Get Referred to the Top Dog

Our sales coach walks you through the conversation that'll land you a meeting with the top executive.

By Tony Parinello

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Now that you've got more than a few sales under your belt, it's time to get that golden top officer referral! I sometimes hear salespeople (and entrepreneurs) complain that they don't (or can't, or have never been able to) generate quality referrals. Baloney! Here's a simple, reliable way to initiate a powerful referral that puts you on the radar screen of the very important top officer (VITO) at your target organization. It's an extremely powerful technique that has the additional advantage of working quickly. Here's how to pull it off.

Get out your customer list (or if you don't have any customers, get out your prospect list). Start at the bottom of the list, pick up the telephone, and call your current day-to-day contact at that organization. This will typically be someone at a lower level in the organization, and that's okay. I suggest you initiate a conversation that goes something like this:

You: "Hey, Joan, it's Will Prosper. I've got a quick question for you."

Joan: "Yeah, Will--what's on your mind?"

You: "I need a personal favor. Do you know anyone in (the Association of Library Scientists/your industry here in town/the ABC or XYZ company) that I might be able to help in solving a problem or two in a similar way that I've been able to help you?" (Note: These are specific organizations that match your " template of ideal prospects .")

Joan: "Let me see... I know the head of experiments over at Creepy and Crawly Labs. His name is Benjamin Mee, but everyone calls him Buggs for short. Other than that, I can't think of anyone else at the moment."

You: "Great--thanks, Joan. Can you tell me a little bit about what Buggs is doing over at Creepy & Crawly?"

Joan: "Sure. Things are really hopping. They just got a big contract from NASA and I think they're going to expand their operations."

You: "Thanks a million. By the way, could you give some thought to anyone else that you might know between now and our meeting next Tuesday?"

Joan: "Sure, Will--no problem."

Important Note: Do not pick up the phone and call Buggs! I know, it takes willpower, but trust me--this will be worth it. Here's what I want you to do instead:

  • Find out the name, office number and extension of the VITO (President, CEO or Owner) over at Creepy & Crawly. You can do this by either surfing the net, looking at the Chamber of Commerce directory, or using some other directory--maybe the one that you've purchased. You know the one I mean: the one with dust all over its shrink-wrap cover because it's never been used.
  • Pick up the telephone--preferably after hours--call VITO, and leave the following voice message in a confident tone of voice. Make sure you speak slowly enough for VITO to understand what you say:
  • "Mr. Benefito, Joan Goodperson suggested that I make contact with Buggs Mee, your head scientist. We've established a proven track record in helping similar research labs reduce their time-to-revenue without sacrificing quality and safety. Before we make contact with Buggs, could you tell me that if Buggs really likes what he sees and is personally convinced that we can help make your NASA project more profitable, do you know of any reason why you would not support the selection of my organization as a business partner? You can give me a call or have someone else return my call any day between the hours of 3 and 5 p.m. I'll look forward to your guidance and answer before I explore all the possibilities with Buggs. My name is Will Prosper and my number is 800-555-5555. Thanks for listening!"

You just hit pay dirt in the VITO insta-referral jackpot! Trust me, this simple yet powerful process for getting a quick referral to VITO works. And you know what? It's actually fun!

Tony Parinello

Tony Parinello has become the nation's foremost expert on executive-level selling. He's also the author of the bestselling book bearing the name of his sales training program,Getting to VITO, the Very Important Top Officer, 10 Steps to VITO's Office,as well as the host of Club VITO, a weekly live internet broadcast.

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