I recently issued a White Paper titled ‘A Plan to Reach C-level Decision-Makers’, where I suggested it was better to talk to junior managers before engaging with C-level. Many other sales & marketing executives disagreed.
The debate about whether to parachute into C-level (Top-Floor: Down) or work your way up through an organisation (Ground-Floor: Up) has caused some controversy.
Here are some reasons why I believe Top-Floor: Down is no longer a viable option:
1. It’s not just about the ones you win
It’s also about the C-levels you have not been able to contact. What’s the impact of being repeatedly stopped by the gatekeeper? Eventually, rejecting your calls becomes a habit, or (worse) your brand becomes known as a nuisance.
Working Bottom-Up enables you to connect with the right decision-maker, without troubling C-level and their gatekeepers. Not all decisions are made at Boardroom level.
2. You need to be fully informed
There is only so much (out of date?) information you can glean from the internet. However, there is a wealth of ‘unpublished’ insight you can only get by speaking to subordinates within the target organisation.
C-level is not the place to start fact-finding, they expect you to be fully informed when you arrive. They are the big-picture thinkers and may not have answers to your detailed questions.
3. You’re wasting everyone’s time
It can sometimes take 3-6 months to get through to your C-level target, only to find the decision is made further down the chain of command. You have wasted your time, and 80 calls to the gatekeeper, trying to connect with the wrong person.
Subordinate Managers below C-level are more accessible and less well protected. You can quickly establish where the decision power lies by talking to just a few of them.
4. C-level is now a collective
A Chief Marketing Officer does not get a budget without the approval of the Chief Finance Officer, and if the budget includes investment in the CRM, the Chief Information Officer is involved.
Decisions at C-level are big decisions; they require collective approval. C-levels seldom make decisions on their own – often asking for feedback from peers and research from subordinates.
Working Bottom: Up enables you to connect with other relevant departments, and get the influencers on board with your proposition.
5. It’s not an ego trip; it’s an elevator ride
Good sales executives have big egos; they need it for a tough job that can include a lot of rejection. Ask them if they can get a meeting with a C-level exec at a major Plc and they will say “Yes”. It can become a matter of pride to just pick up the phone and dial C-level directly, to prove how well-connected they have become.
So are they tempted to parachute into C-level just to prove they can do it?
For me, C-level is an elevator ride. First, find the floor you need. The journey should be Ground-Floor: Up. Practice your elevator pitch, making sure you educate people as you travel. Finally, exit at the right level… C-level is not the only stop.
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