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Executive Reluctance – Five Tips for Overcoming Fear and Making the Sale By Sam Manfer

What goes through you when your boss or your inner-self says you’ve got to get to the top decision maker for this deal, contract, renewal or sale? It’s probably not great. However, the executive suite is where you have to be to increase your chances of success.

Most sales people quickly boast that they can get to or have “no problem” meeting with the top executives of their prospects or customers. However, when I ask, “What does that leader want from you?” they scramble for an answer. Now if they knew that, it would be great, right!

So if there is no problem getting and meeting these key decision makers, why don’t more sales people do it?

1. It’s scary. That’s why. Yet, it’s natural. We fear people in authority positions – those with power over us. Think of your boss or judges or police or customers. They all put you on guard. As you get to know them, it’s less stressful, but the tension is always there.

2. It’s a hassle to get to these senior decision makers. They are protected from anyone getting to see them, including their own subordinates (who are also intimidated.)

3. There is a concern of upsetting the manager, engineer or purchasing person you’re presently meeting. Many buyers give that impression and the rest of the time you assume it to be true.

4. Add to above past rejections and you begin to act as your own gatekeeper saying (consciously or unconsciously), “Let’s stick with the purchasing people collecting the bid information.”

No matter what you hear or how you spin it, the big dog makes final decisions for your sales. He is briefed before the purchase because he needs critical information and guarantees before he gives his approval. If he’s happy with your proposal, you get the contract. So who better than you to deliver your message? Here are 5 tips to help you overcome the anxiety and make it easier to push upwards:

1. Admit you feel uneasy. Then you can deal with it. Otherwise you will subconsciously avoid the challenge and stick with your rationalizations (i.e. “He’s too busy” or “She doesn’t see sales people”). Ask yourself, “Why am I anxious?” Maybe it’s past associations or a fear of rejection. There’s something going on. So keep asking until you find an answer. Eventually you’ll realize you’re projecting a negative outcome – that something bad will happen. The antidote is to accept that you don’t know the future or what others are thinking. You won’t get rejected.

2. Positively Visualize the Outcome. The most common technique among all professional golfers is to visualize their shot before they hit. With this positive outcome programmed, their muscles and mind compute the biomechanics to make it happen. Try it. It’s easy but it takes effort to do it. See, positive projection takes more energy than negative thinking.

It is tougher to think prosperously than subsistence. Consequently we default to the easier path – limiting and worst case thinking. It requires mental effort to turn negative projections around. However, if your projections gravitate towards getting nowhere, you’ll get nowhere – guaranteed.

Here’s a better way to think. “The meeting will go great. He’ll want to introduce me to others because he’ll feel good about me and my message.”

Before you make any calls, project in your mind that your target will be happy and open to talk with you. Project positive and positive outcomes will start happening. Even if things don’t work out, you’ll understand the reasons and take comfort that it wasn’t about you. This is rewarding feedback to yourself and will encourage you to think positively the next time.

3. Practice Your Introduction. What will you say? “Hi, my name is Sam and I work with companies such as yours creating sales and improving the productivity of sales teams. Would you answer a few questions?” or for another situation, “John, I understand you are investigating hiring a sales consultant, what are the issues that are causing you to think of hiring someone from the outside?”

When you know what you’ll say, it helps you visualize the situation in a positive frame. Your focus is on you and your opening rather than the anxiety of wishing the encounter was over or didn’t have to happen.

4. Develop Confidence by Preparing. Get information about the executive and the company. Talk with people who know the executive and the company. Use your ‘Golden Network’ – those people with whom you have credibility. Talk with people in your company and urge them to help you prepare for the meeting or for an effective approach to get credibility. Remember it is OK to ask for help. The more you prepare, the more confident you’ll be.

5. Get-Over the Holier than Thou Syndrome. Realize this person is human just like you. You both get up and get dressed and go to work each day. You both have jobs to do. You’re both busy, value your time and don’t want to waste it. Neither wants to be sold. You both want resources to help you with problems.

So disregard the “level to level”, “better than you” thinking. Think of how you would you like to be approached and the type of conversation you’d like to have with someone in your position. Chances are you’re similar, but be careful with assuming. Let him or her tell you that.

It’s mentally tough to set-up meetings with senior executives. However, without their information, you are relying on others to tell you what’s happening with your proposals. Subordinates don’t want to push their bosses so they ignore you by not returning your calls, or feed you crumbs so you don’t feel badly for all your efforts.

Bottom line your sale’s decision lies in the executive suite. So set your sights for the top. Get your network to make the introduction for you. Prepare for the meeting and you’ll have a wonderful experience – guaranteed.
Sam Manfer is a sales consultant, keynote speaker, and author who shares his techniques with companies like Apple, Marriott, Fidelity and Blue Shield. Author of the book, “Take Me to Your Leaders,” Sam helps clients develop customer relationships, improve sales and prospecting skills, and learn how to negotiate and communicate effectively. Visit him at www.SamManfer.com.

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