Commentary & Analysis
Sales Prospecting? Find the Company's E.F. Hutton
By Mike Wesner Finding this individual will save you a lot of time even if the answer is "
By WhatTheyThink Staff
Published: March 31, 2005
By Mike Wesner Finding this individual will save you a lot of time even if the answer is "no." March 31, 2005 -- There's a series of famous television commercials from my childhood about the brokerage firm E.F Hutton. In one of the ads, two people are sitting in a crowded, noisy restaurant and one says to the other, "my broker is E.F. Hutton," and the entire restaurant falls silent to listen to what this gentlemen is saying. The commercial ends with the tag line, "When E.F. Hutton talks, people listen." I am a big believer in what is commonly called "top down selling." An even better strategy is to find the "E.F. Hutton" in the company you are prospecting. This is the person who others in the firm will absolutely listen to. Finding this individual will save you a lot of time even if the answer is "no." It's much easier discussing what your company offers with the person who has the 20,000 foot view of where his firm is going and who is very influential in the shaping the journey. Said differently, your contact in a company needs to be someone that is more of a "tour guide" than a "travel agent," someone that knows their way around and how to get things done in the company. Often this person is the entrepreneurial visionary that started the company--or someone that is on the fast track and is making exciting things happen within the company. Many times this person is not the person carrying a nice title. More and more I encounter timid marketing directors who are afraid to make decisions I learned long ago that meeting with print buyers to have a strategic discussion about one-to-one marketing ideas or the virtues of on demand digital printing was like talking to my Dad as a kid while he watched the NCAA basketball tournament--it was no use in trying to communicate. It was one-way conversation. I think everyone in the sales arena of digital and variable imaging has gotten the memo that calling on print buyers with solutions is usually waste of time. Rapidly filling a second spot on that list of people that generally don't engage in discussions about increasing a company's revenue, is the marketing director. Yes, that's right, I said it. In many companies today, the marketing director is just a title--a hollow title for someone who still has to ask Mr. Hutton what to do. More and more I encounter timid marketing directors who are afraid to make decisions and find it safer to protect their company by not doing anything new. Innovation usually happens outside of the walls of companies where creative thought is stymied by fear of taking chances. I learned this the hard way after I had invested months of my time with the marketing director of a regional supermarket chain. After a complete strategic discussion, which led to campaign proposal, she called me back a few days later and shared that the executive team had decided against pulling the trigger on the campaign. One of key questions I now ask when we're scheduled to present a proposal, is, "will all the decision makers be present in that meeting?" This is probably why the railroad industry did not create FedEx. Innovation usually happens outside of the walls of companies where creative thought is stymied by fear of taking chances. But don't fret, there is usually a bold and charismatic person within most companies that you really need to have on your side. You will be wise to have your first contact with this very influential person that the entire organization listen to when she talks. Why do I like meeting with the EF Huttons of the world? E.F. Huttons possess a great deal of emotional intelligence on what things need to be done within a project to gain long term trust of the organization. Because they are the real decision makers. They know how to get things done in their organization. They know what's going to fly, and they know how to make things happen. They have time to talk. They usually have more time on their hands because they are accomplished, have time to meet and greet new people because they also play the role as an ambassador within their company. They are usually more willing to have a first meeting. They are always trying to discover new ways of doing business and will want to be on the tip of the spear with any new and emerging marketing technologies. In some situations, they assume a mentoring role. If they like you, they'll help you find your way within the organization if nothing else. Many sales people are successful because they found the right mentor in the organization, who played a critical role of overseeing their journey within the internal politics of a company. These E.F. Huttons possess a great deal of emotional intelligence on what things need to be done within a project to gain long term trust of the organization. Because they know other influential people. Because they are movers and shakers, they know other movers and shakers in and out of their organization and can be an excellent source of referrals for you. Successful people attract other successful people and their referrals often carry a greater degree of credibility. And recent research shows that when calling on a new prospect, that you are fourteen times more likely to make a sale on a lead that was provided to you as referral. Good luck and good hunting. Coming next: how to find the E.F. Huttons in organizations.