In sales, not all doors are easy to open. Some require a bit of forethought and some even require a bit of courage to enter.
Think back to J.K. Rowling’s classic Harry Potter series of novels. Early on in the story, the hero learns that to continue on his journey, he must first enter through Platform 9¾ at King’s Cross Station in London—a doorway others cannot see, such that it seems as though he’s been asked to run face-first into a brick wall. Without spoiling the story (to the rare few who are unfamiliar with this great tale), suffice to say a door is there.
Sometimes in life, you have to put yourself in the right place, and have the right frame of mind to enter the right kind of door to get you to where you need to go on your journey. Unlike our young friend Mr. Potter, sales professionals aren’t usually expected to run at full speed into invisible doorways, but we do have to have to have faith in what we are doing. We also need to remember the objective behind our efforts, and be true in our dedication to our craft.
For salespeople trying to find ways to get in the door of large organizations, there’s more that needs to be done than just picking up the phone and making cold calls. You have to choose the right door, otherwise all your hard work could wind up being unfruitful.
It’s often a very small door you have to work with, requiring some strategic thinking. If you want to be associated with senior executives and those who have a role to play in strategic decision-making in enterprise organizations, you must create the right conditions and put yourself in the right position to meet them.
If your targeted prospects never see you at the events they attend, they won’t see you as one of them. In other words, you need to be how you want to be seen.
Let’s look at seven things you can implement in your sales organization today to get in that door—even the ones that sometimes seem like they’re Platform 9¾ at King’s Cross Station.
1. Engage in thought leadership
As I’ve discussed before, thought leadership is about getting inside the head of your customer. Learn what matters to them. What kinds of business problems keep them awake at night? How can you help solve those problems? Answering those questions will shape you as a problem solver and reinforce your value as a resource in the minds of customers and prospects.
2. Build a presence where your market gathers
Does your client or prospect have events to which you can be invited so you can get to know them better? When booking that business trip to meet with an existing client, don’t be in such a hurry to catch the first flight home afterwards. Make some time for networking opportunities that you otherwise wouldn’t have. Hang around for a bit. Have lunch in the cafeteria and meet people. Book a table and entertain prospects and clients at fundraising events. When you find places where your market gathers, never miss an opportunity to be part of that gathering and to meet new people. It’s a simple, effective way to get introduced to other people who might otherwise be very difficult to reach.
3. Respect gatekeepers
Always respect gatekeepers of an organization. Always. If you fail at this, you likely won’t get a second chance to gain access to an organization. If someone’s job is to restrict access, you need to respect that power. Further, there are many more opportunities for good karma in life simply by treating everyone well, rather than by being selective.
4. Partner strategically where required
Sometimes, it’s wise to partner with your managers or senior managers within your own organization to gain access to executives within your targeted prospect’s organization.
There are cases where this is vital otherwise the people you need to meet won’t meet with you. That happened to me once when I was a sales rep for a firm and we were meeting with executives at Warner Brothers. Their Chief Legal Counsel at the time said to me: “I’m not coming to the meeting unless you bring your President.” Once I got past being annoyed by the request and the expense, I realized it was critical for him to be there or we would not win the business.
Strategic partnering can also be helpful in sales calls or in arranging seminars to engage more people in your organization. Make use of the good connections you have when you need to, if that’s what it takes to get in the door.
5. Leverage your social influence
Lunch-and-learn events, seminars, book launches, panel discussions and presentations are all great ways to meet the people who can help you gain access to decision-makers in their respective organizations. Sometimes, it’s easier to get access to senior-level staff this way, because you’re being introduced in an environment outside of the workplace. It’s less threatening and often it’s less formal, too. This can work to your advantage, but that can only happen if you make a point of attending these kinds of events.
6. Don’t be afraid to talk about money
Executives aren’t afraid to talk about money and if they sense that you are shy about this, then again you are not a peer of the buyer, right?
Be ready to engage in in-depth talk about the dollar value of your product or service, as well as the dollar value of what a percentage increase in sales could mean for them as a direct result of choosing your product or service. Be specific, be clear, and rehearse if necessary. In advance of a meeting with senior executives, practice talking about money until you’re comfortable and have ironed out any sense of awkwardness in broaching the subject.
Remember, you’re talking to a peer. To remind yourself of that fact, put a big sign up on the wall in your office: “I am a peer of the buyer.”
7. Create multiple contact points
Think beyond one-to-one business relationships. Multiple points of contact are vital, because decision making in larger organizations usually involves many people with plenty of overlap in certain areas.
As I often point out in my sales coaching sessions, remember that there is a pay line in every organization: the select few above this line are the ones who can make spending decisions independent of budgets. They are the Captain Picards (of Star Trek fame) within organizations. They have the authority to say “make it so.” Below the pay line, decisions are only made according to budgets. Multiple contacts points help position you to get introduced to those above the pay line while also growing your influence below that line.
Summing up, these seven activities will help you shape how to be seen by clients and prospects. Not only will they help create you more access to large organizations you want to sell to, they’ll also help show you doorways that you might otherwise never have known about.