We will return to this premise throughout the remaining chapters, but we want to offer a caveat at this point: The higher within an organization a salesperson calls, the more predictable the conversation. Traditional sales managers will respond well to this observation, of course, since they’re always begging their salespeople to shoot higher.
But we’re making the same point for a different reason: The higher in the organization you call, the smaller the number of business objectives you are likely to encounter. This sounds a little counterintuitive, but it’s not: In general, senior people worry about a finite number of important issues. Conversations with senior management tend to be shorter, more conceptual, and less technical—which in many cases means they’re more interesting and more productive.
And looked at from the other end of the telescope: There is a level within every target organization below which people tend to have personal goals or agendas, but these are not usually issues their organizations are willing to fund. Architecting dialogues at these lower levels is nearly impossible. These people may want to learn all about your offerings, but they don’t usually have either (1) the title or (2) the business goals. Without these prerequisites, Sales-Ready Messaging is impractical.
In the enterprise-solution world, of course, conversations eventually must take place with technical people and end-users. Our concern is when in the sales cycle these meetings take place. If they constitute the initial meeting, brace yourself for a long sales cycle, and one that can fall apart at any one of several places. If, by contrast, your initial conversations are with targeted business people who share with you their goals, your meetings with the people who report to them will be more productive. After having high-level conversations, calls on lower-level buyers can be more focused by having the buyer understand senior management’s goals as they relate to the offerings being discussed.
In still other words: We advocate, and are attempting to illustrate, a top-down approach to sales. The structured approach described in this chapter lets salespeople spend far less time with people who can’t, or are not going to, buy. Whenever possible, we advocate calls being made on people who can’t buy only after qualifying one or more people within the organization who can.