How to Get In the Door

Our company likes to surprise publishers and reps. When they think they are going to take one of us to lunch, we reverse roles and have lunch for everyone brought in, and then turn the event into an open discussion on issues. It makes for good conversation, sometimes heated, but always stimulating about where we are going in the marketing communications world of B2B these days.

At one of the most recent “surprise parties,” we challenged our guests with this question: What are your biggest challenges in selling these days? Here is their list:

  1. Getting in the Door
  2. Talking to a Human
  3. Voicemail…caller ID
  4. The Human Element
  5. Understanding our “new products.” We are more than a print magazine.
  6. Brand recognition
  7. Differentiation

It was a great discussion, but I wanted to write about the first problem they outlined because of the particular importance it has in B2B. It’s not only getting in the door that’s the problem. It’s identifying which door is the right door and then what will open it. In today’s world, finding the person who can pull the trigger (see our blog Getting People to Pull the Trigger) is difficult, if not impossible. But, that person is behind a door somewhere. It’s about spotting – not necessarily selling.

For example, in a recent assignment, we were tasked with finding the person behind the right door within a specific industry sector. Our base to begin the hunt was data drawn from one the premier data providers in the country for this type of information – data we are familiar with and data which is 40% to 50% inaccurate from the get-go simply because of the rapid changes in that industry. In other words, even if you start with a data dump, you have to standardize and verify that data in your quest, which will produce a 40% difference in what your picture looked like when you started. That inaccuracy has never bothered us – or other people who subscribe to it – because it is just the way it is. People change jobs – frequently. And projects change hands – just as frequently. You have to work the data – any data – to be successful.

In three weeks we had not only identified the targets, we got half of them to invite the client sales people in for a chat. In other words, we got the door open to the right person. We did not see “getting in the door” to be a problem like our publisher/sales rep guests. The question is why? The answer is in what you are selling.

What Are You Selling?

Getting in the door is really a function of what you are selling. You might think you aren’t selling anything, but everyone is in sales (though for some reason, people think it is a bad in this age of the customer being in control). But think of it: you need a seller if you’re going to be a buyer. And, to get in the door, you need only understand who is behind the door, what their needs are, and determine if you have what they want.

We have tied “selling” to “helping.” Our entire position in finding the people behind the right doors is understanding the value proposition of what we are selling – which is always a solution to a problem. Now, not everyone has the problem we are qualified for, but those who do are the right person we are looking for. Then, it is simply a matter of your style of knocking on the door.

Of course, it isn’t that easy. But on the other hand, it isn’t that hard. One of our clients asked us for the script we use in our pursuit of opening doors. We provided it, and then received the call back asking us where the rest of it was. We told the client that there was no more, and of course, the client didn’t believe us. There was no way we were experiencing the success rate we were based on this simple eight-question script.

But it was true: one of our secrets is that we go off the script as soon as possible and engage in conversation. This is an enormous leap in your approach to knocking on doors, because it requires a thorough understanding of the problem and solution, and of being spontaneous – a trait you might think is everywhere in this age of social media. But, true spontaneity isn’t everywhere. And if you look carefully, you will see how rare it is.

When I was a teacher, I was terrible my first year because I didn’t have that trait. Spontaneity is connected with being yourself – how you view yourself – something many people don’t know how to do because of a lack of introspection. I learned quickly that you can’t fool kids (I taught sophomores). You either have yourself together (know yourself) with your goals in mind of what you want to teach, or they will know you don’t and you’re dead. They have an uncanny sense in detecting weakness, and not knowing yourself in teaching is a huge weakness.

I became a master teacher of underachievers for seven years. Through practice, I learned how to be myself – and “natural” or “spontaneous.” I learned, simply, not to be someone else.

Bottom Line

If time is money, which it is, then what the list of problems in our session resolved around is really the limited amount of time people have to do anything anymore. You have to make every shot count – every effort, including the “dead ends.” The Sale Begins When the Customer Says “No” is an out-of print book by Elmer Leterman, one of the great sales people of all time. In it, he outlines some of the most successful attitudes a sales person requires. Almost all of them are based on spontaneity.

Unfortunately, what Elmer said gets lost in today’s time-constrained world. For example, Tony Alessandra, PhD (aka Dr. Tony) and noted speaker says that “It used to be, ‘The Sale Begins When the Customer Says…NO,’ but that’s a totally inappropriate attitude to embrace in today’s customer-driven business environment.  Unfortunately, Dr. Tony probably hasn’t read Leterman’s book, as evidenced by his comment. Leterman was all about the customer! He used the “no” as the way to understand the customer more, in order to hone his approach to “helping” that customer understand the value proposition of what he was selling. There are always “no’s” in the path to sales and understanding that helps you open doors.

The next time you knock and no one answers, ask yourself if it’s the right door to begin with. If it is, knock, again. Or, go in through the window!

For more conversation, or to discuss your business, go to or call 847-358-4848. We’ll open the door!

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