Getting Past the Gatekeepers

Gatekeepers:

Every organization has them, though that is not their primary purpose.  They can be the scourge of the planet or your best friend.  Which would you prefer?  Regardless of what a sales manager says or expects, it isn’t always possible to call the decision maker direct.  That doesn’t mean you will never talk to them, just that you are not starting with them.

Gatekeepers or non-decision making entities can actually help you.  Learning how to deal with them is paramount in gaining access to the real decision makers.  This is the sister article to Reaching the Decision Makers published a few weeks ago.  So how do you start when encountering a gatekeeper?

Gatekeepers have the duty to guard the castle thereby protecting the company.  Some take this responsibility particularly personal and will do what is necessary to swat everyone that tries to enter.  The problem with this is they really do a lot of harm.  The jury is still out on if the harm is more than the good.  Sales people have two reactions to the gatekeepers; love ’em, hate ’em. Those that hate ’em are the ones that are not successful in winning their support.

When you first encounter a gatekeeper, they usually ask the typical, who you are and what you want.  Most will ask you to send some “documentation or some brochures”.  To get past this, simply say “I would love to but we do not have the standard type of documentation you typically receive from other companies.  If Mr. CxO is interested in saving XYZ% off his bottom line expenses, then I would be happy to discuss this with him and follow up with custom documentation.”

This immediately compels them to pass this on, make the appointment or put you through right then.  It also does not pigeon-hole you as a vendor or salesperson; you are bringing value.  This is where you start to build yourself as a trusted business partner.  If there is any push back, ask if they think the XYZ% is compelling to them.  How can they say no?  They can, but the logic of doing so escapes me.

In closing, there are basically two types of gatekeepers, the one that is charged with keeping everyone out, and the other has the discretion to pass value-producing propositions through.  You can be fairly certain of the type you have run into by asking the above question.   One last item you might try if there seems to be an interest on the part of the gatekeeper, just not the willingness to pass you on. Ccntinue the conversation with the gatekeeper.  Educate them on the value of your solution. They can actually pre-sell the idea in your stead.

If you find this useful, Contact Me or please leave a comment. If you have a Twitter account and found this article useful, it would be much appreciated if you would retweet this at the beginning of the article!

Happy Selling!

Ed Warner

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How Desperate Are You?–Part 2

In Part 1 I asked, if, as a salesperson you reacted to pressure by showing desperation.  In this the second and concluding part of the article I will address some additional techniques that should be used to thwart any form of desperation.

Some common “must have answers” for any sale should include the following:

Unless you know these, your process is flawed from the beginning and puts you at a disadvantage.  Once you arrive at a point in the selling process, a very valuable tool to differentiate yourself from the competition is to draft and write a deliverable document to the executives and team members.  This serves several purposes:  1) Furthers your relationship within the company (insider advantage), 2) Those that respond are usually your allies, 3) The deliverable usually triggers a reaction related to the competitor(s) and allows you to counteract early, 4) Achieve an upsell if the document widens the scope of the project, but only, if there is value and investment is justified.

If the sales process appears to be lagging for no apparent reason, simply ask if the urgency has diminished or that there was no real urgency in the first place.  This allows the opportunity for customer to reveal the timeline changes to you. It also gives you the opportunity to present real dollar figures about how much not buying your solution is costing them.

Another important area to be aware of is the CxO’s time frame.  In other words, if you truly have executive sponsorship and that relationship is solid, use that time line for planning, not yours.

Those that know me know I do not believe in unilateral concessions.  If your client starts early about concessions, push them off until the end.  A lot of salespeople see this as an opportunity for an early close; don’t fall for it, it is a trap. It also shows you to be desperate about the sale.  Set the stage early on concessions.  An article I wrote describes the re-negotiating tactics for those customers that demand concessions.

This last piece of advice to avoid projecting desperation is to fully plan for the type of negotiations you will encounter.  The scope of this article is not long enough to cover the topic, but make absolutely sure you understand what is and is not important to the client.  From that point you can plan your negotiation strategy.  It is unfortunate, but I have witnessed sales managers that have no clue about the art of negotiation.  It is not all about getting the sale, rather it is allowing them to buy and they walk away with the perception they have the best deal.

