Creative Access to the Boardroom – Part 2

(Cracking the C-Suite code: HOW to creatively access the Boardroom)

In my first post on this topic (“Creative Access to the Boardroom”) I spoke about why I recommend this approach. This blog (Part 2) covers the HOW.

I am not a natural born business developer like my brother Rob. However, I have developed the ability over the years to access the Boardroom level to fast track the sales process. This was an acquired skill which came from 3 things:

  1. having the guts to contact people smarter, wiser and more successful than me;
  2. being willing to ask the simple questions; and
  3. not taking no for an answer when a manager or well-meaning friend told me I couldn’t contact that big wig because “why would he want to talk to you?!”

From the deals I have done in the Boardroom, it dawned on me that in order to fast track the decision-making process and shorten your sales cycle you really need to be selling yourself in at this level. Why? Because these are generally the people who have the most to gain and the most to lose in relation to the company they represent. If you identify their ‘hot buttons’ and position how you can help them achieve THEIR goals then you will have a strong chance of getting an audience with them.

The HOW

Step 1

Identify the highest-level executive in the target organisation (via LinkedIn or Google).

Then, identify their Executive Assistant (EA) by calling the company switch number and saying “I have a note to send to X could you kindly give me X’s EA’s email address and number so I can send the note?”. You’ll be posting or hand delivering your hardcopy letter but will need the EA’s details to follow up.

Step 2

Read the company’s annual report or at least the Chairman, CEO or MD’s letter at the beginning of the annual report. The more you read obviously the more context you will have on their business.

Step 3

List the top 2-3 goals as stated in their letter in their latest Annual Report. For example:

–              Reduce operating expenses by 15% by 2020.

–              30% YoY growth.

–              Most profitable shared services company in Australia.

Step 4

Search Google for any recent media releases where the client’s organisation might have been highlighted to the public for the wrong reasons. See if your solution can in any way help solve that problem.

Step 5

Identify your Unique Business Value – UBV (i.e. your unique skills/experience you possess that you’ll be able to use to help the Chairman/CEO/MD achieve their goals).

Examples:

–              Experienced with and passionate about working with founders scaling innovative businesses

–              Highly developed people skills across culturally diverse teams

–              Enjoy connecting people and organisations for mutual benefit

Step 6

Search your LinkedIn immediate contacts to see if you already know someone within the company. They may be willing to help give you the edge on the current issues to help you understand their challenges. This will separate you from the rest. If you don’t have any don’t worry. This is a ‘nice to have’ and not a ‘must have’.

Step 7

Your 1 page letter

Your 1 page letter will be a hardcopy and sent or delivered in a plain A4 envelope. No company logos. No business card. Hand write the name and address. Executives are bombarded with emails on a daily basis so a hardcopy letter will stand out. The exception I would make to this, is if you have sourced the Executive’s personal email address (which will likely be read by their EA) and have been connected via a warm lead.

Address the Senior Executive’s (e.g Chairman, CEO, MD, Minister, Director General) key goals as mentioned above. Note: In one situation I had heard that the CEO was very difficult to get a hold of, so I contacted and met with his Chairman. The Chairman kindly set up the meeting for me with his CEO. So, don’t rule out the Chairman as a first point of contact.

So, it might go something like this:

e.g Dear James,

I read your Annual Report and I understand that by 2020 you are looking to reduce operating expenses by 15% while simultaneously growing your business by 30% thereby becoming the most profitable shared services organisation in Australia.

Next

Map your UBV (unique business value) skills to the Senior Exec’s goals and explain how you can contribute to the achievement of those goals:

–              Experienced with and passionate about working with founders scaling innovative businesses

–              Highly developed people skills across culturally diverse teams

–              Enjoy connecting people and organisations for mutual benefit

e.g. Over the past 3 years, I have led a culturally diverse team of professionals to deliver a virtualised platform which enabled our NSW Government customers to transact business with their customers more efficiently and effectively. Our customers were able to increase their revenue while decreasing their costs by 40+%. Perhaps the most enjoyable part of connecting with the innovative executives within these departments was seeing the results they achieved for their internal and external stakeholders with our platform.

