While many aspects of a sales job can be challenging, few are more difficult than doing something that might make contacts angry. But all too often, salespeople let themselves be sidelined by corporate policies and red tape, to the point that your products and services don’t ever reach the decision-maker’s desk. Sometimes, to best set yourself up for success, you have to go over someone’s head. But how can you do that without creating an enemy? Check out our strategies to not only get your voice in the right room but with the right people listening.
Sometimes the most straightforward solutions are the most simple. If you’re working with a staff member tasked with gathering information from multiple vendors, ask if you and your team would be able to schedule a short meeting with the actual decision-maker. While this won’t work every time, the times it does will be painless, easy, and effortless for all parties involved. Because you’re directly asking the contact you work with, they will not feel offended because they have some power in their answer, regardless of what that answer might be.
Figure out what this staff member’s responsibilities are for the project. Is it to strictly gather information from vendors? Is it to present their key findings directly to the decision-maker? Oftentimes the staff member themselves, while not directly making the decision, will have input and a voice in the process because of their experience while gathering information. If that’s the case, use it to your advantage! If the contact has an active and important voice in the process, going over their head probably isn’t necessary (and might even work against you.) Focus on building a relationship with that contact and show why you and your team are the best candidates for the sale.
If the contact doesn’t have an active role in the decision, consider sending a short and simple LinkedIn message or direct mail to the decision-maker to make an impression. But the trick? Praise the contact for their work.
You have to be genuine and don’t make claims that aren’t true, but showing genuine appreciation for the work your contact did will not only make a positive impression on the decision-maker, but it can also alleviate some of the negativity a contact might feel after realizing you went over their head.
At the end of the day, your contact’s job isn’t to buy your product. You have to sell it to them (shocking, right?). The best way to built a relationship is to make the contact feel like they have power in their work. So, if that means going over their head to make the sale, do it in a way that makes them feel like they have some control over the situation. If it’s an email, CC them or find a way to loop them into the conversation. If you invite the decision-maker out for lunch or coffee, invite the contact. Make them feel like an active member of the conversation and the decision, whether they actually are or not. That way, if the interaction with the decision-maker leads back to the contact, you’ll still have a positive relationship with them, and they’ll feel in control.
Going over someone’s head isn’t always necessary, and you can expect some people to react negatively to it, regardless of how you handle the situation. But ultimately, it is sometimes necessary to get your message and product in front of the right people. But here’s our parting advice: do what you can to minimize the negative impact it has on your relationships within the company. Make an effort to have a meeting with the decision-maker be a team effort that your contact worked to facilitate, and you’ll find greatly increased odds of success.
Donald is the host of the popular sales podcast,"The Sales Evangelist". He is the founder of The Sales Evangelist Consulting Firm where he helps small companies develop killer sales process to scale their business and increase growth. Donald is also an award-winning speaker, sales trainer, and coach. He's a big fan of traveling, South Florida staycations and high-quality family time. Donald has a belief that “anyone” can sell if they have the desire and receives the proper training.