1) START AT THE TOP: Top achievers want to know who the decision maker is and start from there. Far too many reps have a comfort zone on hanging out with admin or middle managers – the folks that ask so many questions, stray reps think they are getting somewhere, when all they are doing is answering questions, researching to answer those questions, asking their boss how to find the answer. In other words, wasting everyone's time. Speaking of wasting time, those that venture to the top typically have a compelling business issue they see that needs solving or a trend that would impact that prospect’s bottom line, attract investors, create matters outside their control. One of the best question tip I was given was to ask “what keeps you awake at night?” to this VIP (very important person). You should have lots of credible testimonials and examples of how you have solved similar problems with other clients (without divulging who or confidential specifics) by percentages or dollars on how it helped them that will trigger attention by the top decision maker. After all, he or she is too busy to give you the time of day because they are swamped with these matters … alas, comes along someone who has ideas that may work to solve it!
2) ASK GREAT QUESTIONS: Easier said than done. The most competent sales professionals have developed the skill to ask great questions. Guidance from responses from business issues surfacing uncovers real needs or opportunities. Great questions even helps those stuck in the middle to have themselves elevated to a higher decision maker if crafted artfully. You may just want to know when a decision is being made, how it is being made, and by whom. At the very least, good questioning skills allows the rep permission to accept the fact that they may be spinning wheels and move on to greener pastures (more opportunities). They can help create red flags that point to avoiding this prospect for now or forever. They also notify when the occasion may be better in the future and provide a roadmap on how best to keep in touch for when that happens (articles, etc.)
3) FINISH HOMEWORK: Research, research, research. These savvy pros know how to uncover information from Press Releases, Annual Reports, Business Periodicals and newspapers that allows them to have “business to business” discussions. If you want to look, think and act like you are more about solving needs or problems based on expertise, there are no short cuts. Here are some areas you can look at that should help understand a prospect betther:
i. Industry trends
ii. Governing regulations
iii. Who their customers are
iv. What the media is saying
v. Financial picture
Bare minimum, before a rep approaches a prospect, whether it be the decision maker or administrator (by phone, scheduled meeting), they should have a strong understanding of the company, its competitors, customers, industry, governing regulations before taking that first step.