The Art of the Schmooz: How to Open the Door

When you’re a salesperson trying to get your foot in the door to meet the head of marketing, it can be nearly impossible to get that face time.  Will you succeed in getting the magic key or will the door be closed forever?

Here are four critical tips from the other side of the marketing door you’re trying to breach:

  • Know the company’s name, how to pronounce it, and what it does

Sounds like a no-brainer, but I have at least a dozen people a month who fail this basic test. When someone mispronounces my company’s name, they have to have something I really want if I am to continue the conversation. If think, “if they didn’t do the basic homework on my company, will they be able to do a good job in whatever they are selling?” If you call my company by another name, I wonder if you really intended to call my company or the one with the other name instead and this was a mistake. If you misspell my company’s name, I think you probably don’t pay attention to detail. If you want to get your foot in the door, your number one task is to do your research before you even pick up the phone.

When I worked at a rehabilitation hospital early in my career, I had a myriad of phone calls asking me to advertise in directories and other books for alcohol abuse. These sales people hadn’t even bothered to find out that my hospital was a physical rehab facility. It was a waste of my time, but also theirs. When you have sales goals based on number of contacts, and your contact list doesn’t match, that hurts your metrics as well. And, do you really need another “no”?

  • Know the name of the current person in charge and with whom you’re intending to speak

People change jobs and get promotions. There’s about a 3-month grace period wherein it’s acceptable to not know of any personnel changes (and this is a good ice-breaker if you get through – asking them where they were prior to joining the company, but be respectful of their time).

If the company has a receptionist, ask that receptionist how to pronounce the person’s name. Look at LinkedIn for a quick bio so you know a little about the person, but don’t stop there. Google the person’s name to find out more. I can’t emphasize this enough. It’s a sign of respect that you took the time to find out as much as you could about the company and with whom you want to do business. And it will help you gain a better understanding of where to begin the conversation.  For instance, if you are calling me about SEO or PPC services your company offers, a quick look at LinkedIn will show you I am GAIQ and AdWords certified. Your conversation can start at a higher level than someone who has no understanding about click-through rates and conversion goals.

  • Know that we know all the tactics salespeople use to get in the door

One thing many salespeople don’t realize when they are contacting the head of marketing is that marketers are in the same field as salespeople! How about that. Those of us who have been in the industry for awhile have had salespeople or subordinates and know the training and stop-gaps salespeople are taught when they hear the word no. If you are contacting the head of marketing, you need to approach the person as an insider – like you would your boss. How would you persuade your boss to buy your widget?

Active listening is imperative. Listen for cues to what they are saying. Of course, you have to know not just your product or service well, but you have to know what their needs and problems are so you can give them an actual resolution to what pains them.

What gets my attention is someone who knows more about something than I do. As the department head, I have a wide knowledge of many subjects; however, I may not be an expert at implementation with all of them. I know a little html code to get myself in trouble, and I could spend time figuring out the rest… if I needed. I need a hero to solve my problems and do the jobs that I can’t do or don’t have time to do.

  • Be obvious about the schmooz

When my career has taken me to other companies, I have brought many of my vendors with me. We’ve built relationships with time and experience. Respect that you may be competing against a well-established competitor. That doesn’t mean there isn’t a fit. It means that maybe you should start by asking for a little piece of pie instead of the main entree.

So let’s get down to the obligatory schmooz. We all know the deal. Be obvious, laugh about it, and let’s enjoy. Don’t try to win me over with false adoration or dig deep about my inner most desires to find out what motivates me.

And swag – I’m the master of swag at my company. I have a closet full of it because it’s something we all get, right? I don’t need another cellphone stand or koozie.  Now, if you are going to come by with a Starbucks, bring me a venti Salted Caramel Macchiato or a Caramel Brulée Latte, and you’ll get about 4 minutes of my time.

But seriously, if you want to open the door, just be genuine, be funny, be helpful, and most importantly – be yourself. If there is a natural fit, it will happen.

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