The Maraia Minutes
Meeting More Decision Makers
Volume 11, Issue 7
To some professionals, knowing lots of decision makers is the holy grail of marketing. They figure that knowing more decision makers will lead to more marketing opportunities. While I agree it’s best to know as many decision makers as possible all is not lost if you know only a few. My advice to those who are worried that they don’t know enough decision makers is: Relax. You don’t need to know as many as you think. Get busy meeting more people period. If done correctly, you can get the people who influence the decision makers to rave about you. If the influencers become your champions they will enthusiastically arrange meetings for you with their bosses. All too often, professionals mistakenly treat influencers as if they were invisible.
Most of us operate with preconceived ideas about this topic that slow us down or stop us from meeting more decision makers. I can’t count the number of times professionals dismiss taking initiative on contacting someone because, in their opinion, they "aren’t a decision maker." Trash that kind of limited thinking. At the very least, these influencers possess valuable information that can't be gathered anywhere else. Here are five maxims to keep in mind:
1. At the very least, influencers possess valuable information that may not be available anywhere else.
We all have met that trusted associate, or assistant, who is the gate keeper to someone else. And, we’ve also met, and maybe unintentionally discarded, others who have great influence on the actual decision maker. The influencers have a wealth of information about what the decision maker thinks, and more importantly, needs.
If you treat the influencer as an important person, which they truly are, you will find them able to provide you with valuable information and assistance in your marketing efforts. They will arm you with the information you need to gain access to the decision maker and then to work with the decision maker from an informed position.[e.g. Consider the powerful executive secretary who can book you a meeting with the decision maker if he or she likes your message.]
2. Just because you don’t know many decision makers right now doesn't mean you’ll never meet any.
If you are an accountant who is looking for more work within the high tech world you must first identify more people who orbit the high tech universe. Simple ways of increasing the numbers are to line up a speaking engagement to a high tech group and start calling everyone on your wish list to invite them to your talk. In less than a week, you can go from knowing 2 people in that industry to having had a phone conversation with 20 or more. For more on how to do this see Chapter 34 of Rainmaking Made Simple: What Every Professional Must Know. You can use the same basic approach when writing an article on a timely topic for an industry newsletter or other publication. For more on how to do this see Chapter 36 ofRainmaking Made Simple: What Every Professional Must Know.
3. It's unwise to give your time and attention solely to decision makers.
Doing so ignores the upward mobility of talented people. For example, suppose you meet and work with Betsy who is not a decision maker at company A. She moves to company B where she becomes a decision maker. The best rainmakers stay in touch and make sure they are growing their reservoir of future leaders. I’ve seen too many people get hammered by a shrinking network almost overnight because they spent all their time with top people and none with mid level people.
There is one very simple thing you can do with non decision makers to demonstrate respect: Copy them on correspondence you send to their boss. They will notice it and remember you.
Don't build your network solely around decision makers. If you do, your network won't grow to the proper size when you need it. Junior professionals can't easily build a network of decision makers because their peers don’t yet have enough experience. With time that will change. Too many professionals (at all levels of seniority) dismiss the value of junior executives since they aren’t final arbiters on who gets hired, but that's a mistake. Those junior execs will one day become senior execs. Don’t wait until they are elevated to that level before befriending them. If you do, your competitors will already have done so.
4. You are surrounded by decision makers cleverly disguised as ordinary people.
Don’t believe me? Consider just these two examples:
A. Your colleagues within the firm who end up in house and
B. People you meet on the other side of the deal.
Either might turn into your best referral source.
One professional received a call from a female business owner who handed him a large assignment. Several weeks into the assignment she asked him if he remembered how they first met. This professional couldn’t remember. She told him she was the secretary for one of his clients more than 10 years ago! She had gone out on her own to start a very successful business and she never forgot how well she was treated by him. This good treatment inured to his benefit more than 10 years later.
5. Almost anyone may become a decision maker so treat EVERYONE with respect.
It’s impossible to predict which non decision makers of today will become the decision makers of tomorrow. Why treat everyone with respect? Because it's the right thing to do. While some don’t have the authority to hire you, they may have authority to prevent your hiring.
The people who aren't decision makers will notice it when you treat them with respect. It will position you very well down the road when they are elevated to more lofty status.
One lawyer was surprised to learn that the legal assistant within a corporation and not the general counsel was the person who made hiring decisions. Title companies have long known that real estate paralegals wield a tremendous amount of influence about which title company their law firm hires, and they go out of their way to court those paralegals. That should be a great lesson to professionals about treating everyone as a potential, if not actual, decision maker.
Don’t be a fair weather friend and only make time for people AFTER they are promoted to positions of significant responsibility. It shows you lack class and that you don't treat everyone you meet with the respect they deserve. I think every person always deserves to be treated with utmost respect. Generally speaking, the lower someone sits in the hierarchy the more he or she craves respect.
The best rainmakers (and the savviest junior people) think of today's non decision makers as their future pool of decision makers. The key is to form as many relationships now with non decision makers when you don't have pressure on you to build your own book of business. If you are already feeling the heat, just get started! Your network will not grow by itself and it will grow faster if it includes more people.