After leaving the training department of Johnson Wax Professional in 1996, I sold on behalf of the Corporate Accounts division during my last two years with the company. Selling for this department was totally different than selling for the distributor sales side of the business. I went from selling with and through distributor sales representatives over to selling my accounts on a direct basis.
I was selling to national retail chains who were purchasing cleaning products in full truckloads, with orders being shipped into national warehouses. Delivery to individual stores was accomplished through a distribution system owned by the stores. My accounts were companies such as Safeway Supermarkets, and Eddie Bauer department stores, located in the northwestern part of the US. If the account did not purchase in full truckloads, then I was not allowed to even call on them.
Selling on a direct basis to retail chains was my first experience with “top – down selling” techniques. Our goal was to introduce our company and ourselves to high-level buying influencers, often called “C-level” buyers. We needed to be positively positioned with them for future selling within the account. These people would have titles such as CEO, COO, CFO, President or owner of the corporation.
Today the book by Anthony Parinello called “Selling to VITO,” where VITO means Very Important Top Officer, is an excellent source of information on how to sell accounts at this level.
An important point to make here is that these C-level buyers have limited knowledge about the products that we are trying to sell to their companies. A sales person who attempts to present product at this point in the process is making a mistake. Our goal should be to spend a few minutes making a personal introduction, exchanging business cards with this buyer, describing how we work with these types of accounts, and asking their thoughts on the direction that we should take to begin selling within the account. I will have more ideas on this in my next Blog.