A recent study published by SalesStaff.com found that 52% of in-house B2B sales representatives considered “Reaching Decision Makers” as their biggest challenge. What this survey failed to ask is whom they consider to be the “Decision Makers”? The most difficult part of B2B sales is to identify the person within the organization most influential when it comes to budgetary decisions – That’s the person you want to impress and build your initial relationship with. I call this person “The Gatekeeper”.
According to SalesStaff.com, a few other areas in-house sales reps struggle with are:
I come from a sales background, my focus is also on new business prospecting and client retention. These are all different forms of B2B sales. I increased monthly budgets, sold additional social media packages, and convinced the company to resign quarterly retainers regularly. Many of these sales were made without so much as a direct conversation with the CEO and myself.
These “Decision Makers” that every sales executives and associates so desperately try to get on the phone don’t take cold calls; a CEO will rarely take a cold call. There is that small percentage… and sometimes we just get lucky, but 90% of the people you want to get in front of have a “Gatekeeper”. They trust this person to not let any calls through, schedule any meetings, or spend any money on anything they haven’t been convinced is worth it. That’s why convincing “The Gatekeeper” is the key to getting the meetings and the sells you want.
“The Gatekeeper” will always tell you their boss isn’t available. That’s when to pitch them. If they buy your pitch, they will bring it to management. Don’t simply leave a message and hope the CEO will call you back. The people that screen my phone calls, emails, and scheduling meetings are employees I trust and opinions I take seriously. If they tell me something is worth trying, I’m often too busy to hear the details, but I trust them, so most of the time I will just give them the green light.
Most CEOs send marketing material to an assistant, department manager, or even an intern with a brief message… “Can you look into this? Do you think it’s worth doing?” Business owners just don’t have time to look into every single pitch that comes their way. But if it’s a really good pitch, they just might look into it further.
You shouldn’t be expecting a high success rate when you’re pitching business owners over the phone while making cold calls. If you have a long standing relationship, that’s a different story, but anything less than that, you can expect a lot of:
- I’m sorry, he/she isn’t in right now, can I take a message?
- On vacation for the week, can I take a message?
- What is this regarding and I will make sure they return your call.
- In a meeting… stepped out for lunch… unavailable…
- Then, there’s just the HANG UP (which is always fun!)
After 10 years of working on both sides I can say one thing is certain, if you find “The Gatekeeper”, the person the “Decision Maker” trusts and listens to, you will get a lot further than assuming there’s nothing they can do.
Ask the person on the other end if they are up-to-speed on the company’s current marketing efforts. If they aren’t just an answering service, send them the material – It’s better than leaving a message that will rarely even make it to the target.