Recently, a client told us a story about how they obtained a meeting with one of their strategic prospects. This growing technology company was moving into helping leading national and international organizations. And while this sales cycle was longer, the payoff was worth the time.
To help others successfully secure these types of meetings, I’ve outlined the steps this particular company took and why they work, below.
Step One: Research
Start by researching the prospect’s company and finding any commonalities you can use in your contact attempts. Can you find colleagues in common using LinkedIn? Did you attend the same college or university? It's aways good to have something to share.
Step Two: Reach Out
Leverage the commonalities you discovered when making your contact attempts. Make sure your correspondence note is more about them and less about you. This will put your prospects at ease and you’ll seem much less pushy.
Step Three: Contact the Right Person
Always start with the ultimate decision maker. Even if you can’t get a meeting with them personally, other decision makers in the organization will always take a referral meeting suggested by the ultimate decision maker. On the other hand, they will almost never take a referral meeting suggested by low-level influencer.
Step Four: Be Persistent
Don’t stop after one or two contact attempts. I've found that best practice is six to eight tries, especially for high-level executives who are likely very busy. Treat each email as a new opportunity to connect and set your meeting. Be positive and clearly state your reason for connecting. Do not remind the person you have emailed them before. Even on the eighth try, they may not remember.
Step Five: Create Curiosity
Don’t show all of your cards on the first couple of touch attempts. Instead, try to reveal a little more each time, while maintaining a little mystery. Curiosity is a compelling emotion that can create action on the side of your prospect.
Step Six: Try for a Live Discussion
Make sure the ultimate goal of your contact attempts is to start a live discussion. Buying decisions involve change. Decisions to change are made emotionally. If you want to be part of the change process your prospects are going through, email conversations won’t cut it. It’s too easy for them to type “all set” and hit send.
Step Seven: Uncover the Company’s Challenges
Uncover your prospect’s challenges and current initiatives once you get the live meeting. This will make or break the whole process (though it’s easier said than done). If you present too early, you’re going to be out of the running. It can be as simple as asking, "Can you be more specific? Give me an example. What have you tried to do about that?"
Step Eight: Know All of the Players
Make sure you know all of the key players. You’ll likely need to meet with all or most of them during the sales process. When navigating through those meetings, it helps to know everyone. Then, ensure you know when the next meeting is, with whom, and what the mutual expectations are for that meeting before you leave your current meeting. Writing a “FOLLOW UP” email kills salespeople, and figuring out when everyone can meet kills deals.
The biggest lesson: It’s much easier to start a relationship with a new prospect if you begin with the ultimate decision maker, because all referrals are not created equal. However, once you start the relationship, make sure you’re fostering it correctly.