Forty years ago this month I made the decision to launch my own business. As a naïve 20-something there was so much I had to learn. The biggest lesson, and the most life-changing, was that I had to learn how to sell.
When I look back on the very early days of growing that first business, I can say, with much embarrassment, that I thought I only needed to tell people what we were doing. I truly believed that they’d instantly share our interest and excitement. While there’s a tiny bit of truth in this idea, I soon realized that sales involved a heck of a lot more than telling people something.
Fortunately for me, it turned out that I loved learning about sales; figuring out how it worked. And one of the most important lessons I learned is … the process of selling is constantly changing. To consistently grow revenue, you must always be testing your assumptions and experimenting with new methods.
Take, for example, the fact that, 40 years ago, when I wanted to reach a senior decision maker, even a CEO, I simply phoned them. They answered. I wish now I’d kept a record of how many CEOs I easily reached in the 80s and early 90s. With no voicemail and no cellphones, with business travel a minimized luxury, great conversations were a regular thing.
Not so today. If reaching someone in the “C-suite” is a must for your sales process, you need to consider the answer to this question: “Who’s in charge of the calendar?”
Why does the calendar matter? Who else would be in charge of it?
Super-busy people running successful companies don’t manage their own calendars.
This was highlighted for me late last year when one of my coaching clients, who has 10x her revenue in less than 12 months, no longer booked our sessions herself.
“I don’t touch my calendar anymore,” she told me. “I end up double-booking and making a mess of it.” With that, she put me in contact with her executive assistant (EA).
Here’s how to get through…
If you really want to speak with a CEO or other senior executive, connect with their EA first. There are lots of reasons why this works including:
- EAs are often very easy to reach.
- They often take calls from shareholders, partners, etc. so tend to be very approachable and lovely.
- They have a lot of knowledge about the company and how decisions are made.
- They are in charge of the calendar and can book time for your conversation.
When you call an EA, begin your conversation by introducing yourself and then say, “I’m wondering if you can help me. I’m looking to discover such-and-such. I’m assuming I should speak directly to (the CEO). What do you suggest?”
Follow their advice. I’ve used this path many times over the years and it always works. There’s an added bonus, as well. When you call or email the person the EA has indicated, you can say something like, “I’ve been directed to you by the CEO’s office.” You’ll definitely hear back!
What’s your reaction to this sales process? Are you using it already? What’s your experience? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.