I plead guilty to enjoying a cold beer or two, and I’ve watched with amazement as the decade-long bull market in the craft beer industry shows no signs of abating.
“How can I get in the door?”
The question has to rank among the top five most commonly asked questions from business development professionals. No matter whether I am doing a keynote, workshop or one-on-one coaching, if I am speaking about business development the question of how to “get in the door” always comes up.
There are variations on the same theme: “How do I get past the gatekeeper?” “How do I get to the decision maker” or the classic “How do I get a face-to-face meeting with the right person?” No matter how someone asks the question, the answer is always the same.
If your sales reps want to get in the door, they need to give the prospect a reason to open it. Why? The two most important things a business owner or professional has are time and money. When your reps ask for an appointment they are taking up both of those, so it better be worth it for the prospect to meet.
Either You Get It Or You Don't
Last month, I had a new client call with a request for some one-on-one coaching in the area of business development, specifically challenged with the ability to get appointments with the right people – the decision makers. He was frustrated because he felt like he had tried everything: sales training, networking courses and countless business development webinars. All provided tips and ideas, but unfortunately nothing was getting him in the door, let alone putting him in front of the decision maker.
After spending a couple of hours listening to what he was doing, it was clear that from all of the time he had invested in sales training, webinars and courses, he had yet to learn the must-have strategies to getting in the door.
Salespeople who want to not only get in the door, but also have a successful meeting and leave with a definite next step must know and follow these four strategies:
Step 1: Walk a mile in their shoes– Steven Covey said it best: seek first to understand! If you want to get in the door, you must first understand why that door is closed and what it means to get it open. Time and money are the two most important resources and assets a business owner, professional or CEO has, and when you ask to meet with them you are requesting them to give up a little of both of those. Too often as business development professionals, we are only thinking about the sales calls from our point of view – why we need to get in the door and why we need the meeting? Take the time to walk a mile in your prospects’ shoes, and get clear in your mind why it is worth it for them to give up their time and money to meet with you. Shift your paradigm (and your body language and energy) to ensure they understand you respect what they are giving up to meet with you, and you are clear in your mind their return on investment.
Step 2: Give them a reason– Would you give up your precious time or resources to meet with someone you have never met from a company you know nothing about? I would guess no. You need your reputation to precede itself; if possible, you need to have found a networking event, a connection, some way somewhere to meet and/or connect with your prospect before you ask for a meeting.
Step 3: Make it sexy– If your reps want to not only get in the door, but stay in the door, they need to be value-add business development officers. They must invest in their prospects’ success, before even thinking about investing in their own. They need to be more attractive, more enticing than all the other business development officers out there, and I am not talking about losing 10 pounds or buying a new outfit. The only thing “sexy” to a business owner or CEO is how you can make their business more successful or their life easier.
Step 4: Stay in the game– Sometimes CEOs are busy. They would meet, but the timing is wrong. Crisis happens both in their personal and professional lives, and fitting in one more meeting, no matter how valuable just is not going to happen. If reps want the doors to open and the opportunity to land business, they need to understand that sometimes it takes time. The best salespeople find ways to stay in the game by creating ways to connect and add value. Before you know it, the doors open and the meetings happen.
Meridith Elliott Powell is author of the “Winning in the Trust and Value Economy.” She is an internationally certified coach, speaker and business development expert.