How to Contact a Decision Maker: Experts Weigh In

It doesn’t matter how great a product or service your small business offers if you cannot get it in front of a decision maker. By pitching to the wrong person you decrease your likelihood of making the sale. So what is the best way to contact a decision maker?

To help you sort through it all, we’ve reached out to a panel of sales and small business experts and asked them all a single question: “What is the best way to contact a decision maker to pitch a sale?

Below is a collection of their thoughts and perspectives:

Carol Roth

First, I would switch your short-term goal from pitching a sale to establishing a relationship. Purely transactional business is a bit passé. To initiate that relationship with the decision maker, get introduced through a shared connection. It will lend credibility to help bridge that initial trust gap, plus move you to the “top of the pile” so the decision maker gets back to you more promptly. You can check LinkedIn to see if you have a relevant connection, or ask around in your professional, alumni, personal and social networks to find someone who can provide that critical introduction.
Carol Roth is a business strategist, deal maker and author of the New York Times bestselling book, The Entrepreneur Equation. She has helped her clients, ranging from solopreneurs to multinational corporations, raise more than $1 billion in capital, complete more than $750 million worth of M&A transactions, secure high-profile licensing and partnership deals and create million dollar brand loyalty programs.

Jill Konrath

You should never, ever contact a prospect to pitch a sale. It doesn’t work. Sales is about helping companies achieve their business objectives. 

To get on their calendar, send a series of emails/voicemails focused on the business outcomes they can get from using your product/service. Pique their curiosity by sharing the results similar customers have attained. And, show that you’ve done homework.

All this in 25 seconds max (phone) or less than 90 words (email).

Jill Konrath is a recognized sales strategist, speaker and author who offers fresh strategies and practical advice for selling to today’s crazy-busy prospects. Both her books, SNAP Selling and Selling to Big Companies are Top 20 sales books on Amazon.

Liz Strauss

Decision makers are busy people with their own goals and problems. Getting to know their situation before you approach them is critical to having a context in which to listen. So rather than chasing after 500 decision makers choose five and get to know their business before you approach them. Meet someone who knows the decision maker to find out the venue in which person most likes to consider new sales offers. Turn your pitch into an invitation. Suggest a way that you might meet or talk for a limited time (15 minutes) to see how your offer can move the decision maker to his or her end goal (the one you’re already discovered.) Then listen.
Liz Strauss is a Brand Strategist, Community Builder, Founder of SOBCon. She blogs at LizStrauss.com and Successful-Blog.com

Bob Urichuck

Through a referral or introduction, and don’t pitch a sale, create a relationship. The sale will follow.
Bob Urichuck is an International Professional Speaker, Trainer and Author of two best selling books “Up Your Bottom Line” and “Disciplined for Life: You are the Author of Your Future.” Bob has been recognized as Consummate Speaker of the year and ranked #7 in the World’s top 30 Sales Gurus.

Julie Steelman

There are two ways to do this.
1. Contact the decision maker and give them something they want that will enhance their business or provide a resource they can use. They will take your call!
2. Make friends with their assistant (if they have one) and get them to put you on their calendar. Works like a charm!
Julie Steelman’s former clients read like a Who’s Who of big-name corporate giants with Apple, Microsoft, Toyota, CBS, Sony Studios and Universal Pictures in her rolodex. She generated more than $100+ million in sales during her 30-year sales career. Julie is the author of The Effortless Yes! and is known as The Sales, Success & Bankability Mentor.

Harlan Goerger

First I would never pitch, it makes you sound like everyone else that wants something from you. As to contacting the decision maker, the best is a personal introduction from a trusted connection. At an event, have someone who knows both of you introduce you. Yes, you need to attend functions where your clients hang out! Second best is a referral that knows the decision maker. 

No matter how the connection is made, do not pitch your stuff! I (decision maker) will walk away from you! Instead, research the needs of the client and ask a question about that need and their plan to address it. Yes, you now have my attention!

Harlan Goerger has spent the last 25 years leading hundreds of his client’s companies to expansive revenue growth. He is the author of “The Selling Gap” and “Bypassing NO in Business” and spent 20 years as a sales leader with Dale Carnegie Associates.

Kenneth Darryl Brown

First of all, I never “pitch a sale”. People always have their guard up on an initial sales meeting. No one likes to be sold, but want to buy. My advice is that you must focus on your prospective client. We have a conversation (at least 2 conversations or more). We never “pitch” prospects. Our approach might be different from some sales professionals. We listen, listen and listen some more. We build rapport. We establish trust and credibility. We focus on our best specific niche target. We promote our uniqueness and prove to them that we can deliver profitable results.
Kenneth Darryl Brown is President and CEO of eWeb 2 Sales and Profits, a sales, profit and business development company that shows companies how to leverage the web to increase sales and improve profitability. Kenneth was selected as one of the Top 25 Influential Sales Leaders by InsideView this year. Last year, his show, “The Passionate Entrepreneur“ was picked as one of the best podcasts for small business by Anita Campbell’s Small Business Trends. Ken is called, “The Sales, Web and Profit Evangelist”.

