There are two primary strategies for successfully pursuing different contacts within your dream client’s company. One approach is to pursue them one at a time, and another is to pursue multiple stakeholders simultaneously. Both strategies work, and both come with potential challenges.
Multiple Stakeholders Simultaneously
One strategy for finding a way into your dream client’s company is to pursue multiple stakeholders at the same time. You choose titles that generally show up in your deals, you acquire their contact information, and you start running a prospecting campaign against all of them at the same time.
The advantage of this approach is that if one person doesn’t respond, you immediately call the next. If a contact ignores your follow up email, you might get a better result from a different contact. You increase your odds of finding a way into the building, knowing you are going to have to build consensus among some group of people later. You can also learn a lot about what your dream client is presently doing and strengthen your theory as to why they should do something different in the future.
You also gain the benefit of approaching the problem of creating an opportunity by going vertical, from the top of one function to the bottom, and horizontal, finding people in different functions who might benefit from what you do or point you in the right direction. In larger, more complex sales, you are likely to run into stakeholders in different parts of the business, and it is sometimes helpful to have met or spoken with people as you try to build an opportunity.
There is, however, no approach without its downside. By approaching multiple stakeholders, you can draw unwanted attention to yourself. In every company, some people are happy with they are doing now, and some will defend the status quo. You can come to the attention of someone willing and able to tell you to stand down—a person you might have avoided had you known they were going to block your efforts.
It’s also possible that your broad effort put people on notice, allowing them to share what you tell them with your competitor. You might have a client that helps position your competitor to retain their client by giving them your ideas and your pitch.
None of the downside risks means you should not pursue this strategy. Every strategy and every course of action comes with risks.
Pursuing a Single Stakeholder
One of the best reasons to pursue a single stakeholder is you exert all of your effort against a single target. When you apply enough time and energy to any obstacle, the obstacle yields. Four calls to the same stakeholder is different from four calls to four separate stakeholders. In the first case, the person you call knows you are pursuing them. In the second case, you called only once, and the stakeholder does not believe you are anything but another rep who called once and went away.
Calling the person you believe cares deeply about what you do, especially with a theory about what they need to do and why is often a direct and practical approach. This approach has long produced excellent results, and it is likely to do so deep into the future. You also have less of a chance of being discovered by people who would prefer you not speak to anyone in your dream client’s company.
When you pursue contacts one at a time, you can move on to another one after, say, a whole quarter of professionally, persistently, pursuing the first contact. When one isn’t interested, you may find another who is compelled to change. You can still move vertically and horizontally, but it might take more time.
This strategy sounds good, but it is not without its downside, too. If the one contact is difficult to reach, you may spend much time without any return on your effort. While you have limited yourself to one person, you are ignoring all the other stakeholders who might be interested in exploring change. You are cutting yourself from other possibilities.
If you believe that you should start high and get pushed down into the organization, you sometimes end up with a leader who doesn’t have the same interest or isn’t compelled to do anything different. In many cases, you will find the person you need lower in the organization. I call the person who owns the outcome you can help with the “CEO of the Problem,” the person who cares the most about what you do. When a stakeholder with authority says no to the opportunity you are trying to create, it can be a substantial enough no that you will have prevented yourself from working another stakeholder for some time.
Right. Wrong. Choices.
There is no right or wrong answer to the question of how many stakeholders you contact at the same time. There can’t be, as both work sometimes. Most everything in sales works sometimes and lacks efficacy in other times, the context being different from one to the next, which leaves you with choices.
In sales, you are required to make effective choices. You can choose to try to gain a meeting with one stakeholder and put all your effort into gaining that commitment. You can also choose to call on different stakeholders throughout your dream client’s company and find success. You can also try each of these approaches with different sets of dream clients based on what you know, your theory as to why they should change, and your experience in what works best for you when it comes to getting a meeting.
Whatever you decide to do, if something isn’t working for you, explore your choices and try something else.
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