August 03, 2009

Gaining Access To C Level Executives

Sales people and their managers cite gaining access to senior level managers as one of the key impediments to identifying new opportunities and accelerating sales cycles.  Like us they know that while meeting lower level managers makes access easier, it also makes progress slower. 

However getting access to managers higher up the organization can prove a real challenge.  In particular, the methods and approach that open doors lower down in an organization are clumsy and ineffective when the job titles start to get impressive and offices get bigger.

Let us look at the issue of access in more detail, examining the problems that are experienced at lead generation stage, as well as during the sales cycle.
First, at the lead generation stage.  It is senior executives that dictate strategy, priorities and budgets – something that is particularly important in the present climate.  Here are the challenges salespeople face in having their message heard at the top of the organization:
- How to get past the PA?
- How to arouse the manager’s interest?
- How to ensure that he, or she will want to meet with me?
- How to overcome the issue of credibility – particularly when our company is relatively unknown?
- How to prevent being redirected to somebody else lower down the organization?
- How to keep the channel of communication open beyond the first contact?
The next area of challenge, with respect to access, relates to how to access senior managers during a sales cycle, especially when your contact, or sponsor is at a lower level.  In particular:
- How to ensure that my contact does not get offended if I go over his head?
- What to do when access is restricted and your contact, for example, says ‘I will pass on your information to him, or her if you give it to me’?
- What reason, or excuse do I have for contacting the manager, or for him, or her to want to talk to me during the sales cycle?
As sales people review the buying influences
Access is not an automatic entitlement, rather it is earned.  The senior manager is very busy, and will only meet with a salesperson where some, if not all of the following apply:
- I know this person (company), or they have been recommended to me
- The person is professional and respectful, trustworthy and credible
- This is not just a salesperson – he, or she won’t try to sell to me
- He, or she has something interesting to say
- He, or she has some unique insight, or valuable piece information
- He, or she won’t take too much of my time
- I won’t be obligated as a result
- I won’t be stepping into somebody else’s role
- There are no implications for my credibility, or status

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