The TACTIC: When selling, go for the top

Tactics Sales


About six months ago, Tim had done some research on firms in his sales territory and decided that The Hubble Group was a prime prospect. In the course of the research, he had obtained a publicly available corporate report which contained the names of all the company officers from the CEO down to the line managers.

He decided that the best place to start would be with Jim Hurley, a division manager whose division was a perfect candidate for Tim’s products. Knowing that this sale would take time because of all the managerial levels, Tim was not disheartened when it took four weeks to finally get into Jim’s office.

And much to his surprise, Jim was very encouraging and recommended that Tim call on his manager, which Tim did. Again, two weeks later, Jim’s manager was very positive and set up an appointment for Tim with the division’s vice president. After two broken appointments and four weeks, Tim got into the vice president’s office.

More positive feedback. The divisional vice president arranged for Tim to meet with the head man, the CEO. Finally, thought Tim, I get to meet with the person who makes the decisions.

The day arrived, and Tim was sitting in the president’s outer office leafing through the company’s newsletter. And there, on page three, was a story of how the president had just signed a three-year contract the week before with Tim’s major competitor.


Chances are that Tim is not going to make a sale. Chances are high that Tim will be convinced to start his selling cycle earlier, instead of at the top, with the next company. That’s his mistake, but don’t tell him.


Ask ten salespeople in a business-to-business sales situation who they would like to first speak with, and nine of them will tell you the president of the company. When it actually comes time to call on the business, nine out of ten salespeople would rather die first than call on the president. They will call on anyone else first with hundreds of excuses to avoid calling on the president.

“He’s too busy . . . He doesn’t have a need to get involved with the product I’m selling…. He’s hired people to deal with salespeople…. Even if I tried, I could never get to see him.”


Pick up the phone and call him. That’s it. Consider this for a moment. Let’s assume you are actually put through to the head person. If you ask, “I know that you probably don’t get personally involved in purchasing X, could you tell me who that would be?” you will get a name. When you call that name ten minutes later and say, “I was just talking with the president of your company . . . he referred me to you. If you could get out your calendar . . .” What do you think will happen?

And if you call the head person and don’t get anywhere . . . just what have you lost by attempting? Absolutely nothing.

There is no way to lose by starting at the top.


If your boss tells you to pay attention to what this salesperson is selling, you probably will. If someone two levels down tells you to pay attention to what this salesperson is selling, you’ll probably get around to it eventually. If you are the salesperson in question, which situation is better for you?  

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