How To Win Over Key People

Don’t look for the decision-maker by using a hard sell. Start with getting key people on your side first to build trust and goodwill.

Key Takeaways

1. Don’t underestimate the power of gifts.

2. Warm up the prospect by proving your value.

3. Ask key questions about their needs before the hard sell.

The Pro: Tim Berry

Title: Promotional and Premium Products Director
Company: The Shamrock Companies (asi/324237) in Westlake, OH

Take Each Company Case by Case
“We subscribe to Hoover’s, a business research database, and we marry that information to our LinkedIn research. We connect with people on LinkedIn, check out their connections and infiltrate that way. Then we decide how to initiate. Do we send spec samples? Do we send an email a day for five days? We look for people in marketing and HR, sometimes the safety director depending on the program, and procurement, usually in that order.”

Come Bearing Gifts
“Call them up and say you’re trying to reach a certain person. Add that you have a new product and you’re looking to get reaction to it before selling it. Maybe it’s a Nike polo, a $50-$75 item with a retail brand name on it, something of significance. You say, ‘I’d like to get his/her size and yours because I’d like you to try it too, and let me know what you think.’ Once you have a decision-maker’s name, you call them up and say, ‘I’m the one who sent you the Nike polo. What do you think? How about we talk about how your business operates, guide you through the marketing maze and help you drive down costs?’ Of course, it doesn’t always work, but at least you can get them into a nurturing campaign.”

Get Them on Your Side
“Sometimes you think you’ve found the decision-maker, and they’re still not the right person. When we ask them how their marketing and brand assets are managed and they can’t answer, we know they’re not the one. But then you treat them as a steward that can lead you to the decision-maker. Always stay a friend – you’re more likely to be on their radar, so when there’s a need, they can say, ‘These guys do this,’ and they can introduce you.”

Figure Out What They Need
“If we’re given the opportunity to present, we go through a discovery process and needs analysis with them. We don’t walk in with any samples. We just ask several key questions, like, ‘Does your company use promo products? Who takes care of purchasing them? How do you usually communicate with clients?’”

Offer Useful Information
“We have a weekly blog called The Rock and we share it with prospects and clients. We nurture with education pieces and then when we connect with them, we’re confident and we can say, ‘Have you seen our latest blog post?’ I try to make sure I reference a topic we’ve recently written about that would be relevant to their needs.”

Four Top Tips for Getting in the Door

Dave Ancharski, promotional products division account manager at White Oak (asi/365900) in Lancaster, PA, offers his best strategies to make your way in.

1. Forget Mailing Lists. “They’re only as good as the search criteria used to put them together. It’s not always the marketing manager ordering promos. It could be the office manager, outreach coordinator, purchasing manager, event coordinator, even the CFO, CEO or president.”

2. Do a Deep Dive. “Google the company, go to their website and browse their social media. Check out staff profiles and the ‘Press Releases’ and ‘About Us’ tabs. Once you think you’re getting close to the correct person, check his or her LinkedIn profile. Connect with them so you have a name that, when you do call, you can use to ask for them. That person may not be who you ultimately want, but they may get you closer.”

3. Follow Up With a Call. “The internet can only get you so far. Once you’ve narrowed it down, a call to those potential contacts will usually help you find your target. First connect on LinkedIn, then send a thank-you message and ask if you can call them.”

4. Continue Nurturing Contacts. “Include them in email blasts, send relevant articles, like and comment on their posts, congratulate them for any awards or events. And send spec samples with their logo, not yours. You’ll be top-of-mind when they need something.”