Calling at the Top

By Greta Schulz

I’d like to share a story with you about Lisa, an account representative for a professional staffing company who just wasn’t hitting her numbers. Her industry was growing rapidly, demand for her services was clearly there, and the company was a leader in their market. She made lots of calls, and for the most part, her prospects welcomed her visits. She even brought small gifts on her visits to set herself apart from her competitors. But still the business failed to materialize. Lisa was frustrated, “what am I doing wrong?”  

Lisa, upon examination, had fallen into a pattern that eventually causes many salespeople to fail. She was not getting to the real decision maker (VITO, the Very Important Top Official*). Sales 101says that you must be in front of the decision maker.

As it turns out, Lisa had several classic problems. When she started selling in her territory, she knew the importance of being in front of VITO. But getting an appointment with VITO wasn't so easy. Frequently, VITO asked her to see his assistant, Seymour (aptly named since he's the data gatherer, who just wants to "see more" information). Often, Seymour even says he is the decision maker. After this had happened a few times, Lisa saw a pattern, believed it was the norm and decided to simply skip a step and go straight to Seymour. "I mean, why should I see VITO when Seymour will see me, listen to me and he says he recommends to the president anyway."

Since Seymours are easier to get appointments with, Lisa got more appointments. This was starting to make sense after all. Take the easy road and if you see enough Seymours, you'll be on the road to success. To top it off, Lisa's company, like so many others, rated her on the number of proposals she made, thinking this was the key indicator of sales effectiveness. So Lisa got lots of appointments, kept very busy doing proposals, but her sales didn't improve.

The Solution: "Lisa, Lisa, Lisa, Nobody said selling was easy. If it was, everyone would be successful, but they're not. Seymour will only pump you for information, turn you into an "unpaid consultant" and lead you down the road to failure.

 Half the problems that salespeople bring to us are caused by their failure to get in front of VITO. I hear stuff like, “He won’t see salespeople”, “it’s hard to get to him”, (and my favorite) “I don’t want to upset Seymour”! WHAT!! Don’t accept mediocrity and let your prospects be in charge of your process. If you decide that Daniel Jones from ABC Mega Company is the VITO you would like to get in front of, then figure out a way to get it done! Just go do it! Sales is a no whining activity!

 *Thanks to Tony Parinello for the Vito/Seymour concept. His book, Selling To Vito, is a good reference for anyone who sells.