You Don’t Need to Speak to the CEO

For a long time, salespeople were taught to start their pursuit of their dream client as high up in the organization as possible. The idea was that by starting high in the organization, you could gain the support of “the authority,” and their support would allow you to create an opportunity with the people who work for that person. Somehow that advice turned into calling a C-level executive, particularly the CEO, the ultimate authority and one who can bind the organization to a deal.

One of the common criticisms of cold outreach is that CEOs aren’t going to take your call or read your email. This is a very poor argument against proactively opening a relationship with your dream clients because it isn’t likely that you need to speak to the CEO to create or win a deal. The Chief Executive Officer of a company generally has people on their team they count on to make decisions in their areas of responsibility. If the CEO is running a small business, they aren’t going to be as difficult to reach or as well staffed as, say, Jamie Dimon, the CEO of JP Morgan Chase.

The truth of the matter is, as I have written here before, a good starting point for developing a new relationship within your dream client’s company is what I call the CEO of the Problem, that person who is responsible for producing the outcomes with which you can help. That person may be the CEO in a small company, but as the size of your targets grow, that becomes less and less likely.

The title for the person you need to speak with might be the Director of Operations of the Omaha facility. The best person for you to reach might be the Vice President of Human Resources or Marketing Operations or the IT Director or The Head of Sanitation in the Albuquerque plant. Even though you may not be thrilled about it, your best contact might be the Purchasing Officer over  in the Office Supplies category who is located in Duluth, Georgia.

If you want to create an opportunity, your cold outreach needs to begin with the person who is deeply concerned with what you sell and may perceive you as a strategic partner and a source of competitive advantage. There are a few things that make cold outreach difficult, the first of which is the idea that you need to call on people with titles that indicate they would have very little to do with a decision to buy what you sell. The second challenge is having nothing of value to trade for the time you are asking the CEO of the Problem to give you.

You make cold outreach easier and more powerful when you target the right contacts and when you have a professional pursuit plan that speaks to their challenges.

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