Over the Christmas holiday we went to see the Will Smith movie, The Pursuit of Happyness. The movie is based on the true story of Chris Gardner, a single father who went from homelessness to self-made millionaire.
In order to break free of his situation, Gardner managed to get accepted into an internship program for brokers. The interns were given lists of people who worked in a particular business and their task was to start at the bottom and work their way up the list, selling their firm's financial services, until they finally reached the CEO of the company. Since Gardner wasn't able to work the long hours some of the others were working (due to having to pick up his son at 4pm every day), he had to find ways to be more productive with the time he had. But no matter how fast he worked his way up the list, he couldn't get through a list in one day. And that's when the idea hit him...
Rather than starting at the bottom of the list, Gardner decided to start at the top. He started by asking for the CEO by name, and when the "gatekeeper" asked what it was about he simply said, "This is Chris Gardner with XXX Company." Notice he didn't say, "This is Chris Gardner and I'd like to talk to Mr. CEO about his financial portfolio." She would have cut him off instantly! But since he simply stated his name and company, she wasn't sure if the CEO knew him or not, so she put the call through.
When the CEO picked up the phone Chris simply stated that he needed about 10 minutes of his time, to which the CEO said YES! Now I hate to give the whole movie away, so I won't tell the whole story about the innovative ways Chris put himself in front of the CEO. But in the end, when the CEO discovered that Gardner was simply an intern, he was honest and said there was no way he was going to let Chris handle his portfolio. However, because Gardner managed to build a relationship with the CEO, he was introduced to other people in the company and was able to sign on several new customers.
This method of selling is something we've talked about over and over again. First, start at the top. If you start at the bottom, you may not ever get a chance to talk to the actual decision maker. If the CEO doesn't make the decisions on cleaning in the building, then he or she will let you know the person you need to talk to. When that happens, you can call the correct person and tell him that the CEO gave you his information. Believe me, that will make them take notice and will very likely get you an appointment.
So the next time you pick up that phone to make a cold call, how will you handle it? Click on the Comments link below to post your comments.
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