Low level, operational staff are concerned with the functionality of products and services. Bosses, on the other hand, are concerned with strategic benefits or gains that they and their company derive from the products or services they buy.

So who should you call?

It is easier to call lower level staff. They are more likely to be in and they will probably be free to take your call. They may also be interested in hearing about your product or services and it features, things you can confidently discuss with them.

Unfortunately few, if any, lower level staff can make a purchase decision and meeting with them will not change this. They have to refer everything to their boss, the real decision-maker. As lower level staff are not generally interested in strategy they are unlikely to communicate important strategic benefits or gains to their boss. In effect, you are asking them to do your selling for you.

It is essential, therefore, that you first try to reach to senior decision maker or boss. This is the person who can authorise payment. It will be a head of department or, in a small firm, the chief executive or director/general manager. However, reaching them will not easy. If you are cold-calling business-to-business you may not have a contact name so your first task is to identify the decision maker.

The first person to answer your call will probably be a telephone operator or receptionist. They generally route calls and don’t qualify the caller. Some receptionists and secretaries, however, filter calls, to stop you from getting through to the boss, in the same way a secretary weeds out unwanted junk mail.

The first question you ask will decide if you are ditched at the first hurdle, speak to an order clerk or get through to the decision-maker. If you ask a question that relate to your product or service, expect to be routed to lower level staff.

“Who is responsible for ordering your office stationery?” will get you the office clerk or the response, “We already have a supplier, thanks.”

“Who looks after your staff recruitment?” will get you a clerk in human resources or an immediate rejection.

And so on.

Therefore, how do you get the name of a decision-maker?

By changing the nature of your question. Make it strategic.

“Who is responsible for IT strategy in your organisation?”

Gatekeepers

If the person who answers your cold-call is a true gatekeeper then you will probably face an interrogation. “What is it in connection with?” “Who’s calling?” are some of the more common responses you will hear. In this case you need to explain who you are and why you want to speak to the boss. Talk to the gatekeeper as if you were talking to the decision-maker or you will never get through.

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