November 29, 2015

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First Mediaworks

06/05/06 A Fresh Reminder Of Old Advice

I recently made the trek to visit the CEO of a company I was trying to sell. When I arrived, I was told the CEO had unexpectedly been called away, and I would be meeting with the senior executive in charge of marketing. In the meeting, this very nice marketing exec informed me that we were not on the company's radar screen, that there was no interest in advertising, and that I had wasted my trip. I tried to spark some discussion about the company's issues, but my probing was clearly an irritant. In this person's eyes, I was trying to sell something the company didn't want, and the exec couldn't get rid of me fast enough. Though my ego was a bit bruised, we ended the meeting on a high note. Still, I had little hope of seeing a dime of their business.

A week later the CEO called to apologize for missing the meeting, and I knew this was my last shot. A few pointed questions later, the CEO was sharing some frustrations about his company, and I was offering solutions. The solutions I shared were not ideas that would line my pockets with his dollars; I offered good, sound business advice and perspective. The end result: This CEO invited me to consult him on his larger issues, and only a small part of it was about marketing. I not only was able to help his business significantly, but mine as well. While the marketing exec hadn't been interested, she didn't possess the perspective of the CEO. Sometimes we overcomplicate things, so it's good to remember to stick with the basics: Sell people who can say yes, not those who can only say no.

In another recent scenario, I showed up for a scheduled meeting with the marketing director of a business - the CEO wouldn't see me - and was told that this marketing director didn't have time for me. I nicely insisted that I had an appointment, and expected to be seen. Instead of the marketing director, a salesperson from the company sat down with me. Though it crossed my mind that I was wasting my time, I did what I always do: I probed. The salesperson, who had been with the company 20 years, revealed some of the pains being faced by both her and the company's owners, and I offered ideas. She excused herself for five minutes, and returned with the owner of the business. “This guy isn't just another person trying to sell us advertising, he has solutions to some of the problems we have discussed,” she told him.

Though the owner was guarded, I was able to engage him in the three minutes I was given, and he invited me into his office where we spent an hour talking. The lesson here was to treat all people with respect, because you never know their sphere of influence.

Selling is hard work, but business owners are easier to sell because they have the power to shift budgets. Though they are sharper and usually more challenging, they also have problems that need to be solved. While getting to the owner increases your odds of a sale, my experience with that salesperson sent to placate me was a reminder that there are other people with influence. Treat everyone with respect, probe their issues (after all, sellers know where the real problems lie), and load them with the message you hope they will share with others. Though they may not make decisions, they are often asked for their opinions. They're know how to maneuver internally, and they can become an inside champion for you.

These encounters were a good reminder of the basics: Deal with decisionmakers when possible, and focus on the prospect. Develop trust and credibility, and then get them to open up about their issues and offer solutions. Don't make it about you, because that's expected. Do the unexpected - make it about them.

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