Think of your ideal client as an armoured vehicle. Your job is to speak to the driver, the big chief inside, who can decide whom will be chosen to fight alongside his army. You want them to choose you as an ally, but first you’ve got to talk to them, and convince them of your case.

Obviously you’re not alone in trying to do this, with every other person on the battlefield after the same goal and existing alliances tipping the scales.

How do you get to speak to this key person inside this impenetrable shell? Every business has a big chief:

  • In retail it is the category buyer who decides what goes on shelf, and what doesn’t.
  • In construction it is the architect and engineer who decide what gets specified.
  • In corporate marketing departments it is the marketing manager, not the brand manager, who decides which agency gets the job.
  • It is the number 1 marketing problem I encounter with my clients. They literally scream it from the roof-tops: “Help us talk to the big chief!”
  • How do you do it? The simple answer is “I don’t know”.

There is no golden key to getting access to the key person in any given business. But that doesn’t leave us hopeless, because all armour has a soft spot. It just takes a bit of time and careful study to find it, and hone your weapon.

But how do you do that?

You need to treat every client in a high value sales environment as a unique piece of armour. They’re all slightly different, and it is in these differences that the soft spots emerge. Think of yourself as an intelligence agency, allocating scarce resources to study a handful of high value targets.

Here are some practical things to do:

  • Use “Google Alerts” to follow the company in the news.
  • Map out the decision making structure around the big chief. Who answers the phone, who schedules his (or her) diary? Who is the team working with them. Whom do they report into?
  • See who in the decision making structure is on LinkedIn, and follow them. Who else are they connected to? Get a handle on existing supplier relationships and study possible backdoor opportunities.
  • Talk to ex-employees and find out what the possible frustrations are that the big chief is dealing with?

But ultimately, it comes down to this: everybody has a problem that needs solving, and whoever can accurately identify the problem, and offer a solution, will get airtime.

Stop trying to use brute force to break into your prospect’s office. You’re just making a noise, like a hammer banging on a steel door. Rather take careful aim with a sharp instrument, tailor-made to penetrate.