Elinor Stutz

First, “sales pitch” doesn’t sit well with me – it sounds as if you are trying to force something on another party. Instead, focus your approach on getting your foot in the door to build a relationship/friendship in order to qualify the business match. The first steps are to review the prospect’s website to find what’s important to the company and where you might have areas of commonality. Next, read the business news daily and apply to the intended company, their competition and industry. By the time you call for an appointment, you should have enough familiarity to make a friendly introduction and ask for an appointment to become acquainted so that when a need develops down the road, they will be able to place a name with a face.
Elinor Stutz, CEO of Smooth Sale, LLC authored the International Best-Selling book, Nice Girls DO Get the Sale: Relationship Building That Gets Results”, Sourcebooks and the best selling career book, HIRED! How to Use Sales Techniques to Sell Yourself On Interviews”, Career Press. She provides team sales training, private coaching and highly acclaimed inspirational keynotes for conferences.

Lori Richardson

It’s relationship first, to understand your prospective client’s situation, options, and needs. Building rapport and trust can happen through email, the phone, video chat or in person – the main thing is that you use a multi-facted strategy that works for their style of communicating. For example, if they are very visual, don’t always talk by phone or send text emails – offer them a graphical representation of their situation and ways to solve it.
Veteran Sales Detective Lori Richardson sifts through sales clues and business practices to uncover hidden problems and assets, then delivers creative tactics with a fresh approach so you can Score More Sales. She is a sought after speaker, prolific blogger, sales trainer and multi-million dollar producer, and President of Score More Sales – a sales strategy firm.

Diane Helbig

Well, the whole idea of ‘pitch a sale’ bothers me. The first step in contacting a decision maker is to realize that you are solving a problem. Now that you’ve got that mindset do your research. The more you know about the company and the decision maker the easier it will be to reach out to them. Try to determine if they have a situation you can solve. If it seems there’s a real possibility that you may be able to help them, craft your message around that situation. 

Once you’ve done your homework, try to figure out how you are connected to the decision maker. Who can give you an introduction? This is why participating on social media, especially LinkedIn, is so important. You’d much rather get an introduction than cold call, wouldn’t you? If you have to cold call, decide whether an introductory letter or a phone call are best. Please don’t prospect via email. This is the hardest way to get in contact with a decision maker, in my opinion. If you do cold call, remember you are trying to gain an appointment. Respect their time, keep your message short and clear, and ask them if they’d like to meet to explore the possibilities.

Diane Helbig is an internationally recognized business and leadership development coach, author, speaker, and radio show host. She is the author of Lemonade Stand Selling and founder of Seize This Day Coaching.

Sean McPheat

The phone is still the best method but not in the way that you know it. Many think that cold calling by shooting fish in the barrel and “working the numbers” is the way to go but there is a more updated modern way. You should first develop relationships via the internet and social media and then you really have a valid reason for your call. Many gatekeepers will not let you through if its a pure cold call but if you said something like the following then the chances are that you’ll get through “Oh, James and I have been discussing the latest widgets on LinkedIn and I thought it would be easier for me to call rather than type out a long winded answer”
Managing Director of MTD Sales Training, Sean McPheat is regarded as a thought leader on modern day selling. Sean has been featured on CNN, ITV, BBC, SKY, Forbes, Arena Magazine and has over 250 other media credits to his name. Sean’s latest book “eselling® – How to use the internet & social media for prospecting, personal branding, networking and for engaging the c-suite decision maker” is a #1 Amazon bestseller.

Ian Brodie

Well, the first thing is not to contact them to pitch a sale. 

Contact them to do something useful for them – add value in advance of doing business with them. Contact them to figure out whether working together would be mutually beneficial. But don’t contact them to pitch at them. Yuck.

In terms of the best way to contact, it depends on the person. For senior decision makers in larger companies, a personal referral or recommendation is always the most powerful. Ask around or better yet, use Linkedin to find out who you know who knows them. You’ll be surprised when you use Linkedin at how often you do have a common contact who’d be willing to introduce you.

Ian Brodie helps consultants, coaches and other professionals to attract and win more clients. He writes the award winning More Clients blog, and recently released his Pain Free Marketing approach to getting more clients without the pain and expense of traditional marketing.

Sue Watkins

Call them with important news or research that creates a sense of urgency around a problem that you can solve..
Sue Watkins has spent the last 20+ years developing marketing strategies and campaigns. She also founded SMBmarketer.com and authors the blog Smart Marketing Basics () and tweets regularly about small business marketing topics at @SMB_marketer

Jacques Werth

Telephone prospecting (not “cold-calling” or “pitching”) is the most effective way to find prospects who want to buy what you are selling. The most important factor is to accept “No” for an answer, rather than try to change prospects’ minds. That way, you can contact 3 to 4 times more prospects including some who say “Yes.”
Jacques Werth is President of High Probability Selling, Inc – a sales consulting and training company founded in 1989 . The company specializes in sales process improvement. They have trained salespeople, sales managers, consultants, and business owners in over 70 industries.

Ken Thoreson

I like try these ways: 

  1. Ask a current client if they know the person you are trying to meet and see if they will make an introduction for you.
  2. Check out LinkedIn and see if there are mutual relationships.
  3. Make a phone call before 7:30am, at noon, or after 5:30pm (many business owners work longer hours than normal hours.
Ken Thoreson, Acumen Management Group, Ltd. president, is a sales leadership professional who “operationalizes” sales management systems and processes to pull sales results out of thedoldrums into the fresh zone of predictable revenue. His blog,Your Sales Management Guru, has been rated in the top 10 sales blogs in the United States
This entry was posted in Sales and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>