Ask Colleen

Dear Colleen, question-logo

I have been receiving mixed messages about who to call first when I am prospecting. Should I call any level or is it best to call high up in the organization – say in the “C – Suite” or at VP level?

Adam in Calgary.

Hi Adam,

Always aim towards the highest ranking appropriate contact in your target company. Ultimately it is always a VP or higher that has the final opportunity to say yes or no – so you may as well go to them first. This is especially true if you are selling large dollar products and services. It will be rare for any prospect to authorize a purchase of $15,000 or more if they are not an executive. As sales an executive for a large software company, I had a $1,000 spending limit (and this was during the tech boom in the 1990’s!).

If you are selling a product or a service that is not generally budgeted for in advance, – usually a product that is new to the market – selling at the executive level is imperative. You are in this position if you say “we have to educate our customers first”.

Something else to consider…If you often hear “it’s not in the budget this year”, this could be a sign that you are not calling high enough in the organization. Director levels and below can only spend money exactly as it is allotted. For example, if a director has a budget to spend $50,000 on advertising this quarter, $50,000 must be spent on advertising this quarter..

Only VP’s and C-level executives have the power to “create” or find money in the budget. An executive can move money around and decide to pull money from the “head count” or the “cafeteria upgrade”, in order to purchase your solution. Let’s be clear, no one else in at your prospect’s  site can re-allocate money in this way.

In my experience, the only reason that sales people do not call as high as they should is because they are afraid. Afraid, of what? I am never quite sure. Senior level decision makers are human, just like you – and they won’t bite (at least not through the phone!). If you have a well tailored message designed to address the needs of an executive you should be received warmly and either referred to other appropriate decision makers, or invited to a second meeting. Be sure to craft an opening statement using the Unique Selling Proposition worksheet found on the Lead Up website – that is targeted specifically to the level of the person you are calling. Senior executives such as V.P.s or C-level executives have different needs.

Good luck! Colleen