Aim High!

By Heather Baldwin

Picture yourself coming to the end of a great sales presentation. All your preparation has paid off and you’re feeling confident. You ask for the business and out comes the kicker: someone who is not in the room makes the final decision. You’re told the decision maker will be in touch. Yikes! You thought you were presenting to the decision maker! What went wrong?

You likely aimed too low at the start of the sales process, says Anthony Parinello, author of Getting the Second Appointment (John Wiley & Sons, 2004) and Selling to VITO – the very important top officer (Adams Media Corp., 1999). To avoid presenting to the wrong audience, Parinello recommends salespeople aim far above the person they suspect could be the decision maker when first contacting a potential client. Sure, CEOs or presidents of a large organization probably aren’t going to be the ultimate decision makers, he says, but call them anyway. Once you’ve explained the value of your proposition to those individuals or their assistants, they’re likely to tell you who you need to speak with and – bam! – you’ve got the decision maker without having to spend a lot of time digging around in the lower levels of the company.

Say, for example, you sell power generators and want to sell to the Professional Golf Association (PGA). “I’m going to call the president of PGA tours,” says Parinello. “If I can make him or his assistant see the value I can deliver, he’s going to send me to the person I need to talk to who probably puts together all the events for PGA tours – a level I probably wouldn’t have been able to get to if I’d started lower.” Now you’ve got the right name and a call that’s being transferred from the president’s office – almost a guarantee you’ll have the opportunity to talk with that decision maker.

But don’t stop there. Once you’ve spoken with the decision maker, circle back to the person who referred you with a phone call and a thank you note. If the president’s assistant provided the referral, address the thank you note to the president. He’ll likely open it and share it with the assistant and you’ll build loyalty at the top while targeting your pitch to the correct decision maker.

“You can’t go wrong calling too high, but you can always go wrong calling too low,” says Parinello.

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