Home > Approach > Approaching the big boys

Approaching the big boys

For those of you who are familiar with my current website project because of my request for feedback, this is completely non-related to that project.

I am curious: Does anyone have any experience or advice on how to approach a high-level decision maker in a very large corporation (ie: major credit card issuer)? What is the accepted protocol once a particular individual is identified as the primary target? Contact secretary? Send marketing letter by mail? Obtain email address?

I realize this is no ordinary feat and normally I would think to start by getting a lower level decision-maker in my corner to push me upward, but this is a proposal involving Intellectual Property (a patent) and I do not think lower-level people would have the slightest idea what to do with it.

This patent is for a very timely solution to credit card fraud and identity theft. The goal is to obtain a licensing agreement. Several other major credit card issuers are already using this solution (although they are not currently licensed with us).

Any suggestions? - by RainMaker
I am curious: Does anyone have any experience or advice on how to approach a high-level decision maker in a very large corporation (ie: major credit card issuer)?

I realize this is no ordinary feat...
RM, I'm confused by your question. Your "feat" isn't really unique. Isn't this what we largely do in sales? It appears that you are targeting one (or a few individuals) to present your idea to. So the question you've asked here is how do you get in front of him/her?

But--the real question is: Who--within that person's circle (inside or outside of the company) can tell you how to proceed in getting an interview?

You will not find that answer here!

I recently was able to arrange an interview for a friend with the head of a multinational corporation with sales of several billion. I did it by contacting the executive secretary in a pertinent division of that company and asked her how it could be done.

She said that she would arrange the meeting personally. It happened. - by Gary Boye
[quote=Gary Boye]

You will not find that answer here!

QUOTE]
But I just did. :) I was not looking for someone to get me an audience with so and so, and tell me the magic formula to get results, I only wanted suggestions or stories of how others have done it. That is an incredible story! That approach may or may not work for me, but it's one that worked for someone, so that makes it a good starting approach for me.

I realize that you probably just put yourself "out there" without the benefit of someone telling you it worked for them, but you have much more sales experience than I; hence my reasoning for asking. :o Your story not only gave me an idea of where to start, but it gave me inspiration. To me this seemed an unsurmountable challenge. I did not even know where to begin. Now I know it might be doable!

Thanks Gary. - by RainMaker
[quote=RainMaker]

You will not find that answer here!

QUOTE]
But I just did. :)
And I knew you would, just like I know you're a superstar in the making, RM. You are, you know. - by Gary Boye
WOW! Thanks! :eek: - by RainMaker
"The best way for you to make the sale is to be in control of the situation. If you make the mistake of letting your prospect become a salesperson on your behalf (goes to the partner/decision maker instead of you), you will lose. Every time."
-Jeffrey Gitomer from The Sales Bible. - by Matthew
RM, I recently was able to arrange an interview for a friend with the head of a multinational corporation with sales of several billion. I did it by contacting the executive secretary in a pertinent division of that company and asked her how it could be done.

She said that she would arrange the meeting personally. It happened.
And, I'll bet it's not the first time that Gary got to the top executive that way.

I'm a partner in a company that sets up appointments for salespeople with the officers of major companies, and we do it in a manner that is very similar to how Gary does it. We charge a lot for that service. - by JacquesWerth
And, I'll bet it's not the first time that Gary got to the top executive that way.

I'm a partner in a company that sets up appointments for salespeople with the officers of major companies, and we do it in a manner that is very similar to how Gary does it. We charge a lot for that service.
So far, I have not succeeded in making contact with any executive secretaries because switchboard operators start grilling me and I have not yet formulated an effective response to prevent me from getting dumped into the bucket with the fifty gazillion companies who want to become suppliers.

We are not even a company--simply a private inventor with a business method patent (in other words, a patent for a process--not a tangible product) that, if licensed exclusively, could give a credit card company not only the strategic advantage of becoming the leader in credit card fraud and identity theft prevention, but become the gatekeeper with the right to exclude other credit card companies (or charge fees to other issuers) who want to use the technology.

