Kyle Van Pelt is an Account Executive at Voxa, a workflow automation tool for Salesforce.com. From Beanie Babies to basketball tickets, Kyle has been selling his entire life. He is still hunting for his first million dollar deal to this very day.
When I started my career, it was my job to reach out to executives at oil and gas companies, hospitals and big law firms. I did what every new salesman does, I cold called. Unfortunately, all of these executives have the best gatekeepers in the world, and I found out that it was almost impossible to get their attention. So, instead of trying to do the same thing over and over again, I set out to find a new way.
I sat down with the guys who were selling the million dollar sponsorship deals to find out what they did to get the attention of whales. That was when I learned all about real prospecting. I also learned that those guys never made a cold call. Now, I’m going to share their secrets with you.
What I’m about to show you has helped me land meetings with C-level executives at Starbucks, Sterling Jewelers, Target, Dell, Kayak, and many others. Disclaimer: If you’re expecting a silver bullet email template or phone script that will guarantee you a meeting, keep looking because it doesn’t exist. I will, however, share with you a formula that I’ve used to get a meeting with anyone.
Before we get into the formula, let me set the stage. There is a proverbial battle of control that rages between you, the seller and your buyer. Sellers have always been taught to control a deal, drive urgency, and close revenue, while buyers have always wanted to do things on their own terms. Of late, that battle has only become more fierce.
Put yourself in your buyer’s shoes
How many times have you clicked “skip this ad” while a YouTube video loads or before you read an article on Forbes? If you’re like me, you do this every time. In fact, according to the founder of TubeMogul, up to 85% of skippable ads on YouTube are skipped.
We have finally learned that our most valuable asset is our time. We can always make more money, but we can’t get our time back, and the products that we consume reflect that. Think about your world and the tools you use every single day: DVR, Twitter, email, messaging apps. When is the last time you answered a phone call from a number you didn’t recognize?
We want to do everything on our own terms and respond when we want to — when it’s convenient for us. This realization directly correlates to the widely shared statistic that buyers are 57% of the way through the buying process before they ever speak with a salesperson. However, things are still getting sold faster than ever before and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) companies are growing at a ridiculous rate. Something doesn’t add up and I’m here to tell you that the game has changed.
Learn to play the new game
In order to get a meeting with anyone, you have to be persistent and creative. You’re never going to get the meetings you want if you only make cold calls and send cold emails.
Today, the only people who still genuinely believe in cold calling are the ones that make their living teaching people how to do it. At this point, some of you may be scowling and saying, “But wait, I look on LinkedIn before I make my call! That’s not a cold call!”.
Yes it is.
You’re still interrupting them, they don’t know who you are, and, while mentioning something from their profile can be flattering, it doesn’t make the call any less cold. Anyways, it doesn’t matter, because they aren’t going to pick up. The bottom line is this — leaving better voicemails doesn’t help you hit quota, plain and simple. Instead, you need to connect with your buyer, and it needs to be on neutral ground.
How to get a meeting with anyone in 3 steps
Step 1: Find out what matters to them
You will never get your dream prospect’s attention without understanding what matters to them. There are no silver bullets; you simply have to do your research.
My favorite show on TV is Suits, strictly because of Harvey Specter. Here’s a classic Harvey moment:
Harvey’s in a tough spot, because he is trying to win the vote of a very abrasive partner. As if this weren’t difficult enough, Harvey has never so much as talked with this partner, who already feels slighted and ignored. So what does Harvey do? He closes the deal and wins the partner’s vote by setting up a tee time for him with professional golf legend Fred Couples. Harvey would never have closed that deal if he didn’t know how much the partner loved Freddy Couples.
Here’s the point: Connecting on LinkedIn is a good place to start looking for things that matter to your prospect, but you’re going to have to dig deeper for the bigger fish. It’s simple — important people have a thousand things distracting them. It’s relatively easy to make a connection, but if you want to make the sale, you have to stand out.
Step 2: Find a different medium
According to The Radicati Group’s Email Statistics Report, the average person receives 81 emails per day. How many do you think Elon Musk gets? You can try to cold call Mr. Musk if you want… I’ll be here waiting for the results.
If you want your message to cut through the noise, change the channel. If emails don’t work and cold calling doesn’t work, what should you do? One of the most effective ways to secure meetings is to realize that buyers are on social and engaging on their own terms without gatekeepers. Meet them there and strike up a conversation.
If you try to sell on Twitter or LinkedIn, you should be fired. You can’t sell your product in 140 characters, that’s not the point. All you want to do is make them aware of you and start building a relationship. You may not get a meeting with Elon Musk on your first tweet, but if you put in the effort, he may notice you eventually and engage. The guy may be trying to land on Mars, but he still has some time for friends.
Step 3: Be persistent
Shocker, but true. If you keep trying to engage with prospects on their own terms by mentioning things that they value, eventually you will get noticed. Keep providing value and don’t ask for time until you’ve earned it. Use Gary Vaynerchuk’s approach in his new book, Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook!
Bonus tip: Bring out the big guns. Sometimes even social doesn’t work, so here is an almost sure fire way to get your prospect’s attention. After re-reading step one, buy your prospect a gift that matters to him and send it with a physical, hand-written letter. In the past when I worked in the NBA, I used to send a size 16 sneaker to my prospect with a gift to “get my foot in the door”. Prospects loved receiving a real NBA player’s shoe and I loved receiving the meeting.
You may be thinking that it’s expensive to do that — two thoughts here: First, if we ran the numbers, I would wager that cold calling is much more expensive. Second, Jack Daly, the legendary sales trainer, says there is no such thing as expenses in business, only investments. Back your way into a result.
Let’s use an example of a SaaS product that sells for $12k a year or $1k a month. Maybe you spend $10k on gifts to send to prospects in a year and only close one deal. If you close one new deal as a result of this tactic, you are already ahead on year one! A typical SaaS customer will use your product for 36 months, so a $12k customer is actually worth $36k. The investment doesn’t look so expensive anymore, does it?
The best sales people I know are the most sincere and selfless. My bonus tip is natural to them. Here is my call to action: If you like what I’ve shared today and want to go even deeper, I have developed a pretty nifty formula on how to get a meeting with anyone, and this blog post, while valuable, only scrapes the surface.
If you liked this content, click here to sign up for an exclusive email list where Kyle shares all of his best practices and introductions to his network.
About the Author
Jon Hearty is the VP of Strategic Accounts at Datanyze. When he's not whistling while he works, he's likely looking to go low on the links.Follow on Twitter More Content by Jon Hearty