The Power of Leverage
All through our selling life we have heard the phrase, “It’s not WHAT you know, Its WHO you know”. We have heard it time and again from disgruntled colleagues who lost a sale, or heard it coming out of our own mouths to explain a deal we just couldn’t close.
Well it is true in some cases, that who you know can be much more powerful than what you know in landing a large deal, but I can tell you that when you start to sell at the CEO level, it is a lot rarer than you think.
I have found consistently, with the CEO’s and decision makers I have sat with and interviewed, that the people they did business with was based more on rapport and credibility, than anything else. They told me that the first thing they would look for when considering doing business with a certain salesperson was, “Do I like him/her?” The second thing they considered was the credibility of the salesperson and that of the company. “Who were their clients and were they people I knew and respected, and LASTLY did the company have a good reputation in what it sold?” Price and terms were always important but rapport and credibility, generally, were the key areas of the CEO’s concern, not WHO that salesperson knew or congregated with.
Now you are probably saying, “that’s great Mark, but to GET the appointment with the decision maker it is still WHO you know that gets you in the door, rather than WHAT you know. So what does an entrepreneur do when they don’t know anyone that is close enough to the decision maker to help in getting them the appointment?”
That’s a good question and one that I have heard a thousand times…literally, and my answer is this; it is easier than you think. You see, the decision-maker you are trying to see, is in contact with the same people you are in contact with everyday, OR people that you could easily come in contact with if you wanted. These people are what I would call Leverage Points, areas that if used properly, could help leverage your ability to get in the door of the person you are trying to see, which I will illustrate below.
True Story: A few years back, in 2000 to be exact, I was putting together a proposal to build a $30 million boutique hotel in a rapidly expanding southeastern city in what was undoubtedly their most upscale part of town. I had a strong architect with impeccable credentials, an amazing location, a great concept and some available equity financing, but still needed a strong management partner with a reputable name, and the ability to secure debt financing for the project. I had one company in mind that fit all the credentials I was looking for but for some reason, I could not get through to the decision maker. I found myself stuck at the vice president level and wasting an inordinate amount time making presentations to people who had virtually no decision making power. The project was awesome with great potential, but at the age of 32 and no real experience in hotel development, I was not taking serious enough to move up the ladder. I had hit a roadblock in my attempt to get in front of the decision maker and what I needed now was rapport, credibility and a leverage point that could get me through.
So I got to thinking, WHO is my prospect in touch with daily or on a regular basis that has the credibility and rapport to get me through to see him. I knew that everyone else (my competitors, etc) would be using the “front door” so to speak, trying to sweet talk the receptionist or assistant in hopes of getting an appointment and if I took that route, I would be just another number. While the receptionist and/or assistant are leverage points in this example, the amount of credibility they bring to the table when proposing a business idea to their boss is limited. The boss knows and understands that they are hounded every day from people wanting a portion of their time, so they take any recommendations that may come from this leverage point very lightly. What I needed was a leverage point that had credibility from a business standpoint and a name that I could drop that would open up the decision-makers ears. The two leverage points that hit me square in the face were his accountant and attorney. So I decided on the attorney, due to the fact they would be more inclined to help in the hopes of getting some business from it, and for all intents and purposes it was a glamorous project and was sure to conjure up extensive media interest and prestige, both of which attorney’s love.
Well, I called the attorney’s office and made an appointment (thankfully the first meeting was complimentary as I was not about to pay $350.00 per hour) for the next day, stating that I wanted to talk to him, and him only, about a project I was looking to develop.
When I arrived for the meeting he took me into his spacious, corner office overlooking the city and had me sit in the big, leather chair facing his desk. As he went to close the door I quickly scanned the room for any items that I could spot which may help to build common ground for a conversation, but I found none initially.
Attorney: So, what can I help you with?
ME: Well, I am in the midst of planning a boutique hotel………(and I went into all the information behind it).
Attorney: Wow, that’s a great part of town, great location. What will the name be? Is it going to have a flag (a major chain behind it)?
ME: No name yet. And no, there will be no flag but we will have a central reservation system that caters to boutique hotels. We are very excited.
Attorney: So where can I help?
ME: Well, I wanted to speak with you about possibly handling the legal work and secondly, if you have a name or two that might have an interest on the hotel management side. I was told you represented some strong, local companies with this specialty of hotel management.
Attorney: Absolutely! First, we would welcome the chance to work with you on the legal side and we can get together later this week on exactly what the scope will be, the costs, etc. It is something that I would not be able to pinpoint in this meeting, but after I get more information from you and your group I will have a better idea. Also, you need to speak with John Smith (this was my prospect, all though not his real name for the sake of this example) at XYZ Hotel Group, this is right up their alley and they would be perfect!
ME: Yes, I thought so too and called them initially, but with something of this magnitude we did not feel comfortable just speaking with his underlings. There is too much at stake as you can see.
Attorney: Oh, of course. Tell you what, I will give him a shout and we can set up a meeting. In the meantime give him a call and introduce yourself and tell him I told you to call him. If his receptionist has any questions, have her call me, I’ll take care of it. I am confident John will love this project.
Needless to say I called John as soon as I got the chance that day and you know what? I GOT THROUGH! I was able to name drop honestly, utilizing a powerful leverage point that had credibility and rapport at the highest level. We ended up setting the meeting and 14 days later they signed on as our management partner and guaranteed 70% of the loan, or $21 million! 10 months later I sold out my portion, made a tidy profit and began speaking nationally full-time. All it took to realize my goal was to find someone who had the leverage to get me through. If I had stuck with what everyone else was doing, trying to go through the “front door” and cozy up to the receptionist, this deal probably never would have gotten off the ground and if it did, not for quite some time.
You really need to think for a moment what it is you sell. Is it a large product/service with a long sales cycle and a minimum amount of prospects? If it is, you cannot just dive in and hope for the best, as there is too much at stake and very little room for error.
You need to take the time and PLAN carefully on whom the decision-maker is, WHY they would be interested in meeting with you, what the barriers to entry may be and than jot down a list of various leverage points you can use. You see, if you continually attack the most common entry point, the gatekeeper, you will wear out your welcome at some point and only make it harder to get through in the future. But by utilizing leverage points, you INCREASE your chances AND you will have an almost limitless supply with which to work with, thus not having to worry about wearing out your welcome. If one leverage point does not work out, try another, than another, until soon you are standing in front of the person you want to see.
Think about it, if your prospect continues to hear your name from people he/she respects and trusts, what do you think the odds are they will take your call in the immediate future? The odds are very, very good I might say. If you really take the time and learn how to use leverage points, you will make more money in sales than you ever dreamed of. I know I say that a lot on this book, but it is true. The information in this book could be worth millions of dollars to you if you apply what I say and have the persistence and desire to make it happen. ....
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