If you’re going to bypass mid-level gatekeepers, you have to be strategic, and you also have to use the right tone and pace, so you can be perceived as someone who truly cares about their needs.
It’s inevitable… Every salesperson has been there. In your attempt to prospect at a high level within an organization, you get kicked over to someone in middle management or a couple rungs down the decision making ladder.
It’s necessary to build rapport with these mid-level facilitators, because often times they are influencers who ultimately will sell you and your product or service at a higher level to their boss or leadership team. So, you can’t completely write them off as if they don’t matter, but you also can’t always trust that they will get the job done.
What do you do when you get into a never ending follow up rut with these types of buyers and they consistently tell you, “I still haven’t had a chance to meet with my boss.”?
Should you just keep following up and hoping at some point they finally will meet with the higher ups and get the job done, or should you bypass them and go straight to the decision makers yourself? Either way, you risk losing a sale!
If you follow up too many times, you start annoying them, and they can decide to cut you out entirely, and if you bypass them and go over their head to the ultimate decision maker, you can risk sabotaging the relationship with the ultimate prospect and the mid-level person both at the same time, because it can be perceived as a scumbag move.
If you’re going to bypass them, you have to be strategic, and you also have to use the right tone and pace, so you can be perceived as someone who truly cares about their needs.
Here’s how I have found success:
I typically give the mid-level person 4-5 nice nudges, and if they still haven’t sought approval on my proposal, I straight up ask them, “Sally, do you know when you’re going to meet with your boss… Sorry, I don’t know their name…” and then I pause for 3 seconds. They usually will respond something like “Well, his name is Steve, and I’m going to meet with him later this week.”
BOOM… Now, I have an ultimate name of who is signing the checks and making buying decisions in that company… I make a mental note…
Then I ask another question that gives me honest insight into how likely it is that my proposal is really going to get brought up in a meeting with Steve…
“Okay, so when you meet with Steve, are you going to recommend that your company proceeds with the proposal?”
I like to ask them this straight up, so I know exactly where I stand with the mid-level person. If you can’t get a positive “Yes, absolutely!” commitment from them, you have no chance of closing a deal. Do you really think they’re going to be able to sell you and your product/service to their boss when they don’t really believe in what you’re selling?
If they tell me, “Yes, I am going to recommend we proceed,” I always give them a chance to get the job done. After all, if they believe in what you’re selling, they can be your biggest advocate internally, and you should trust them to do their job!
Next, I will typically call back the day after their scheduled meeting, which ultimately decides what I do next.
Situtation A: The meeting went well, and they agree to buy! Sally stayed true to her word and got approval from Steve. (No further steps needed)
Situation B: After this follow up or a couple more follow ups, they still didn’t meet or you can’t reach the person, and it seems as if they’re now dodging your calls. (Take the situation into your own hands). This is where I take over the scenario. I stop dealing with the mid-level person and then I start prospecting Steve directly.
It usually looks like this: “Hi Steve, This is Brian Donohoe. I’ve been working with Sally on your team, and I think she was supposed to meet with you a few times now about our proposal. Has she mentioned anything to you yet? She was telling me she was seeking your approval, but I still haven’t received final confirmation, and I’m worried something could be falling through the cracks on my side.”
This usually piques Steve’s interest enough for him to have a conversation, even if a short one, and then you get a brief slot to state your case and sell yourself!
Situation C: Sally informs me that they’re going to pass. (Inquire more and then start over with the ultimate decision maker again). – Sally tells you she tried to get approval, but her boss wouldn’t go for it. I don’t argue with Sally or try to re-sell her, because ultimately she isn’t the decision maker anyway.
I do ask questions though, like “Can you please share what happened? I thought you were recommending us!” I always ask in a curious, non-intrusive way, and typically, they will answer me.
This is where you get to the bottom of whether or not they are telling you the truth and/or you discover what their true objection is, and you can better craft your presentation to fit those objections when you finally reach Steve down the road.
Just this week, I got caught with a mid-level buyer who continued to push me off… “I still need to meet with Ryan,” she kept telling me. It got to a point where week after week for about two straight months, she kept telling me she needed to meet with Ryan. I got tired of following up and getting nowhere with her, so I finally called Ryan directly and one call closed him.
My mid-level prospect then had to call me back to execute the paperwork and do Ryan’s logistics for him. She was entirely embarrassed that she sat on my proposal and didn’t take it to Ryan for his approval, especially when Ryan ended up seeing enough value to go with the purchase anyway.
She missed out on an opportunity to bring a valuable service offering to her boss. Since he liked it and bought from me directly, it would’ve made her look good to propose it directly to him.
Yes, this is a risky move, and it can sometimes backfire on you, but if you don’t have ink on paper in the form of a signed and sealed contract, you don’t have a sale in place anyway, so what do you really have to lose?
Sometimes, it’s worth taking the risk and bypassing the mid-level gatekeepers to get a deal closed…
After all, we are in sales, and we get paid to make sales and perform at our best, not play the nice follow up game with people who are never going to internally sell for you to their bosses…
Be risky, swing for the fences, and go for it! Do it with tact and grace, though, because odds are you’ll still end up crossing paths with the mid-level people again, and you want to keep them on your side.