For Best Results, Start at the Top, Part 1

In the popular Broadway play, “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying,” the scheming Pierpont Finch almost sees his corporate rise come to an abrupt and humiliating end after he is blamed for a botched game-show promotion. Just as he is about to be fired, he takes a chance. He boldly approaches the chairman of the board and asks for the opportunity to explain. When the chairman discovers that both he and Finch began their careers as window washers, Finch goes from the outhouse to the penthouse. The moral of the story is, then, if you possibly can, talk to the person at the top.

Consider this scenario, one that may be familiar to you: The manager of a full-service fitnessfacility decides, after reading about the benefits of corporate wellness programs, that he should approach a local company about discounted memberships for its 300 employees.He calls the company switchboard and says, “Hello, this is Joe Manager from Superfit Wellness. I wonder if you could connect me with the person who deals with corporate wellness.” The receptionist gives him the usual “one moment please,” and the next thing he knows he’s talking to Eugenia Resource, director of human relations. He explains his reason for the call. Eugenia says, “That sounds interesting. We don’t have any sort of corporate wellness program right now. Why don’t you send me the information and I’ll get back to you.” OK, Joe thinks, now we’re cooking. After sending the information to Eugenia and following up with several phone calls, it’s clear to Joe that he is spinning his wheels and getting no results. This deal isn’t happening.

Like Pierpont Finch, Joe needs to talk to the person at the top. He knows that he can impress the top person with both the hard (bottom-line dollars) and soft (improved morale, reduced turnover) benefits that will result from introducing the employees to a healthier lifestyle. But how can you get to that top person to make your pitch?

In an informative and entertaining book, Selling to VITO (Very Important Top Officer), Anthony Parinello explains the steps that will get you in front of the top decision-makers, close the deal and get the cash flowing.

Step 1: Change your attitude

If you want the VITO to avoid you and your attempts at personal communication, position yourself as a sales person. VITOs don’t talk to sales people; they refer these calls to underlings. On the other hand, VITOs are interested in talking to people who want to enter into useful and mutually-beneficial business relationships. Show theVITO how you can help achieve benefits for the company, and you have a better chance at getting a meeting.

Step 2: Become the right kind of partner

VITOs don’t want to waste theirtime talking to people who aren’t their business equals, or who don’t project the same air of confidence, at least.

So how do you meet the VITO? Many action clubs, such as Rotary and the Chamber of Commerce, are always looking for speakers. Consider a short presentation on the benefits of exercise. You will not only meet VITOs, but you will also establish your credibility in front of a group of potential prospects who would nowbe more receptive to meeting you privately.