It is obvious that more sales will happen if your team starts the conversation with people who have the ability to say yes and write a check. Reaching decision-makers is key to more effective conversations and results in shorter sales cycles. In spite of this being commonly known, many salespeople start the conversation not with the decision-maker, but with where they're comfortable calling. There are two aspects to coaching your team into consistently reaching decision-makers:
1.) Coaching salespeople into the right mindset Do your salespeople have the right frame of mind to go call on the ultimate decision-maker, the person who controls the financial strings, the person who can sign it and say yes? Part of that is never accepting a no from somebody who doesn't have the authority to say yes. Salespeople often say, "Oh, I called that company. They're not buying right now" even though they're not calling on the decision-maker. They're calling somebody lower down on the food chain or somebody who doesn't have that authority and just says, "No, no, we're happy with what we have." And that person in the company may not even know that their boss or their boss's boss is actually actively looking for a solution similar to yours.
2.) Having coaching conversations about who is being contacted Your sales managers in their regular, consistent coaching meetings with everyone on their team need to have conversations around WHO they are actually calling. Who else cares about this problem in that company? Make sure that your sales managers aren’t just going through the motions and saying, "Tell me about your calls. Okay, great. Keep it up." Make sure you dig into certain calls. Not every single call, but a couple calls each coaching session. Find out who did they call on, how did they get into that conversation, if there somebody higher up or somebody different that they should be talking to, why they started there, etc.
What we find is a lot of salespeople call at their comfort level. Sometimes they're very technical and they only want to talk to other technical people, so they're not comfortable having business conversations. Sometimes they're very comfortable having high-level business conversations, but they avoid calling the technical buyer because they don't feel like they have enough technical knowledge about your product or service.
Look at your salesperson's blind spots or weak points and ask, "Are you avoiding a call because you're anxious? How do we equip you to be more comfortable calling that person? Let's role play that." The sales manager's job is to really coach your people out of their discomfort, calling higher, more technical, or at a different level.
The other aspect to this is more of a tactical detail. One of the reasons that salespeople don't reach decision makers is because they may have a lousy list to work from. They don't know who the decision makers are in the first place. That can be a marketing challenge or just the salesperson not really doing their due diligence. Make sure that you’re doing everything you can to equip your sales leaders and their teams with a solid list of people who are likely to buy. Make sure that they're able to navigate through their call and find out who makes the decisions regarding your product. That list of people likely to buy doesn't always exist. Sometimes they have to start somewhere and ask questions to find out who's really responsible for this? Who really cares about this? Who's threatened by this potential risk that we can help solve?
Sometimes they can't get to decision makers because they get stuck at the gatekeeper. They don't know how to engage and enlist the gatekeeper's support. They may not be very effective at calling, their calling technique or tonality may be lousy, they may not have good pattern interruption questions that makes somebody stop and think and say, "Wait, I want to learn more." The single biggest cure to navigating through gatekeepers or reaching decision makers is to call off hours. I like to have salespeople calling early in the morning before everyone else is there. The higher level decision makers are often at their desk working through things, preparing for the day before their onslaught of meetings begins. Calling after 5:00 or after 4:30 works just as well. Sometimes the best sales conversations I've had happened at 5:30 or 6:00 on a Friday night. The CEO is still at their desk, just like me, and we can have a good conversion.
Call in a way that interrupts the pattern. Sometimes calling somebody who may not be directly involved in the product or service you're selling, but starting with, say, the CFO and asking, "Hey, I know you're not the right person, but I'm wondering if you could help me out. Who cares about fill in the blank?" And then when you call that next person you say, "Hey, I talked to Joe, your CFO. He gave me your name and number." Now you've got their attention. You call high to then get into the right level.
When it comes to reaching decision makers, you have to make sure that your sales managers are equipping everyone on your sales team to have the right mindset, work on improving their comfort level, and calling higher or calling to different walls, rather than staying in their comfort zone. Make sure you're helping them with techniques and tactics. Make sure you're giving them quality lists or they're able to navigate through calls to find out who those decision makers are. Make sure that they're calling at different times of day. Make sure that they're not just logging in a phone call and that's it. Make sure they're sticking with it and being persistent. It takes time to get those decision makers, but it's well worth it.