This post is going to discuss why you should prospect up in organizations. This sales success story goes back many years but the lessons are timeless. My father and I were partners in a small business representing a Houston based software company in Canada. We offered very sophisticated software to mange intelligent oil and gas well controllers that were located at each well. The software had to be very versatile and had to speak to many different manufacturers controllers. Our real differentiation in the market was our ability to communicate with just about every well controller device out there and effectively replace any existing system in place.
Up until around the year 2000 Amoco Oil had a major presence in the Alberta oil and gas sector. They had developed and implemented their own automation software, which at the time was cutting edge. My father had worked for Amoco and was highly trained on the automation software to the point where he had system administrator privileges.
One morning on the business news I heard that Amoco was selling their remaining fields to a couple of other production companies. When they sold a field they included the automation control software but would only support it for a limited time. This meant companies acquiring an Amoco field really only had a few months to figure out what to do next.
I literally went online (and the internet was pretty basic back then) and found the main phone number for both the companies who had bought the Amoco fields. Knowing the industry quite well I figured the best person to reach out to would be the VP Production. I tried both but was only ever able to talk to one of them; the other never took or returned my calls. Watch the short video to see what happened with the other one!
- What is your goal when you Prospect? Most sales people will tell you the goal is to make a sale but I would like you to re-think that. I teach your goal when you Prospect is to find an opportunity – period. In this case I did get the call back from the customer. Fast forward a short 7 or 8 months later; after many customer visits to head office and up north to the field office, we made an almost Million dollar sale.
- Going up is risky but is it? By going up, I probably saved dozens of calls and emails; I had effectively found an Executive sponsor who at least got me in the door. After that I had to deliver on my claims and prove we were capable of solving their problem at a fair price. What was the downside? If the VP blew me off (like from the other company) I can still get in the door using a more traditional approach but it would have taken longer and be more more challenging and probably more competitive. The only real downside is if the person the VP connects you with feels like he or she has been blindsided and is resentful and by the way I have had that happen too!
- Strike while the iron is hot! Or Seize the Day or the Moment! They both speak to the same lesson that when you have a good idea act on it right away. No risk = no reward and small risk = small reward.
- Be prepared. As much as it sounds like I saw the business news and then looked up the number and made the call that is not the case at all. It has been a while but I would guess it took me about 2 hours before I dialed the first number. I had to figure out who to call, I had to find a number and most importantly I had to figure out what to say. I had one shot to make a great first impression so I actually remember writing a script, refining it and practicing it so it felt and sounded right.
Think about this story next time you are trying to Prospect in a new potential account. Have fun and I wish you the best of success!
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