 minutes of uninterrupted discussion on the way to Manhattan.
– A hard-to-pin-down agency CEO appeared on the front page of ADWEEK as the industry’s Executive of the Year. We wrangled his home address out of his assistant, promising to send a congratulatory gift. We then had a plaque created from ADWEEK’s front page engraved with “Congratulations Dad. You Are The Greatest, But Bob McCurdy Is Not Bad Either,” for his kids to give to him. Getting an audience was no longer a problem.
– A senior soft drink marketing executive had moved to town with several teenaged daughters. We had one of our stations pull together a grab bag of cool station merchandise along with some concert tickets to “assist” her kids with their “transition” to a new city. A relationship was born.
– We got through to Howard Schultz, Starbuck’s CEO, through an old coaching friend and the CEO of a major retailer in the Southeast via someone we had met at an ANA event who we had to track down in the U.K.
Although these examples occurred a decade ago, if we are creative enough today we can probably find a way to get through to most EBs. View it as a game. If we can land somebody on the moon, the chances are we can figure out a way to meet the people who control the purse strings and, in many ways, our income. Though once we get in front of them, we must be sure to be worth their time or else it is over. Go to it!
Bob McCurdy is the Vice President of Sales for the Beasley Media Group and can be reached at [email protected]