As a start-up CEO, how do you get past gatekeepers to meet with senior decision makers?
You first need to understand the job of a personal assistant for a senior executive:
Their job is to help their boss make the best use of his or her time. This means keeping people like you away from them!
I’ve developed an approach with gatekeepers that usually works 50% of the time. But before that let me go through more effective ways of reaching out to senior executives:
  1. Personal Introduction: A mentor, friend or customer is a great way to introduce you to someone.
  2. Associations and conferences: If you are targeting a specific industry such as Agriculture, State Government or Mining – make sure you get to these conferences. Even better – speak at these conferences. You might bump into your prospect while queuing up for lunch.
  3. Golf, Cycling or other activities popular with executives: Depending on where you live and your own interests you could broaden your network of senior executives by entering into these networks. It is assumed you have a genuine interest in the activity and the people you meet. Everyone can tell a fake. If you start fawning over a senior manager, you will get ostracized.
  4. Charities: You should join a charity for the right reason – to help the community. There are many good charities in need of good volunteers. Helping others has it’s own reward. You become less selfish and more interesting to those around you. It will make you a better person, and this will make you more successful in sales and other things.
The following approach has worked for me about 50% of the time when cold prospecting:
  1. Identify both the individuals and organisations you wish to target. LinkedIn and company websites are a great starting point. I generally find out who the most senior person I can find. However this does have its limitations. If you are selling printer cartridges to banks, don’t write directly to the CEO of Westpac!
  2. Try to understand how your product relates to the issues surrounding your target.
  3. Write your letter. Keep it brief to a single page. Do not sell your product – you are asking for a meeting to discuss XYZ issues which you are confident will affect him/her. Convert the document into a PDF format.
  4. Call reception. Ask to be connected to the senior manager’s PA.
  5. When you speak with the PA, say  you have a PDF letter to send to their manager. They will either give you their direct email address or a generic email address that they can pick up. If they don’t give you that option then ask them the best way to send the letter.
  6. At this stage you should be confident the letter will reach the target audience.
  7. If you wrote a good letter the senior executive will either contact you directly or (more likely) forward the letter to a specialist within  the organisation to consider. At this point they will call or send you an email.
  8. You go through the sales process yada yada yada…
  9. When it comes to commercial sign-off the senior executive will more likely be supportive because they had a part in the introduction.
  10. If after 2 weeks there is no response, call the PA to follow up. They will then tell you the letter was either rejected or passed on to a person within the organisation that has not yet contacted you. Try and get their details so you can effectively follow up for that first meeting.
In a later blog I will give you a sample of the letters I send out.
I’ve had a lot of success in following this process. Give it a try and let me know how it goes!