Business-to-business sales (B2B) is a difficult nut to crack, especially if you’re used to dealing with decision-makers for smaller or local companies only.
Why does it seem like every startup is antsy to gobble up your helpful services, but the large C-level corporate heads couldn’t care less about you? Do not be discouraged, my friend. Industry professionals who have “been there, done that” have a few suggestions to help you and your business break into this lucrative market.
We asked our industry experts 2 questions…
Question #1: Who do I want to talk to?
b) Vice-President of Marketing?
c) Or do I want to talk to multiple people?
Answers: With large corporate organizations the chances are higher that decisions are made bureaucratically. You will need to talk with multiple people and build value in your product based upon their perspectives of their organization’s needs. In medium-to-small organizations, it’s more likely that one person can make unilateral decisions. It was recommended that I do not call up and ask for the “decision-maker” — this just screams “I’m a salesperson!’ The key with higher-level execs of large companies is to NOT get past the gatekeeper but get the gatekeeper to introduce you.” So make friends with the administrative assistant.
Question: What’s the best way to talk to the decision-maker?
a) Calling the corporate office?
b) Using social media or LinkedIn?
c) Find their phone extension or email off the corporate website?
Answers: Actually all of the above were recommended for various steps in the process. Tools like Google, LinkedIn, and social media are great for finding out who the decision-maker is. In more progressive or entrepreneurial organizations chances are better that the management team is willing to talk to little people like you through social media. It was recommended that I create awareness about myself and my company/product/service first by either a personal phone call or a brief email customized to the person I am trying to influence. The phone call or personalized email separates my sales solicitation from spam.
Email Example: A few things to notice about this email; it’s brief, it’s customized to the recipient, the features of what I’m selling are quantifiable. The chances of getting a reply to this email are pretty high.
As the CEO of a property management company, I can imagine you are constantly looking for ways to maximize the efficiency of your organization. I’m the business development officer of a company specializing in property management software solutions. Our proprietary software has on average saved firms like yours 20 man-hours a week by automating property management tasks. In addition to saving firms like yours over 50% on their tenant background checking using our 30-minute online qualification process.
Please check out a 5-minute demo here on our website for more details. I will follow up with a phone call to your office tomorrow morning.
Cold Calling Phone Script
For getting through the Gatekeeper: In my experience, you can usually find out who the decision-maker is in about 60 seconds using Google or quickly browsing through the company’s website.
Call Corporate Office:
Hello Stacy (admin assistant’s name), how are you today? I’m Jonathan Roseland and I’m calling in regards to marketing. Is the person in charge of that type of thing at your office?
If you know the name of the decision-maker:
Hello Stacy (admin assistant’s name), how are you today? I’m Jonathan Roseland; I’m calling for Dave Johnson (Decision makers’ name). Is he available?
I find when dealing with small to mid-sized companies this line works great b/c the directness and use of my last name subtle indicates that the decision-maker knows who I am already. It’s important to deliver it with a confident intonation. A lot of the time they will connect you right to the decision-maker.
Leaving a voicemail:
Hello Dave, this is Jonathan Roseland, my number is XXX-XXX-XXXX, please give me a call back at your convenience.
This voicemail message will get you a call back 50%-70% of the time compared with 10%-20% of the callbacks you get when you describe your product. While some might consider it slightly misleading since I’m not telling them what my call is about, I’ve used this message for years and I can’t think of a time when my prospect was made at me or felt mislead when they called back.
“Why should I care?”
“C-level executives don’t actually care what you sell. They care about their businesses. There is nothing about your business you can tell them that is of interest,” says Tiffany Lyman Otten, a Senior Account Executive with PAETEC. She recommends introducing yourself as quickly as possible, then launching into how you can address a problem they may be facing with their business. Be prepared to give specifics as to how you’ve helped others and boosted net profits for a comparable business. Eliminate excess words in your proposal and give executives the room to respond. Most importantly, Tiffany reminds us, “You need to be thinking with every word out of your mouth “Why should I care?” because you have all of about 5 seconds to answer that question if you want to get another 5 seconds.”
Survival, cash flow, and profitability
To take it one step further, Gary McLean, a Sales Representative with Royal LePage Real Estate, reminds B2B marketers: “C Level managers are concerned with survival, cash flow, and profitability — usually in that order. It doesn’t matter what you are selling. If you address these 3 areas you will hold their rapt attention for as long as you want it.” It’s important to craft your entire presentation around these important areas.
Remember, when working with larger corporate entities, part of your success depends upon getting through the gatekeepers to the real decision-makers. “Treat these gatekeepers with respect, ask for their help, and position what you want in very straight-forward language. What you want is “to see if my services may provide value for your organization,” advises Shawn Greene, a Sales Performance Expert at Savage & Greene. She adds, “Since you will not succeed with the ‘decision-maker,’ learn to say something more like, ‘Who would you suggest I talk to about that?’” Few things are more important than research when you’re dealing with big corporations, so be sure you’re clear on how your business can address their wants, needs, and interests.
If you want to take your sales game to the next level, there’s a very good sales psychology book I recommend highly, Pitch Anything by Oren Klaff — check out this case study of the tactics in it…