It is so easy to fall into the trap of starting at the top. As a buyer of solutions when I was the Chief Customer Officer (and also CIO), I can’t tell you how many times people thought if they just got to me they would get the sale. Even worse was when they actually thought they were going to talk to the CEO.
Note that the “sales process” is becoming very complicated with what appears to be numerous influencers and decision makers. The exception to engaging “people at the top”, particularly influencers in the C-Suite, is when the real objective is to truly be of help with no effort made to sell. Figuring out how to help, without being intrusive, is a challenge.
Seth Godin has nailed this one.
When making a b2b sale, the instinct is always to get into the CEO’s office. If you can just get her to hear your pitch, to understand the value, to see why she should buy from or lease from or partner with or even buy you… that’s the holy grail.
What do you think happens after that mythical meeting?
She asks her team.
And when the team is in the dark, you’ve not only blown your best shot, but you never get another chance at it.
The alternative is to start in the middle. It takes longer, it comes with less high-stakes tension and doesn’t promise instant relief. But it is better than any alternative.
Starting in the middle doesn’t mean you’re rushing around trying to close any sale with any bureaucrat stupid enough to take a meeting with you (or that you’re stupid enough to go to, thinking that a sale is going to happen.)
No, starting in the middle is more marketing than sales. It’s about storytelling and connection and substance. It’s about imagery and totems and credentials and the ability to understand and then solve the real problems your prospects and customers have every day. It’s this soft tissue that explains why big companies have so many more enterprise sales than you do.
You don’t get this reputation as an incidental byproduct of showing up. It is created with intention and it’s earned.