We have a very unique offer, but we have no idea how to get it in front of the right people and currently no funds to hire others to assist us. Gary's advice has already inspired me to keep trying. If you have any specific suggestions that you would be willing to share with me, Jacques, I would be very grateful.

Or if you know of anyone who would be willing to make an attempt to assist us in this venture for a piece of the result (so we would not have to pay up front), I would be very excited to speak to them. Maybe that sounds like an odd offer, but we have managed to get a high-end 450-attorney law firm to fight a credit card giant (currently infringing our patent) in a mulit-million dollar lawsuit for us on full contingency, maybe I can use the same approach to get this patent licensed. The market is very ripe for this patent. - by RainMaker
Rainmaker,

Try applying the same advice you've received about recruiting the executive assistant to the switchboard operators.

In my experience, if the person answering the phone grills you, then part of their job is screening calls. So, tell them what you are trying to accomplish, and ask if they, or the [Title]'s exec assistant could help you determine the best way to obtain the information you need.

Personally, I'd start out saying that "I have patented a process that would be very valuable when used by a credit card company like yours. I am trying to determine who in your organization would be responsible for reviewing potential new business opportunities. Who would you suggest I talk to?"

From what I can understand, you don't want to be a supplier, you want to establish a licensing agreement. So that would be more of a business opportunity, to me. If they ask if you want to be a supplier, however they choose to say it, I'd explain that you are not trying to sell the organization anything. You want to discuss a licensing agreement for a patented process.

Somtimes if you throw in enough jargon, the gatekeeper will pass you on just because they don't really understand what you're talking about. If they're good at what they do, they'll know that someone else should be evaluating what you are saying.

I'd figure out a title in the organization you want to target. I don't know what your process is, but who would you want to talk to - besides the CEO? Is it someone in finance? fraud? business development? Then, if the person you're talking to doesn't have an idea, you could say "Usually, this type of opportunity is evaluated by the {Title}. Could I speak to that person's assistant?"

And, don't be intimidated by the fact that "you aren't a company". Give yourself a company name. In fact, if you are anticipating negotiating a licensing agreement with a large corporation, you should at least break loose enough money to consult with an attorney. Your counsel may advise you to incorporate, and would be able to tell you what to watch out for, etc.

Hope this makes sense.

Kathleen - by KSA-Mktg
Rainmaker,

Try applying the same advice you've received about recruiting the executive assistant to the switchboard operators.

In my experience, if the person answering the phone grills you, then part of their job is screening calls. So, tell them what you are trying to accomplish, and ask if they, or the [Title]'s exec assistant could help you determine the best way to obtain the information you need.

Personally, I'd start out saying that "I have patented a process that would be very valuable when used by a credit card company like yours. I am trying to determine who in your organization would be responsible for reviewing potential new business opportunities. Who would you suggest I talk to?"

From what I can understand, you don't want to be a supplier, you want to establish a licensing agreement. So that would be more of a business opportunity, to me. If they ask if you want to be a supplier, however they choose to say it, I'd explain that you are not trying to sell the organization anything. You want to discuss a licensing agreement for a patented process.

Somtimes if you throw in enough jargon, the gatekeeper will pass you on just because they don't really understand what you're talking about. If they're good at what they do, they'll know that someone else should be evaluating what you are saying.

I'd figure out a title in the organization you want to target. I don't know what your process is, but who would you want to talk to - besides the CEO? Is it someone in finance? fraud? business development? Then, if the person you're talking to doesn't have an idea, you could say "Usually, this type of opportunity is evaluated by the {Title}. Could I speak to that person's assistant?"

And, don't be intimidated by the fact that "you aren't a company". Give yourself a company name. In fact, if you are anticipating negotiating a licensing agreement with a large corporation, you should at least break loose enough money to consult with an attorney. Your counsel may advise you to incorporate, and would be able to tell you what to watch out for, etc.

