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Shortcuts to the Decision Maker
By Kendra Lee, President, KLA Group

You may be tempted by some of these strategies but, there are no shortcuts to integrity and persistence.

Every seller knows it can take as many as nine phone calls and emails to finally get the attention of a busy business owner or executive. While this persistence can be aggravating for everyone involved, its work that must be done to make an honest introduction. Lately I've noticed that some sellers are ignoring the steps that should be taken in the effort to shorten their path to reach the decision maker, including:

Lying about legwork

Sending a single email or making a single phone call stating that they've spent weeks or months trying to get a person's attention, as did this seller in a recent email I received:

In my efforts to contact you, I've been unsuccessful. Please call me at your earliest convenience so I can discuss with you some wonderful opportunities and give you a free test of up to $250.

In the less-ethical seller's mind, this approach makes the busy executive feel a sense of obligation in thinking they haven't been responsive to calls. However, most executives aren't so busy that they cannot figure out the seller really hasn't done anything to reach them beyond this first email.

Fill in the blank

Here's an actual email I received two weeks ago from a seller: I suspect you must be up to your armpits in alligators because I've been unable to get through to you. When the alligators take a break, do you suppose you could give me a call? I'd really like to talk to you about XYZ company. In the meantime, I'd sure appreciate it if you would provide me with an update. Just check one of the items below and email me back. Thanks a lot!
  1. You're right, I'm swamped. Call me on or after __________ so we can talk.
  2. Don't quit trying. I admire persistence!
  3. Don't call me. I'll call you.
  4. I'm not interested at this time.
  5. Don't have an answer for you yet. Call me after ___________________
Not only does this feel like a return trip to high school, with the old "do you like me? Check yes or no" note passed to the boy or girl sitting next to you in math class, but it also shows a lack of professionalism and knowledge of the executive's business.

Fun to send? Absolutely! But where is the reference that says you really want to talk with him about an issue he probably has and you can help solve?

Who am I speaking with?


In their efforts to set appointments, some sellers forget that anybody could answer the phone. One company we work with expects that the phone will be answered on the third ring every time. All 47 people in the office have been trained to answer the phone from anywhere - and do it.

One seller didn't consider this a possibility and when the president answered the phone without acknowledging who he was, the seller actually berated him for not answering inappropriate prospecting questions. Needless to say, that seller will never do business with the company, but he'll never know why. With the flattening all businesses, don't assume the person who answers the phone is just a receptionist. It could be a critical decision maker.

While prospecting is hard work, a strong message, sincerity and persistence are still the shortest path to even the toughest decision maker.


Kendra Lee is author of

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