I can’t get to the decision maker.

"I‘ve got a great product but I can’t get to the decision maker."

That’s a problem we smaller business owners face a lot. You might have tried to solve it by:

  • Cold emailing.
  • Cold calling.
  • Inviting people to join your network on LinkedIn.
  • Sending messages via Facebook business pages.

None of which works consistently.

Once we’re in it’s easy. Most of us are good enough that customers keep buying. But it seems almost impossible to get past the gatekeepers to the right person in the first place.

Can I tell you about how a former client of mine got the decision makers to come to her?

A few years ago a firm who sold medical equipment, including high-ticket hardware like electrocardiographs and X-ray systems, approached us.

They faced two key challenges:

  1. Finding all those medical facilities that might need this kind of medical hardware.
  2. Getting a foot in the door. They guard the buyers with live dragons.

The Google AdWords marketing I do works when there are enough people searching for what you sell. That wasn’t the case with this top-end kit.

So we asked them to tell us what else they sold that was low cost, low risk, and used by most medical facilities. It turns out that surgical gloves were such a product.


Image: Drew Hays on Unsplash

We set up an advertising campaign that delivered about five enquiries for surgical gloves each day.

As each enquiry came in, a sales team member would call the prospect to confirm the details.

That’s a great phone call to make. You’re not trying to charm your way past a gatekeeper to arrange a meeting with someone who doesn’t want to talk to you and will cancel at the last minute anyway. Instead, you’re the most helpful person on the internet because you’re the only one who called back.

A salesperson would deliver the gloves personally. That got them face-to-face with the buyer to start building the relationships that would lead to the big sales. Over 12 months, five enquiries each day led to hundreds of new appointments and relationships.

Another client used a similar approach for something completely different. He sold winches and hoists for moving heavy things in factories.

These have to be inspected and certified every year. My client qualified as an inspector. We ran a Google AdWords campaign targeting people searching for these inspections.

He wouldn’t have got past reception if he wandered in off the street and asked to speak to someone about buying a new winch. But when he arrived to do the inspection he was a welcome guest. The maintenance manager would escort him through the factory. He'd show my client the equipment. My client would ask about things like cables, slings and shackles (that get replaced annually).

The next day my client would hand the the inspection certificate and a catalog of the equipment he sold to the maintenance manager personally.

Want to get decision makers to contact you?

You may be able to use the same foot-in-the-door approach to leverage a small first sale into an ongoing relationship. Here’s what you need:

A product or service to advertise. You can develop ideas by making a list of the low-priced, low-risk goods or services you sell. Include accessories, spares, consumables, maintenance, repair, emergency callouts, calibration, inspection and certification.

Time. It is true that you might meet a decision maker at exactly the right moment to be in with a chance for a hefty sale. I've seen it happen more than once, but that's luck. The payoff for this approach will come as you put the work into building those relationships. That makes foot-in-the-door unsuitable if you need a quick-fix for making sales today.

A process for developing relationships. You don’t want to be paying to add new people to your database if they get never get contacted again.

You need enough budget to cover:

  • Building the foot-in-the-door AdWords campaign.
  • Managing the campaign.
  • Google’s charges for each person who clicks on one of your ads.
  • The time and systems needed to make first contact and develop the relationship.

The budget should be considered against the lifetime value of a new client. Don’t expect to break even on the first sale. The profit from a box of gloves is never going to cover the cost of an AdWords campaign.

In most cases running a campaign like this will cost only a fraction of what one good client is worth over the lifetime of that relationship.

Yell if you'd like to talk about doing this in your business.

© Peter Bowen 2017 | Isle of Wight

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