Having worked on CXO-facing programs for more than a decade, I think I have a pretty good idea of what works and what doesn't when it comes to getting attention and establishing credibility. But whenever I get a chance to chat face-to-face with someone in a C-level position, I like to validate my theories.
Recently I was presented with such an opportunity when I found myself sitting next to a CIO at Oracle OpenWorld. He showed an interest in what Boardroom Insiders does, so I took the liberty of picking his brain. "What makes the difference," I asked, "in someone earning your attention...or not?"
First off, he admitted that he never answers his phone. With no assistant, he would be fielding calls all day if he did. He also told me that he only returns voice mails that show that the caller knows something very specific about him or his business--and has a value proposition that is relevant. "If I can see someone has really done their homework," he said, "I think they deserve a call back. Otherwise I just don't have the time."
Only those who demonstrate that they understand his business and have the potential to add value--either by solving a problem or sharing some new information--get an in-person meeting. At that point, he said, he is appreciative when someone has taken the time to learn something about him personally. A Cuban who immigrated to the US as a child, he recalls being impressed when a new contact referenced another prominent member of the Miami Cuban community who was also in technology and was a reference customer. "It shows they care about taking the extra time to learn about me--that they are interested in building a relationship, not just making a quick sale," he said. "Those are the type of vendors and account reps I am looking for --the ones who have invested for the long haul."
All of this sounds pretty old school, doesn't it? Sales has always been built on relationships, trust and "who you know." And despite all the new ways of finding and reaching people, nothing has really changed. In fact, I would argue that the personal touch is more important than ever, because it helps you cut through the noise of unsolicited LinkedIn requests, mass emails and script-driven telemarketing. Smiling and dialing just doesn't work anymore--better off spending some of that time researching your top prospects, or letting us do it for you.