Thursday, August 20, 2009

5 Things That Will Keep Me On the Phone

As CEO, I get pitched frequently. Executive travel, communication, office space, exclusive hotels, office equipment, professional services, art…you name it. Sometimes I’ll take a call or a meeting because the pitch coincides with something I’m currently seeking, and sometimes the outcome has been truly worthwhile.

One of the initiatives I responded to was from Eric Beckman, EVP of Marketing and Strategy at Executive Conversation, a sales training consultancy. I’m fundamentally obsessed with sales because without it you simply don’t have a business. In the first Lovemarks book, I wrote about my experience of selling P&G products and Pepsi-Cola across the Middle East.

I’ve hired salespeople throughout my career, and even though the business I’m in now has a different sales dynamic than the beer or laundry industry, I still look for people who have a sales personality (and let’s face it, most people don’t). So I asked Eric what his top five techniques were for persuading executives to make a chunk of time available to a salesperson.

1. Remember, why I’m buying is more important than what you’re selling. Without an understanding of how whatever you’re selling fits into, and improves, my operations, don’t bother calling.

2. Show me how you’ll change my business! Provoke my business curiosity by painting a before and after picture of the results I should expect after investing.

3. Prove you’re not exaggerating. Show some evidence your assumptions are reasonable. How else can I make a preliminary judgment about potential impact?

4. Demonstrate reasonable ROI in our first conversation. We evaluate project ROIs internally, our way, but before asking me to commit resources, provide me with credible evidence that it makes financial sense.

5. Prepare beforehand. This one stands on its own. Arrive ready to guide the discussion in an intelligent direction – or we have nothing to discuss.

Show me, right away, how you can help me. 'Help' doesn’t mean “provide best-of-breed solutions”. It means “reduce costs” or “increase profits”. Keep that in mind and you’ve got my attention.