I understand you are passionate about shared services James and I believe that with your accounting background and mandate to save $10M this year that our offering will be of interest. I would like to seek your advice on the above to discuss with you how I can contribute to the achievement of your goals and ultimately help your organisation realise its vision of becoming the most profitable shared services organisation in Australia.

I usually then write something like, “Thank you for your consideration, James”.

At the bottom of the letter write “P.S. At 8:30am on Tues (or whatever time) I will call your office. If this is an inconvenient time please ask [insert his/her Executive Assistant’s name e.g Sally] to let me know when I should call.

The reason I write the above P.S. is guess who will be opening the letter? Yes, you are right, Sally will open the letter. Personally mentioning their name will have a much greater impact than just writing “please have your EA contact me”.

Whatever you do, make sure you call at the time you specify. Note: in some instances the EA may pre-empt your call and call you first! I learnt this tip from Anthony Parinello’s ‘Selling to the Very Important Top Officer’. One of the best sales books I have come across and I only wish I had been introduced to this book at the beginning of my career!

This is what the 1 pager letter would look like put together:

Dear James,

I read your Annual Report and I understand that by 2020 you are looking to reduce operating expenses by 15% while simultaneously growing your business by 30% thereby becoming the most profitable shared services organisation in Australia.

Over the past 2 years, I have led a diverse team of professionals to deliver a virtualised platform which enabled our NSW Government customers to transact business with their customers more efficiently and effectively. Our customers were able to increase their revenue while decreasing their costs by 40+%. Perhaps the most enjoyable part of connecting with the innovative executives within these departments was seeing the stunning results they achieved for their internal and external stakeholders with our platform.

I understand you are passionate about shared services and I believe that with your accounting background and mandate to save your department $10M this year that our offering will be of interest. I would like to seek your advice on how we can best use our skills to help your organisation realise its vision of becoming the most profitable shared services organisation in Australia.

Thank you for your consideration, James.

Best regards,

Your name

P.S. At 8:30am on Tuesday, I will call your office. If this is an inconvenient time, please ask Sally to let me know when I should call.

Don’t be afraid to be creative.

Transfield (construction company) was one of my accounts when I was an account executive for Qantas. Transfield was an eight-figure Ansett account, although it used to be a Qantas account. I was determined to win this account back, but my colleagues told me not to bother, because they would “hang up” on me.

I love a challenge, so I called and introduced myself to the procurement officer. When he heard I was from Qantas, he politely hung up on me. It was almost Christmas time and I could tell from his name and heavy accent that he was Italian, so I wrote him a Christmas card in Italian (with a little help from an Italian friend). In my card, I apologised for his past experience with the previous Qantas account team and asked for his forgiveness and to give me a chance to right the wrongs. I suggested we perhaps have a coffee sometime after Christmas. Two days later, my phone rang. “Greg, I received your card,” said the Transfield procurement manager. “Thank you. What’s wrong with tomorrow? Come in and I’ll make you a coffee myself.”

We met the next day (complete with ‘home brewed’ coffee) and had a very productive meeting. On my way out, I picked up a hardcopy of their annual report and read the Chairman’s forward in the taxi on the way back to the office. The next letter I crafted mapped my UBV to the Transfield Chairman’s top 3 goals. Using the 1 page letter approach I discuss further above, I was fortunate enough to be invited to the Chairman’s private dining room for lunch to discuss how we might do business together.

I discuss this a bit further in our WisdomMakers e-book (THE UNDERGROUND PLAYBOOK FOR ELITE ACCOUNT LEADERSHIP) under Secret #1 on p.4.

This is a really bold approach. It’s not perfect and doesn’t always get you a meeting. However, try it because I guarantee very few other people will be pursuing this strategic approach.

As mentioned in Part 1 of this blog, make sure you send a hand-written thank you note after the meeting.

And one more thing….

“Don’t underestimate yourself and overestimate your competition. You are better than you think” – Timothy Ferris

My New Stories