Cold calling: Getting Through to the Decision Maker

From a sales point of view, decision makers are the people who can authorize a purchase. While cold calling you will notice they are guarded by screens and gatekeepers, so getting through to them is an art worth pursuing.

From a sales point of view, decision makers are the people authorized to decide to on / sign off on a purchase. As a result, many sales professionals like yourself reach out to them to present their products or services. As a natural reaction to the flood of incoming calls, decision makers will try to isolate themselves with technology (caller ID, email filters, etc.) and assistants. How, then, will you be able to get through to them?

Let’s look at the intricacies within an organization to uncover ways to reach the decision makers.

Identify the type of screen you’re facing

One of your first tasks when preparing for a B2B cold call is to determine how to distinguish between call respondents: is this an influencer or a stopgap, a champion for your product or one who will block further communication? Note that while some people are specifically designated to be gatekeepers, others may stop you from talking to the right person unknowingly.

Passing through the gatekeeper when cold calling

Usually executive assistants or associates to the decision maker, the gatekeepers are easy to identify by their title. Since their job is to keep people like you out, some advocate going around the gatekeeper (e.g. calling the decision maker after work hours). Considering how this can backfire, opt instead for working with the gatekeeper. Enlisting them as allies makes a lot of sense, since assistants are aware of their managers’ pain points, and your solution might also benefit them.

Make gatekeepers your friends

The way to make gatekeepers your best friend is to recognize that they have a hard job. Instead of being confrontational with them for blocking the way, show that you understand that they’re safeguarding their manager’s valuable time. In many cases, gatekeepers may be influencers within their company, so it’s not a bad idea to ask their advice on the best way to approach their manager.

Make note of their name and refer to them in the conversation, and always be courteous and positive. Don’t forget that you are not pitching the gatekeeper on the product but on letting your through to the decision maker. If they ask, give a concise value proposition and then let them be helpful. Before you hang up, thank them for their help; and you’ll be that much ahead when you call next time.    

Pre-plan your cold calling approach

Top-down or bottom up

Finding the right person to sell to is key to your success. In a top-down approach, you start at the top of the organization chart and contact the VP or another executive to ask for a referral to the right person. The risk here is that if you go too high, people won’t have time to hear you out. When contacting higher-ups first, instead of pitching them, ask something like, “Who is the right person to talk to about [product category]?”

In a bottom-up approach, you seek buy-in from the lower levels of an organization to reach the people higher up. If you can show the end users how your product makes their lives easier, you’ll have an army of employees on your side going to their boss on your behalf. Also, they can give you the name of the decision maker, so don’t forget to ask.

Look for mutual connections

Calling leads without proper research wastes both their time and yours. Research your leads’ website, LinkedIn pages, and employee profiles; learn about them through industry news. The latest discussions about the company on social media can give useful insights to pitch your solution with the right approach.

While researching your leads, you’ll likely come across mutual connections who can introduce you to key decision makers at the company. 

Use Referrals

Getting referrals from mutual connections or from happy end users can turn your cold call into a warm one, or even into a hot lead.

While cold calling keep the message short and call later in the day

Decision makers have lots of responsibilities and are likely in meetings throughout the day. So, late afternoons may be the best time to reach them.

Focus more on benefits than details

When talking to a decision maker, focus on the benefits that your product can offer. And since the purpose of your call is not to make a sale on the spot but to schedule a meeting, frame your pitch accordingly. For example, “In a 10-20-minute meeting, I can demonstrate how the software will save you time”. 

Whether you’ve made it to the decision maker or still negotiating with the gatekeeper, remember that you are having a human interaction. Be calm and confident, without being pushy. Look at them as people, not a challenge to be faced, and strive to have a conversation with them. Remember that each contact you make can provide you with valuable information. So treat each conversation with the gatekeeper or front desk staff as one more step that advances you to the decision maker.

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