Hope this makes sense.

Kathleen
Thank you, Kathleen. Very good advice. Thank you. The good news with these giant companies is that you can keep calling back because you rarely get the same operator :p

I usually dig around the corporate page to target one or two people who seem to head up an appropriate area of the company.

Our counsel is representing us in discussions with a software company whom we have targeted for potential licensing, but while they are great legal minds, I lack confidence in the marketing and negotiating abilities. They are lawyers. They think inside the box.

If we were to somehow manage to get an audience with a credit card issuer, we would definitely bring in the attorneys to draw up agreements or make legal determinations regarding our entity. Currently they have requested that we do not transfer ownership of the patent from the sole inventor to a legal entity. If we go to trial, we can get more empathy from a jury as a private individual whose rights were trampled by the giant. - by RainMaker
Rainmaker,

Glad you've got the legal beagles on the case. I agree they aren't the ones to help on the marketing side, but they can often keep you on the right side of the law. ;)

Just keep doing what you're doing. Refine your approach as you go. Best of luck!

Kathleen - by KSA-Mktg
Thank you, Kathleen. - by RainMaker
So far, I have not succeeded in making contact with any executive secretaries because switchboard operators start grilling me and I have not yet formulated an effective response to prevent me from getting dumped into the bucket with the fifty gazillion companies who want to become suppliers.
RM, you put yourself in that bucket. It seems to me from your posts that this project is vitally important to your family's future. This isn't about getting past "gatekeepers"--whatever that means. It isn't about constructing an exercise in creative selling, or selecting effective jargon.

The issues are this. You need to talk with the person who is going to make a decision to impact his company's future dramatically because you have information that will help get that accomplished. You need to talk with this person because it will effect your own family's livelihood, financial well-being and choices for your children's education--among other things.

That's a little bit different perspective, isn't it?

I have never been in a position where one "sale" could have such a dramatic effect on my life or future, such as the one you describe. But, I'll tell you something. In forty years, I have only failed twice in an attempt to talk with a decision maker. Both times I took it personal and let it be known. It's not because I'm better at this sort of thing. It's because I think differently. There are no "gatekeepers" in my mind. There are human beings, that if you express a sincere need, you can get help. Forget about fancy word tactics or technique. Express your needs. In this case they are significant. - by Gary Boye
Express your needs. In this case they are significant.
Then that is what I will do. (When it comes to needs...now you have found an area where I am an expert! :rolleyes: ).

Thank you for the clarity and focus, Gary. - by RainMaker
OK, my brain is really churning, now. I can't wait to hit the phones tomorrow. Thanks, everyone. - by RainMaker
OK, my brain is really churning, now. I can't wait to hit the phones tomorrow. Thanks, everyone.
What always touches me when Gary enters a conversation like this isn't anything esoteric or text methodology on how to accomplish A B C - I believe Gary has looked into all those things and knows what goes where - what it is is very human and compelling for its honesty and truth. - by MitchM
I believe Gary has looked into all those things and knows what goes where - what it is is very human and compelling for its honesty and truth.
You sure hit the nail on the head with that one, Mitch. - by RainMaker
You sure hit the nail on the head with that one, Mitch.
Gary, that was the single-most valuable advice I have received, this year.

I have only called 3 companies and so far have the email address to the president of card services at Bank of America and the direct line to the Asst to the patent attorney at Captital One who has told me the patent attorney's schedule for the next couple days and when she thinks he will have an opportunity to reivew it. She told me when I should expect to hear back from him, and instructions when to call back by if we don't hear from him.

It's a long way from a deal, buy it's a very good start. Thanks for giving me the courage and the words (which I scripted and practiced before calling, of course :rolleyes: ) - by RainMaker
To put this subject into a factual perspective, when trying to reach high level executives average reach rates are 11.4 percent.

Here's another take on the subject that is entirely compatible with Gary's advice.

First, be sure that you are talking to the personal assistant (PA) to the Decision Maker (DM).

