Finding prospects: how to handle it if you find you need to raise your level of contact within the prospect organization.

Situation: you’re making a call on a prospect, and you initially think  you are making your sales call to the right person at the right level, but then you get the sense you have come in at too low a level (of budget or authority).

Indicators: Suppose you make your presentation and feel interest on the supposed decision maker’s part. But then you encounter a string of weak objections, one after another.

Remedy: Look through the objections to what is being said underneath. Perhaps the person is ultimately saying, “I can’t really make that decision,” or “I can’t make it alone,” “That’s beyond my spending authority.”

 

Sometimes decision makers suddenly find that they don’t have as much authority as they assumed they had. They start to make the call, then get signals or orders from above, saying in effect, “Better check with upstairs!”  Or perhaps your proposal surprised them by coming in above their purchasing limit.

Or perhaps they picked up on changing political undercurrents in the organization, and realize that it’s prudent to get higher-level sign-offs to cover themselves.

Remedy: If you find out fairly late in the sales cycle that your contact really does not have full Authority, Need, or Dollars, you need to make your contact at a higher level within that organization.

In raising your level of contact, you have two main choices:

First choice: You can withdraw from the call at this point, and attempt to re-establish your contact with the organization at a higher level.  In simple terms, fold your briefcase now, leave this person’s office, and go out and call their boss, or boss’ boss.

But if you leapfrog over your present contact, you may lose a business friend whose feelings are hurt that you went over his head.  It may turn out that although she’s not the Decision Maker, she may be a significant influencer of the final decision.

Or you may come back a few months from now, to find that the person you cut around is now sitting in the decision maker’s chair.

Second choice: It usually works out better to try to move upward to the appropriate level, while taking this person with you. That gives you the chance to make your case directly to the person with real decision-making authority here.  At the same time, that will give your present contact an opportunity to gain favorable exposure to a senior manager in a way that he might not otherwise have been able to arrange on his own.

To accomplish this shift, you might say,

“I agree with you, and I’d be very pleased to meet with Mr. Jackson. I’d like you to come with me when I make that call. Shall I set up an appointment with Mr. Jackson, or would you prefer to do it for us?”

If the present contact agrees to set up the appointment with the senior manager, set a time to check back with him to confirm the date. The knowledge that you will be checking back reduces the likelihood of procrastination.

However, if you do try back a couple of times with this contact, and each time find that he has still not made the call, step in and offer to make the call yourself.

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Sidebar:

Caution! Warning! Never Delegate the Sale!

When the sale moves up to a higher level within the organization, make sure that you move up with it.

You can count on your message being garbled if you let someone else try to do your selling for you. No matter how enthusiastic this other person is, the reality is that he does not know your product and its capabilities the way you do. He simply won’t be able to handle the senior manager’s questions and objections.

Besides, a lower-level manager will tend not to be very aggressive in following through, or in pushing for a Yes decision. After all, naturally enough, his main objective is to keep his job, not to make a sale for you.

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