Recently I was asked to train a regional director’s sales team at a bigger corporation. According to him, his employees had become complacent and needed fresh motivation, which I was to provide. I was giving a seminar for his team, when the door opened and in walked a gentleman in a suit who took a seat in the back row. He didn’t introduce himself but simply said hello. At that moment, the body language of my seminar participants altered visibly. As if someone had delivered a silent command in an invisible barracks, they snapped to attention and heightened their focus.
OK, I thought, someone from high up has just entered the room, higher than the regional director. Then, before the seminar ended, he got up and left, and the regional director promptly followed. Indeed, this must have been someone from high up, a powerful decision-maker. Bingo, a member of the board of directors, as it turned out.
That client is mine
What would you have thought at this juncture? Was it a good thing that he was gone? No. I’ll tell you what I thought: What an opportunity! That client is mine. Just as soon as I finish this seminar.
The seminar concluded. I headed to the regional director’s office to get my coat and briefcase. Naturally, I was intercepted by his assistant. Casually I asked, “Are they both in the office?”
And that’s how it works. I don’t go grovelling and ask whether it might be at all possible to inconvenience the director for an eventual meeting, if he could spare a moment, please. No, I said, “Are they both in the office?” The assistant accepted my password and gave me the green light. “Yes,” she said.
I knocked, walked right in, and said, “Hello, gentlemen, I just wanted to get my belongings.”
I went over to the regional director to say goodbye. Wasn’t it a little audacious, you’re thinking, to ignore protocol and not address the board director first? No, I didn’t think so. After all, he hadn’t introduced himself to me either! Only fair. Besides, kowtowing is not an option. So, I approached the regional director, shook his hand, said goodbye, and then turned to the board director. I nodded and asked him, “Do you enjoy reading?”.
Who’s going to say no to a question like that? He nodded. I said, “If you give me your card, I’ll make sure you receive a copy of my best-selling book.”
He withdrew a card from his pocket and handed it to me. Now I could go. I had his card, bingo.
I then sent him a letter together with my book, explaining that he would presumably have thought the worst of me as a sales trainer, if I hadn’t taken the opportunity to make myself known.
'Proper Channels' are for wimps
Why am I telling you this story? Because seizing an opportunity in this manner is not a question of courage but a matter of self-perception. If I’m just a nice guy who enjoys the occasional sale, I will fail to spot the word 'opportunity' on the forehead of the unknown intruder in my seminar. Sales professionals, on the other hand, genuine sales professionals who are always on duty, will recognise it instantly. I am a sales professional. If a top decision-maker like the board director comes my way, I have no choice but to act, regardless of the consequences, whether or not I get a deal out of it. Don’t listen to those who always tell you that you have to go through the proper channels. You don’t have to do anything. The only thing you have to do is sell. That is, if you’re a true sales professional. The top decision-maker can always refer you to a lower-ranked employee if he wishes to.
By Martin Limbeck, international sales authority and sought-after keynote speaker, dubbed 'The Porsche of Sales.' With his best-in-class German Sales Engineering approach, he helps sales professionals seal more deals. Martin has trained and inspired audiences in twenty-one countries for more than twenty years. The Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) has been honoured as Top Speaker of the Year 2014, International Speaker of the Year 2012, and Trainer of the Year 2011 and 2008. He teaches at Reutlingen European School of Business, Steinbeis University Berlin, and St. Gallen University, and is the author of several bestsellers, including NO Is Short for Next Opportunity: How Top Sales Professionals Think and Why Nobody Wants You to Get to the Top...: ...and How I Made It Anyway.