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First contact: How to effectively reach decision-makers

When targeting large corporations, you may run into the person (or people) responsible for deflecting salespeople. They are there for a reason: to screen and restrict all suitors from reaching the key decision makers — an off-limits area known as the C-suite.

December 9, 2014  By David J. Atkins

This is where the true decision makers hang their hats. The CEO, COO and CFO have the authority to drive and approve a project if it appeals to their mandate. The trick is however, getting face time with them to begin building your case.

Google will become your best friend. Discover the organizational chart, hierarchy, top bosses. Despite what you think, it’s much easier drilling down than up. Start with basic contact information via their website such as the address, phone number and most importantly, someone’s e-mail address.

Now craft an introductory e-mail that speaks the contact’s language. Everyone at the top of the food chain has shareholders to answer to. The CEO on down has immense pressure to maintain and grow the organization in the most efficient way. If you can appeal to their needs by mitigating risk and a fair ROI, you will get that meeting.

Less is more here. Your sole purpose is to sell the meeting. Be prepared to send a follow-up e-mail requesting the appropriate contact to help their company meet objectives. If required, call and speak with the contact regarding the previous emails (not with voice mail).


They may refer you above or below to someone like the chief operating officer or director of operations. Either way, you now have the authority to venture further. The next contact’s perception may be that their boss or colleague asked them to look into your offerings — especially when an email is shared to both of you from the guy upstairs. The difference here is this person will pay attention, knowing their cohorts are involved versus wasting company time and money just doing their job and not really listening.

That’s the sticky part. Many people that we need to actually do the discovery work see this as potential work for themselves and do not have the authority to issue approval. Sometimes it’s perceived as a threat — exposing deficiencies in their area of responsibility. But you have an opportunity to work with them and ask for help — for which they can take credit.

Relate to this person’s position and experience by asking for required information while explaining why it’s important you have their input. You may find they become your change agent that drives the project. These people know the facility and can endorse the need for your products and services.

You now have an accurate assessment to create and deliver a compelling business case, driven by numbers that the upper management understand and aspects that excite the operations people. Remember, everyone has their objectives and area of expertise. Work with all parties to implement the solution as a trusted partner. 

David J. Atkins is the principal of David J. Atkins Consulting (www.davidjatkins.com).

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