If you find this useful, Contact Me or please leave a comment. If you have a Twitter account and found this article useful, it would be much appreciated if you would retweet this at the beginning of the article!

Happy Selling!

Ed Warner

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Reaching the Decision Maker

How many of you can honestly say you are able to reach the decision maker in any company?  Many can, but for those that struggle, this article is for you!

This article touches two areas:  Decision Makers, and Pain Issues.   I will also show some effective tactics to use that will help reach your ultimate goal, the Decision Maker. In an upcoming article, I will discuss the Gatekeepers in a company.

Pain:

I mentioned pain issues in the previous paragraph so let’s start there and work backwards.  In today’s economy, unless you have a compelling solution to a business’ pain points, you have no right to call on that business.  You must earn that right.  Think about that for a moment.  This is exactly how you will be viewed until you establish creditability.  This link shows a diagram that pinpoints the moment in an organization when change happens.

There are three elements of pain common in any organization:

So how do you or I earn that right to call upon that business?  You do so by pre-planning your call with sufficient facts and knowledge of that company’s business structure.  This is the very reason I (strongly) advocate having a plan.

So how do you or I gain the insight to a business?  Some think just having a plan is the magic bullet;  it’s not, rather it is part of a sales process you should be following.  I have used the following without exception to gain the necessary insight to a company:

This does two things.  First, you get to practice on someone live that isn’t your target.  The last thing you want to happen is to blow your chance at your target.  Second, you might just generate an interest with this company wanting to gain a competitive advantage.  You could easily be on your way to selling to two companies!

The Decision Maker:

Regardless of the organization, someone IS the decision maker.  This can include more than one so remember one of the first things you need to ascertain is the buying process.  Revealing this early on gives you time to plan your strategy.  But remember one important item: There may (and usually is) an unnamed party that can veto the entire process.

There are generally two ways you reach the decision maker; first contact or being directed to them through working your way through the organization.  If nothing else, remember this: high-level direct contact has the highest success rate than starting at the lower lever. If you start lower, you have for all intent and purposes, created a ceiling for yourself that is hard to break through.  The lesson here is to start high.

With that said, once reaching the decision maker you generally have about 20-30 seconds to make your case before their mind has placed you on the friend-or-foe list.  The higher up you are is inversely proportional to the amount of time you have to speak.  This is the moment that all your planning, practice, and facts had better be second nature to you when you begin to speak.

Lastly, if you are called by a lower-level person in an organization, it doesn’t mean you need or if should call him back first.  Rather, if you have contacts there try them first, and then call the low-level person back.  Or, if this client is strategic enough, have a member of your executive management make the call to a higher level while you in tandem call the low-level person back.  This accomplishes two things.  First, your executive management calling is a peer-to-peer call.  This call will have a greater chance of success.  Second, you have satisfied the low-level person’s request for a call-back while your management sets up a possible meeting.

Whatever the method used to reach the decision maker, your tactics used should never be viewed as condescending, manipulative, or arrogant.  You are seeking a trust level, nothing more at this point.

If you find this useful, Contact Me or please leave a comment. If you have a Twitter account and found this article useful, it would be much appreciated if you would retweet this at the beginning of the article!

Happy Selling!

Ed Warner

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Experience, Sales Advice, Sales Tips

How Desperate Are You?–Part 1

It has been said desperate people do desperate things. As a sales professional, do you?  Let’s try something…Close your eyes and recall this image from your past:  Remember seeing ducks just smoothly gliding on top of the water? Pretty relaxing right?  However, did you stop to think about what is going on underneath?  It could not be more chaotic;  with the constant churning and paddling to make the gliding possible.

This can even be an illusionist’s trick, and one you as a sales person must master.  In trying to close or negotiate a deal, frustration will always be part of the mix.  How you deal with the frustration is how the tempo of your close will go.  Clients do not like to be rushed, but they do need to be prodded sometimes.

In order to keep things gliding smoothly along without showing any level of frustration, you must be constantly paddling, though you don’t have to be going at a constant 0-100 break-neck speed all the time.  The one thing all salespeople see themselves at a disadvantage over, is time.  In fact, some consider it a liability and this can lead to desperation.  I completely disagree with those that do;  but only if it is accompanied by a plan of attack.  In other words, if you don’t have a plan, it is a liability, a big one!  One thing I am adamant about is having a plan. I wrote this article about the benefits of having a game plan.

