“They’re not our target customer.”
“They don’t buy what we sell.”
I’m paraphrasing – and, this is what I’ve heard from several leaders of BDRs, SDRs and inside sales teams (who do outbound prospecting) who have pushed back when I’ve advocated taking a top down approach – that is, prospecting to the CEO of that ‘must win’ or ‘named account.’
I get it. I do.
The CEO may not be the buyer or user of your service, product or solution – and after an internal referral or one call, you may never need to speak with that CEO again (although I strongly recommend keeping them in the loop).
AND, it’s the fastest way my clients know how to get conversations started with the account they want to do business with. Prospecting cycles get reduced from weeks or months, 7 to 15 touches to seconds, minutes and hours with between 1 to 3 touches.
Imagine the impact this approach would make to your business…
Here’s are a couple of typical outcomes.
“Using Matt’s methods the first week, I secured a meeting with a hard to reach client (CEO) in 26 minutes and had a meaningful pitch to another client I was trying to engage for 18 months! I highly recommend Matt to evaluate how you are selling as his methods have worked for me.” Sr. Manager, Business Development
“My Senior Enterprise Director has been trying to get into ACCOUNT for years. I just got a meeting with the VP Operations in 6 minutes…” Business Development Associate
When the CEO of a company decides that a conversation or referral is warranted it loosens the grip of “status quo” bias. Mid-level executives who are tasked with executing and operationalizing existing initiatives are suddenly made aware that this is, or could be, a new change initiative that is a high priority. And that is what sales is, introducing new process, technology or behaviour. So, start your sales motion with people who are change orientated (for avoidance of doubt, that is the C suite).
So why do many inside sales leaders tell their reps to start their prospecting cycles at VP, Director or Manager level?
In my experience, there are two reasons.
- Ideal Customer Profiles
- Generational behaviours
An Ideal Customer Profile typically describes the person(s) who may have bought your service, product or solution in the past. It tends to focus on VP and below titles and is often pulled together by marketing.
However most marketers have never prospected or had to set a cold appointment. Sorry marketing folks, I love you for a great deal of what you do. You get my drift…
In addition, most ICP’s don’t take into account the circumstances, reasons or trigger events that cause mid level prospects to contact your company or the 1 out of 100 contacted who take your reps call. 95% of mid level buyers are fine with the status quo…until they aren’t. That’s usually because they’ve been tasked by their C suite to fix or find something to do business differently. So ICP’s are at best incomplete.
Generational behaviours…many inside sales leaders have learned to call on mid-level executives because that is what their leaders did when they were reps and they simply haven’t considered “going high.”
While it may be counterintuitive to what they believe works, speaking to the top level execs directly actually accelerates prospecting results; namely conversations with or referrals to people who can actually say “yes” (or “no” quickly) to what it is that you sell.
Without someone clearly showing sales teams why they need to start high and then show them how to do it properly, they simply repeat the behaviours of predecessors – and perpetuate unproductive habits and processes that are passed on from one generation of prospectors to another.
Be a ‘transitionary’ leader. Break that cycle of generational dysfunction.
If you’re an executive reading this, ask your inside sales leader what the job titles they instruct their reps to call on – or just have a peek at the job titles of the people attached to the opportunities in your pipeline. If you see lots of VP, Dir and Manager titles, you may want to have a chat with your inside sales leader about that. Long sales cycles and low proposal to win rates lie ahead. Just sayin’.
(If you’re an inside sales leader reading this, contact me for some stats on the difference that you will make by going high: + show rates, + call quality, + number of calls/meetings, + number of opportunities generated from calls, + $ value of opportunities. It could lead to your next promotion.)
“Matt is the world’s greatest authority on teaching salespeople to prospect and sell to the C-level.” – Gerhard Gschwandtner, CEO Selling Power Magazine, Advisory Board Member Sales Enablement Society
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