If you read any list of “problems” faced by salespeople and marketers, you will always see “Reaching the real decision maker” somewhere near the top of the list.
I have always found this amusing because the moment you reach anybody in a company you have reached the “ultimate decision maker.”
At this point you’re probably scratching your head and thinking “Erik’s talking silly again,” so let me back up a bit and make it easier.
Obviously we need to speak with or get our message through to the person who has the authority to buy our product or service. That is a given.
Obviously, we want to “get in to” the company at the level of that ‘authority-person’ or as close as possible. No one wants to work their way up from the mailroom to the CEO’s office.
The problem I see is this mis-belief that the ‘authority-person’ is the ultimate decision maker.
The ultimate decision maker is not a person!
The ultimate decision maker is a process!
Now you really think I’m nuts, but stay with me.
Let’s say you want to speak with the CEO of a company. He is always busy,rarely at the office, has an un-findable phone number and a dedicated assistant who protects her boss vigilantly.
You have sent letters. Dead end.
You have stopped into the office. Dead End.
You have reached out on Linkedin. Dead end.
You have tried people he is connected to. Dead End…..
You just can’t get passed his assistant.
Because you’re ignoring the first “ultimate decision maker.”
You see the CEO is busy and has lots to think about. So he has actually subconsciously handed off part of his ‘thinking’ to his assistant.
He has entrusted her to know what is worth is his attention.
Her mind is one of HIS mental filters!
Every time you try to get around her you are ignoring part of the CEOs thinking process!
You already are where you want to be, you just didn’t see it!
So you’re job is not to get “around” the assistant, but it is also not to get the assistant “on your side” with fake charm and cheesy smiles.
You’re job with the assistant is exactly the same it will be once you are speaking to the CEO: Determining if there is a fit and any reason to proceed.
Instead of asking how to speak with the CEO or how to leave a message for the CEO or (fill in the blank with any idea for getting around the assistant) engage the part of the CEOs thinking he has already handed over to his assistant.
How could you possibly do this? Well here’s an idea.
- Call and ask to speak with the CEOs assistant. Not the CEO.
- Be honest and tell her briefly what you do and why you think you need to speak with the CEO.
- ACKNOWLEDGE her role and tell her you understand that she has been given the job of determining what is and is not worth the CEO’s attention.
- (this is the REALLY IMPORTANT part) Ask her what her CRITERIAis for determining what is valuable for the CEO to see, because you want to make sure that you meet that criteria.
- Then wait for her reply.
In most cases you will get silence.
This is because THEY HAVE NO CRITERIA!
The CEO did not give them specific guidance, so they have just been ignoringalmost everyone and everything without reason.
Once they are confronted with the fact that they have no criteria, they will realizethey have no reason to keep you from the CEO and will (most likely) let you through.
The first “ultimate decision maker” has made a decision:
You may enter.
And now you can talk to the CEO. Too bad he isn’t the “ultimate decision maker” either…but that is another story….