Time is a liability if you don’t have a plan. This is because when you enter into the negotiation stage and you are pressed to make your numbers,  you will be at an instant disadvantage. The moment you view this as a liability in your sales cycle is the moment you just gave the upper hand to your buyer (client).  When you become desperate in your dealings with customers, it comes through loud and clear on their end.  Once the genie is out of the bottle, it is twice as difficult to stuff it back in.

So how do you keep from coming off as being or sounding desperate?  Here are a few items that work, but keep in mind that for most sales people these concepts are extremely foreign and difficult to grasp. So much so,  I wager that only 3 in 10 sales people reading this article will really understand the concept.  That’s ok, this is more for the managers in the audience.  Nevertheless, if you want to reach the level of your manager you will need to be a little more open-minded and grasp these concepts.  I’m not asking you to endorse them,  just understand them.  So here are some things to try:

I will end part 1 with this:  You must ooze confidence from the moment you first meet the client all the way to the end.  A keen negotiator will look for any kink in your armor.  Remember the duck;  paddle like heck, but glide smoothly.

I will follow-up with Part 2 and cover some additional techniques that will enable you to project the confidence necessary to reach the levels of attainment meant for the very elite of the sale force!

If you find this useful, Contact Me or please leave a comment. If you have a Twitter account and found this article useful, it would be much appreciated if you would retweet this at the beginning of the article!

Happy Selling!

Ed Warner

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Experience, Sales Advice

Shoulda, Coulda, Gotta

This phrase caught my eye a few weeks ago when I saw it as a headline for an article on the U.S. debt.  I began to wonder if there was a message here for the sales community. Sure enough, there is..Voila, my next article! The original article addresses the realization that our elected officials are going to have to come to terms with the fiscal issues over the mounting federal debt.  So too does a salesperson have to address the issue of a mounting quota. The successful ones are those that plan for the triumphant climb to the top of Quota Mountain. Indeed, if you cannot climb you cannot be successful.

For those that are on a different fiscal calendar than others, that’s ok as the same advice applies here as well. Now that we are into the 2nd (calendar) quarter I ask:  “How was your first quarter?” Good, great? Ok, maybe you don’t need to read the rest of this article! If not, or the quarter just doesn’t seem to be getting enough steam to roll into the end of the year, maybe I can help.

Let’s back up to last year…Early 4th quarter to be exact. Did you do any planning for this year?

This is the first part I call Shoulda!
While I don’t like to dwell on things we can’t change, that doesn’t mean we cannot analyze for a better next quarter. Keep in mind the goal is to build for the end. Remember Quota Mountain? That’s the objective.  This is the time a lot of junior and some senior sales people as well, realize that hindsight is 20/20.  Here is some advice to keep from looking back over your shoulder.

I like to take 5 top clients from the prior year and use the strategy that worked with them to align myself to the current list of clients.  This gives you a running head-start and allows you to change your tactics as needed.

The second part I call Coulda!
This part can also be considered a “looking over the shoulder” move.  If you lost a deal, the first thing one tends to say is “I coulda done that!”. If you have said this, then I have one question for you: “Why didn’t you?” Do not get into the mode of never wanting to take a chance if the decision is based on sound advice or information.

Strategically, you have to outsell you competition. It is not about what your widget does; it is about how that widget can solve a business roadblock.  Ask yourself this, “How important is my product to the strategy of the company I’m trying to sell to?” Can you answer this? No? Go match your pitch to the company’s goals.

Finally, the third part of this is what I call Gotta!
If you have arrived at the end of the year still doing the two parts above, Should & Coulda, you will undoubtedly fall into this third part.  The pressure in making your number is going to be intense and unless you are skilled at pulling a rabbit out of the hat, your chances of year-end success is minimal at best. Panic is going to bear down with the words “I Gotta make my numbers!” There isn’t much I can offer as advice at this point other than to say, “Don’t wind up here– “

I leave you with this quote from Erma Bombeck.  Apply it every day to your life as a salesperson. It will yield awesome results!

When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, “I used everything you gave me.”


If you find this article of value please comment. Have a Twitter account? I would be most appreciative if you would retweet this at the top of the article!

Happy Selling!

Ed Warner

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Experience, Sales Advice