Want more conversations with decision makers and influencers at senior levels? Want to engage the people who have the authority to sign your agreements and accelerate your sales cycles? Then you'll have to enter the Statusphere.
Consider the perspective of celebrated author and journalist Tom Wolfe, a keen observer of the status anxieties and ambitions that motivate human behavior.
In his book The Right Stuff, he wrote about the status hierarchies associated with military pilots, suggesting that astronauts were by no means at the apex of this highly competitive pyramid.
In Bonfire of the Vanities, he addressed the challenges facing social strivers in 1980s Manhattan.
In Back to Blood, Wolfe's latest novel set in Miami, he addresses the status struggles of Cuban-Americans, Russian plutocrats, Haitian immigrants, wealthy patrons of modern art, a psychiatrist focused on porn addiction, a Yale-educated editor of the Miami Herald, a mayor and a police chief.
"I think every living moment of a human being's life, unless the person is starving or in immediate danger of death in some other way, is controlled by a concern for status," says Wolfe.
While he's exaggerating a bit, I think he's essentially right. In fact, I'll never forget the time, rushing to catch my flight, I asked an airline staff member which security line I should enter. Her response: "Do you have status?" I was stunned. Good question. One I've heard many times since in airports.
It's a question that senior decision makers ask themselves when someone requests a sales meeting. Should I take this meeting? Does this person rise to my altitude?
Of course, sales managers are always telling salespeople to call higher. Underperformers are likely to get an earful in this regard. They are pressured to get senior level access.
But it's not an easy accomplishment. After all, senior decision makers and influencers seek a status match. They are typically unwilling to meet with, or take calls from, someone perceived to be of lower status. To do so is to diminish their own perceived sense of status.
(And, to be fair, it may be a waste of time anyway. According to Forrester Research, 85% of executives say sales meetings don't live up to their expectations.)
It may not be politically correct to acknowledge this reality, but it's the truth nevertheless. You don't get executive access unless you are perceived as a peer or a valued advisor. Territorial sales reps need not waste their time.
So what's the solution? How do you get access?
One possibility is leveraging the status of your most senior executives. That means setting up meetings by deploying C- level leaders – whether it's your CEO, CFO, or CMO. Startups often heavily rely on their founders to get access and make their initial deals possible.
If you are looking to make a peer match, you can put people together who speak the same language and are experiencing the same sorts of challenges.
The problem? This approach doesn't really scale. Your executive leaders have a responsibility to lead. While they can spend a lot more time engaged in client conversations than they probably do, there is a limit to how much you can deploy them. Their time and availability is constrained.
That's why you want to build an array of thought leaders and trusted authorities within your organization. You can deploy them upfront in the decision cycle to get access to senior people.
As thought leaders, they can be perceived as high status figures if you build them up as such. You can use assorted subject matter experts, market strategists, and solution architects to establish this kind of credibility and convey valuable insight in a decision cycle.
Executive leaders are often quite interested in meetings that promise to make them smarter or clarify issues that are critical to their success. However, they don't expect sales reps to have this level of expertise – and, to a great extent, they are right.
That said, sales reps can continue to play a critical role in the process by facilitating the decision as it moves forward. They will merely rely on their C-level execs, thought leaders, and subject matter experts to open doors and move the decision forward at key points in the process.
By selling at a higher level, you can accelerate the decision-making cycle. You can overcome the no decision problem and close more deals. But to get that opportunity you need access. You need to enter the Statusphere. Your thought leaders can get you to the right altitude.
***Want to learn more? Check out Visible Impact's point of view on Executive Perspectives. Or give me us call at 512-415-7936.