Make your prospecting offer to the PA as if he/she is the DM.

High Level DMs in major companies almost always have PAs that know almost as much about the DMs needs and wants as the DM. If you have clearly communicated your offering, the PA can almost always tell you, or find out, whether it's what the DM wants.

That way, you should be able to contact closer to 34 percent of the DMs you attempt to reach. - by JacquesWerth
Interesting. Thank you, Jacques. - by RainMaker
I think that you are really reduced to two approaches, both of which can be effective done correctly.

The first thing to understand, is that of course you will be speaking to the secretary initially. So it is imperative that they view you as important then it becomes easier.

So heres my first idea for an approach, resort to trickery. If possible ensure that you have the true prospects first name. Make sure there is plenty of noise in the back ground prior to your call.

Phone up the respective company and say "I was supposed to be speaking with david later today i will not be able phone him later as planned. Please let him know John called and ill endevour to phone him when i am less busy"

"If he wishes he can call and schedule an appointment with my secretary on 7766363346, read that number back please.

Ok thanks!

The idea is simple, you take controll of the conversation, and because you are saying you dont have time to speak to him today, the secretary will automatically assume you are more important. Next time you call should be very easy to get put through. And who knows he might even call you backthmbp2; Even better.

When you are on that phone call at the outset stop at least once midsentence and shout to someone to get something done NOW!

ACT AS IF! AND THEY WILL BELIVE YOU ARE!

Alternately, the other approach which amazingly does work and will hold you in good stead with the person you need to speak to in the future, is persistance. Phone once a day at the same time every day, asking to speak to the person. After a few calls with no success, explain that it is extremely important and that its reagrding something which will be of extreme benefit to John or whoever. But that you will call back every day untill you do!

Any person who is high up, and in a position of power has got where they are by pure drive and perseverance. So in the end you may just prevail this way. And they will feel compelled to give time to someone who is not scared to do whatever it takes!

Hope this helps you! - by adammead26
I think that you are really reduced to two approaches, both of which can be effective done correctly.
There are other and more professional options available. A referral or personal introduction for example.

So heres my first idea for an approach, resort to trickery.
IMO there is no place in professional selling for trickery.

Phone once a day at the same time every day, asking to speak to the person. After a few calls with no success, explain that it is extremely important and that its reagrding something which will be of extreme benefit to John or whoever. But that you will call back every day untill you do!
There can be a thin line between being persistent and being a nuisance. - by Houston
I guess to detail it it as trickery, was a rather poor choice of words on my part. Lets think of it as setting the scene. Generally people will make their own assumptions of a sitaution in a very short space of time. It may be as we are talking about now "the importance of a phone call". This decision will directly impact wether or not someone is put through"

So is setting the scene the really that wrong, or stacking the odds in your favour?

Lets think of it like this, you may be a very scruffy person by nature, but you go to a sales meeting dressed in a nice Armani suit. This is of course to set the correct image of yourself with your client, because you know if you go in a tracksuit you wont even get to point of being able to promote your product.

Is this that different? - by adammead26
I guess to detail it it as trickery, was a rather poor choice of words on my part. Lets think of it as setting the scene. Generally people will make their own assumptions of a sitaution in a very short space of time. It may be as we are talking about now "the importance of a phone call". This decision will directly impact wether or not someone is put through"

So is setting the scene the really that wrong, or stacking the odds in your favour?
In your previous post you said "resort to trickery" and gave this example:

Phone up the respective company and say "I was supposed to be speaking with david later today i will not be able phone him later as planned. Please let him know John called and ill endevour to phone him when i am less busy"
You may call that setting the scene but I would call that deception or trickery unless the prospect planned to be speaking iwth you later that day. - by Houston
i suppose everyone has their own opinions on this subject. Sometimes working with the moral parameters set by others leads to weakness. - by adammead26
Weekly Updates!
Questions and Answers about Selling
Subscribe to our mailing list to get threads and posts sent to your email address weekly - Free of Charge.