On average, it takes 9 attempts to actually connect with senior executives on the phone, yet…
- 48% give up after the firstcontact attempt
- 28% more give up after attempt #2
- 7% more give up after attempt #3
- 5% more give up after attempt #4
- 4% more give up after attempt #5
- 92% give up before connecting
We’ve all heard the phrase “nothing happens until someone sells something.” In the world of sales, and particularly in the complex business-to-business (B2B) sales environment, nothing can be sold until the “appropriate” sales appointment is set with the correct executive level decision-maker.
While turning suspects into prospects and prospects into leads are elements of the sales process, the ultimate critical step in the sales cycle is the execution of the “appropriate” sales appointment. “Appropriate” will have different meanings to different sales teams. However, some of the basic requirements will certainly include:
- The correct level of decision-maker who can truly say “Yes”
- The degree of fit with seller value propositions
- Budget defined for the purchase
- Timing of purchase decision
In many organizations today, purchase decisions for high-value solutions have been pushed to senior level executives. The new market realities drive the absolute need for ROI justification. Therefore, aim high in the organization on the front end of the sales process as opposed to engaging a senior executive “later in the sales cycle.” The benefits of engaging at the senior executive level in the complex sales environment include executing a sales strategy that will:
- Shorten average sales cycle by strategically initiating opportunities with senior executives
- Lower average cost of sales by focusing your sales force on highly qualified opportunities
- Increase deal values by driving value propositions with senior executive decisionmakers
- Enhance the opportunity for deeper customer relationships
The question is how to obtain such an appointment? Further, how does one position the appointment so that there is an opportunity to begin a relationship? Finally, how does one position the next step in the sales process so that it is consistent with the organization’s acceptable sales methodology?
This white paper will explore the issues involved in gaining access to senior executives, as well as how to effectively qualify and set the appointment.
If you asked your sales force why they typically don’t call on the executive suite, most would admit that they are ineffective with this approach. In their defense, it is a challenge to engage a senior executive. Market research has shown that on average it takes nine attempts to actually get connected with one and nearly 50% of sales professionals give up after the first attempt and 92% give up after the fifth attempt. Just getting connected with powerful people is a significant challenge. Beyond connecting to a senior executive comes an even more daunting challenge: once you have them on the phone, how do you capture their attention and gain a commitment to meet?
Secret #1: Get a Referral
Sales professionals must utilize referral techniques to break through the barriers that protect senior executives. The first challenge in getting engaged with senior executives is “getting connected.” Most senior executives have elaborate “gatekeeper” systems put in place to keep vendors out. In a survey of senior executives conducted by Georgia State University, 68% said they usually took a sales person’s call if a trusted colleague in their firm referred them and 36% said they took a salesperson’s call if a trusted external colleague referred them. In summary, this data suggests that at the senior level, “cold calls” are out and “referrals” are in.
Secret #2: Do Your Homework
Sales professionals must do their homework prior to making appointment-setting calls. It is important to understand the target organization’s business issues and the executive’s objectives in order to establish immediate credibility and bring the added value that will facilitate the start of a senior-level business relationship. It has been said that senior executives will give sales people less than five minutes to establish a relationship during the initial conversation. In those critical first moments, executives suggest that sales people should:
- Speak from a business perspective, demonstrating the homework they’ve done to develop their understanding of the executive’s key issues
- Raise relevant questions and bring new business perspectives
- Listen and understand rather than attempting to sell during this critical first contact with the executive
Let the senior executive know how the business proposition of your offering will help grow revenues or reduce costs. Determine where the prospect company’s needs intersect with your company’s business solution. Identify the possible pains, frustrations and motivations that the targeted executives will likely be experiencing. Develop company and individual “executive intelligence profiles” for each of the executives and companies that are targeted. Develop a relationship matrix for each targeted company that maps who you or your team may know that may also know the executive you want to engage. This could include other executives and managers in the target company, boards of directors, consulting partners, or other influential professionals such as auditors, attorneys and management consultants. Those individuals will be the basis for the referral contact opportunities mentioned earlier.
Secret #3: Prepare Talking Points
Develop talking points or messaging that will be appropriate for the targeted executives, referral sources and gatekeepers or administrative assistants. These talking points need to be tailored to each company and to each executive. They must be provocative enough to capture an executive’s attention within the first 30 seconds of the conversation. This messaging format may also be identified for email and letter contact as part of the initial relationship-building techniques. The actual conversation should also contain a mix of facts, thought-provoking questions and examples of how your firm has helped other companies with similar business challenges.
The Volkart May leadsNow!™ service assists marketing and sales departments in efforts to more efficiently generate a higher volume of qualified sales opportunities. If you would like more information about how Volkart May can help you and your team maintain a healthy sales pipeline with viable sales opportunities, call us at 800.865.5147.