Want to land and expand? Stop trying to get around the gatekeeper.
If account based sales reps want to reach C-suite prospects, the secret is calling at night or on weekends, when their gatekeepers are off duty. Seriously?!
This is just the latest stupid advice I’ve read about how to bypass the gatekeeper and get decision-makers on the phone. “Expert” tips like this send me out the door screaming.
High-performing account based sales professionals don’t waste time cold calling, especially not at night or on weekends. When they do work during off hours, it’s for a strategic reason—preparing a proposal, making connections on social media, coordinating with their global teams, or actually investing time to boost their learning. Learning makes us strong, confident, and even wise. If we’re not learning, we’re dead. And I prefer the former.
Besides, account based sales teams don’t need to rely on duplicitous tactics to bypass gatekeepers and reach their decision-makers. All they need are referral introductions from people those executives know well.
Sales is not a game, and executives aren’t playing hide and seek with your team. They are, however, unreachable to cold callers—thanks, in large part, to the assistants whose job is to protect their time. These so-called gatekeepers are not only used to salespeople trying to get past them; they know every trick in the book. Sales reps can try to make friends, discuss a compelling business reason, or even lie and say the executive asked them to call. No dice.
Trying to get past the gatekeeper is a waste of time. The secret is to be an expected and welcome call.
How a Referral Introduction Opens the Door to the C-Suite
When I called Peter, the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, I had no trouble getting past his gatekeeper—his executive assistant, Jeanne. It’s her job to protect Peter’s time, to screen calls, and to keep his calendar. But she was happy to take my call because I had been referred by Peter’s biggest client, George. Peter was expecting my call, and so was Jeanne. She knew exactly who I was and set an appointment for three weeks out.
I went back to George and asked him what’s important to Peter, what he’s like, and which of my messages would resonate best. That’s the best part of getting referrals—leveraging the inside knowledge of your referral source. In the end, my conversation with Peter was both insightful and productive, and he introduced me to VPs across his organization.
On another occasion, I was referred to Sally, the head of worldwide sales for a Silicon Valley tech firm. I was introduced by a high school friend of my husband, who had become a friend of mine. He made the introduction, and I made the call. Sally’s assistant answered the phone and patched me through.
Sally and I met several times subsequently. Each time I called, her assistant answered. By the third time, the assistant and I were like old friends. She told me she’d be retiring soon. We shared stories about hip and knee surgeries, and we laughed a lot.
That’s the thing about account based selling with a referral system: There is no gatekeeper, only a friendly assistant who’s happy to patch you through.
How Referrals Work for Account Based Sales Teams
According to my “feet on the street” research and the polls I’ve conducted for decades, referral selling blows every other prospecting method out of the water. When reps receive introductions to their decision-makers, they:
- Get every meeting with one call because they’ve been referred by people their prospects know and trust
- Shorten the sales process because they bypass the awkward first question: “Who are you, and why do you want to talk to me?”
- Eliminate the competition by getting in early and forging solid relationships
- Convert well more than 50 percent of their prospects to clients (most account based sales pros report a conversion rate of 70 percent and more)
Referral selling is particularly powerful for account based selling teams that want to land and expand into new areas of a client company. They already have the perfect referral sources. After all, their current clients are their prospects’ colleagues.
Seems like a no-brainer, doesn’t it? But here’s the rub: Fewer than 10 percent of companies have a referral system in place.
What’s Missing for Account Based Selling Teams?
The short answer is the lack of commitment from management to do what it takes to ensure their B2B sales reps work exclusively through referrals. Many sales leaders believe it’s as easy as telling their reps to go out and get referrals. But it takes much more than that.
To make referral selling the way a sales team works requires a referral system. That means sales leaders must:
- Commit to referral selling as the company’s #1 outbound prospecting strategy
- Integrate referral selling into their sales process
- Establish metrics for referral activities and results
- Recognize that referral selling is a behavior change and invest in helping their account based sales teams build referral skills
- Require reinforcement and coaching for participation in the program
Referral selling is your biggest competitive differentiation. It’s even more important today, because vendors all look alike to our buyers. When account based sales pros get in early and have conversations that count, they lock out the competition. The deals are theirs to lose.
If you’re ready to stop believing everything you read about how to get past the gatekeeper, call me at +1 415-461-8763 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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