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Westside Toastmasters is located in Los Angeles and Santa Monica, California

Qualifying Key Players

Once a Champion agrees to provide access to Key Players, phone conversations or face-to-face sales calls should be scheduled. Ideally, the Champion and the seller together should strategize the sequence of these calls. Often a Champion can prepare a Key Player for a call, and—in some cases—the Champion may want to accompany the seller on certain calls. These meetings tend to yield more favorable outcomes if your Champion has copied Key Players on your correspondence. When a Champion identifies a potential Adversary, we suggest calling on that person last and asking the Champion to participate.

The good news is that calls on Key Players may be less challenging than initial calls on potential Champions, because a few hurdles have already been passed. Key Players may have a sense that incompetent or insincere salespeople would not have been granted access. In fact, the chances of successful Key Player calls are often influenced by the power your Champion wields within the organization.

The objective in decision maker and Key Players calls is to briefly introduce yourself and your organization, summarize the previous calls made within the account, give the buyer an opportunity to share his or her goals, diagnose each, create visions, and establish value. For these reasons, preparation is vitally important. Great preparation will keep you out of a number of traps. For example, there are some stereotypical “salesy” behaviors that can lead buyers to draw unfavorable conclusions about a salesperson they are meeting for the first time. Part of your job, therefore, is to demonstrate to the buyer that you don’t conform to the stereotype of traditional salespeople.

Again, great preparation helps. We suggest that you arrive prepared with a “call introduction,” a summary of the meetings within the account to date (goals, current situation, visions), and a menu of potential goals, Success Stories, and corresponding Solution Development Prompters for each potential goal of the title that is being called on.

Salespeople must develop the call introduction in their own words, but it should be concise and fact-based (rather than opinion-based). Here is an example of a call introduction—typically delivered after introductions have been made and a certain level of rapport has been established.

Today I’d like to briefly introduce XYZ Company, summarize meetings I’ve had with other members of your organization, discuss your objectives, and mutually determine if there are areas where our offering would have value for you.

XYZ Company enables organizations to use our offerings to reduce engineering design cycles, thereby shortening time to market. We were founded in 1995, and last year achieved $95 million in revenue. Some of our clients include Boeing, Hewlett-Packard, and IBM.

I was introduced to your company by Larry Firth, your VP of Production. He would like to reduce scrap (goal) by having the number of late engineering changes reduced. I also met with Kevin Hale, your VP of Engineering, who indicated that he wants to reduce engineering design cycles and reduce recalls due to product defects (goals). That gets you up to date with the meetings I’ve had so far. Perhaps you can tell me, in your role as CFO, what are you hoping to accomplish?

At this point, as in the conclusion of the telephone-prospecting script, your objective is to have the buyer share at least one specific business goal for which you have a prompter. (To get a sense of how to handle the possible responses, review the previous chapter.) In calling on a Key Player, however, keep in mind that another situation may arise. Sometimes senior executives merely want to meet the salesperson and understand the conversations that have gone on to date. Since they are able to connect the dots on their own, they may not necessarily need to share a goal during the meeting.

In the example cited above, once the CFO understands that his staff believes they can reduce scrap, shorten engineering design cycles, and minimize recalls, that may be sufficient for the salesperson to win the CFO’s support for the project. It’s almost always worth asking, “What are you hoping to accomplish?” But if the question doesn’t elicit a goal, don’t push it. A sensible next step is to tell a Success Story and/or offer a menu of goals for the CFO. If there still is no positive response, the salesperson should engineer a polite exit. This entails thanking the CFO for the opportunity to apprise him or her of progress to date, informing the CFO that a meeting will be held after all Key Players have been interviewed to gain consensus to proceed with the evaluation of the offering, and inviting the CFO to participate in that meeting.

As early as possible in the buying cycle, as implied in the above scenario, the salesperson should conduct meetings with all Key Players. This accomplishes several objectives:

  • Everyone understands the potential benefit to him- or herself and the organization.

  • Getting everyone involved can often result in larger payback and therefore justify potentially larger transactions.

  • Having multiple points of contact in the organization means that you may not have to start all over if one person gets fired, is promoted, leaves the company, or dies.

  • If there is a strong Adversary, he or she will be identified fairly early. If the Adversary is powerful and can’t be neutralized, the salesperson (in concert with the sales manager) may decide to withdraw rather than go the distance and lose, bringing only a silver medal back to the office.

  • Again, this is a reality check. It is highly unlikely that a prospect will grant these interviews to anyone who doesn’t represent Column A.

Like the Champion call, these calls on Key Players should be documented. Whenever a new goal is shared, the equivalent of a Champion Letter should be generated, although the request for access to Key Players should be eliminated.


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