How to Get Your Foot in the Door: The First Step to a Sale

People buy from people. When you can forge a human-to-human connection and bring something of value to the table, you can create an opportunity.

But how do you get that initial meeting? Of course, if you can leverage a referral to get your prospect’s attention, do so – but, in the absence of a personal introduction, here‘s how executive guests on our podcast tell us they prefer to be approached by sales professionals.


Do your Research

One essential key to gain executive access is to do your homework. Research who your prospect is, what they do, and the industry they are operating in, so that you can tailor your communication to that specific person.

Start with LinkedIn, Twitter, and other social media sites – research both your prospect and their company. Check out the company website, read financial statements, and search for business and trade articles. Look at your company’s CRM system – have you done business with this organization before? Has this person interacted with your company in the past? All of this info gives you a foundation for your messaging and outreach.

When you understand your prospect’s business, their industry, and their role, you can focus on how you can add value and engage with your prospect, rather than pitch to them. Your goal is to develop deeper relationships and be viewed as a partner or a “go to” resource, rather than just another vendor. Nothing is more annoying than a sales rep sending an email that is all about the sales rep and clearly is not personalized to the prospect.

Critical information that you can research:

  • What is the company?
  • What is the industry?
  • What is the role?
  • Who are their customers?

Demonstrate that You can Add Value

When you engage with executives, your messaging should demonstrate added value based on the research you’ve done. Tailor your message to demonstrate relevance and your research. Perhaps you see a trend with other clients in this industry and can offer some insight. Connect your added value to your prospect’s financial metrics whenever possible. Busy execs may only skim the first line of an email from you. If you can grab their attention by showing them that you understand them and can offer something mutually beneficial, you have a much greater opportunity.

Continue to increase your credibility by sharing current information and expertise on topics that interest the decision maker, especially as it relates to their pressing business issues. You might be able to send them a relevant thought leadership piece, such as an interesting article that relates to their business, or an analyst report or white paper. The Demand Gen Report 2019 Content Preferences Survey found 95% of respondents seek credible content from industry thought leaders — up from 62% in 2018. This content will help reinforce your ability to deliver value.

Here’s a few examples of how to add value to your prospects:

  • “I recently read this article and I thought you might be interested in it …”
  • “This reminded me of a point you made in your webinar last week …”
  • “Congratulations on your new job, can we share a virtual cup of coffee? I’d be interested in hearing all about it …”

Get the Timing Right

Timing can be a real challenge for salespeople. We can never predict exactly when a prospect may be ready to engage. As a sales rep, you can’t necessarily control when your buyer may have a need or when they are looking for information. However, you can control the relevancy of your messaging.

Over time, when you do your research and determine how you can add value, your timing gets better because you’re seen as relevant. A prospect might notice that your email came in and it happened to be on a topic or an issue that they are starting to think about. You may even want to mix things up by snail-mailing a handwritten note. If you’re sharing content to establish your point of view or your perspective, this content will increase your credibility in the eyes of that executive.

Typically, a person has to receive a message 10 to 12 times before it sinks in. Think about respectful persistence. Executives are barraged with messages – the ones that standout focus on: “What’s in it for them?” Be critical of what you send. Are you memorable…in a good way? If you properly identify, access, validate, and maintain your connection with power, you will earn a continuing dialogue and ongoing relationship with the decision maker.

In summary, by combining research on your prospect, a value-added approach to outreach, and the right timing, you’re on the right track to gain access to important decision makers.

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