girl-holding-hand-up-stopOne of the five most  important tenets of selling!

A friend of mine wrote about what I consider one of the big five of selling…starting at the right level. If you start at the right level, you can figure out most everything you need to understand about the customer and his project.  Without this knowledge, you are just another bidder among many.

I got a one-line e-mail the other day:

“How can I get around a lower-level person (without making them mad)?”

Ever been blocked before? It’s a pretty common problem. It occurs for 2.5 reasons:

1. You get an inquiry from a lower-level person directed by the boss to go on a scouting mission, find facts and prices, and report back to daddy. 

2. You make a sales call on the lower-level person only to find out that they’re an influencer, not a decision maker—and they won’t let you talk to their daddy.

2.5 You finally get to the person you think is a decision maker, only to find out that this person is not the decision maker. Bigger problem: You don’t even know who their daddy is!

The lower-level person has this mission: To protect (keep you away) the boss from salespeople. The goal of the salesperson is to make the sale, even if he has to climb Mount Everest. The goal of the boss is to find the best solution and the best opportunity with the least amount of direct connection or hassle. 

So, how do you get around this lower-level person? Never go to the lower-level person.  The higher you start, the easier it is to get to a real decision maker. Salespeople go to a lower-level person because they think it’s an easier level of entry, when in fact, it complicates everything. Sometimes you get to the higher-level person, only to find that the higher-level person wants to get rid of you. As a result, you get dropped down to the lower-level person.  The reason?  They have no interest in buying what you’re selling. And you’re offering no help. No value.

Think about this at the higher level: Does the big boss want to buy a copier, or does he want his people happy because the copier is capable of providing high productivity and a great image? That’s what a copier does. Bosses are not “features and benefit” people. They’re “big picture” people. If you do get around the lower-level person to a bigger boss, once you get there, you better not be giving them a sales pitch.  You better have something of value to offer.  Otherwise, they’ll send you back to the basement where you belong. 

If you have made the mistake of “going lower-level” and need to move up the ladder, say to the lower-level person, “I have a list of half a dozen questions that I would like to ask you and Bill (or you and your boss), and I was wondering if it would be possible to set that meeting within the next few days.” 

BETTER ANSWER: The easiest way to get around the lower-level person is to include them.  This way they don’t feel threatened.

WORST CASE SCENARIO: The lower-level person is blocking you from getting to the higher-level person.  This is common in spineless, corporate, political environments.  In other words, the lower-level weasel that you’re talking to is refusing to do the best for his company.  Instead, he is doing whatever he can to maintain his meager, political presence. 

BEST ANSWER: (And my recommendation) Get to a higher-level person by using higher-level information.  You can’t get to a higher-level person with the same information you presented to the lower-level person.  You have to go in with lots of ideas that positively impact your prospect’s productivity and profitability. You have to go in with an article that you just wrote for their industry-related publication.  You have to go in with critical information. Critical information that doesn’t interest the lower-level person, but that is crucial to the higher-level person.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Don’t throw the lower-level person under the bus (even though it’s tempting as hell).  Just say that you have information that you consider crucial to the higher-level person, and that you wanted to deliver it personally.  When you meet with the higher-level person, close the sale as fast as you can because I guarantee you that the lower-level sniveler will do everything he or she can to sabotage your deal!