By Brian Mitchell, Managing Partner & CEO
When I first started my sales career in the 90’s (yes, I’m friggen old, it is what it is), I read a book called Selling to VITO. VITO was an acronym for Very Important Top Officers. VITOs are influential decision-makers, the holy grail of the entry level AE. The author had a theory around the VITO attention span and he stated that they grow in 8 second intervals. I don’t recall the ‘sales science’ behind the intervals, but the concept made sense. The concept was these people are busy, they don’t know you, they don’t like distractions, but that value is not a distraction – bottom line, they need to hear/feel/experience/sense some value in a hurry.
The way in which we communicate with those we want to engage – e.g. those we don’t know, those in especially high demand, those with power and influence – is critically important. Generalities, obvious observations, poor articulation, slow delivery, and “me too” approaches don’t add value. They lead to calls or meetings abruptly ending, they lead to deafening silence to your email, voicemail, and text overtures, both initially and/or in follow ups. If you can’t convince VITO to give you another 8 seconds, then 16, then 32, and ultimately an ongoing reception, you’re dead in the water as a revenue generator. No VITO = no partnership, no deals, no funding, no cha ching, no bueno.
Ok, I’ll stop with the smartass tone (not really) to make a point and hopefully add some value myself. LOOK THROUGH THEIR LENS. How can you add immediate perceived value to the individual whose attention you desire? Don’t dive into your mechanical sales pitch, you’re not selling aluminum siding over the phone (or whatever robocalls are coming through nowadays). What do you bring that’s unique and helps them? What do you know about this individual, their company, their function, their competition, their ecosystem, their tech, their threats, their opportunities? I’m not saying you need to be an expert and do a mountain of research before you email someone asking for a meeting, but you had better know something about the lens with which they look through or VITO ain’t responding.
Bottomline, VITO is always thinking – “add value and make it easy, and I’ll keep listening and maybe we’ll be collegial in a short while if you keep it up”. Answer the question they’re not asking, but are most definitely exuding – Why do I want to listen to you? What can you do for me that is unique? What is this going to require of me? WHY SHOULD I CARE WHAT YOU REPRESENT?
I’m not saying I’m a VITO, but I do get daily inquiries from would-be vendors who want to do business with my company. Here’s the thing – those vendors immediately start pitching me via email or LinkedIn or other pursuits. I get it! I work with lots of digital marketing companies and understand how mass campaigns work, but it’s often lazy and not well-targeted. Stop selling me and start helping me! Know something about my pain points vs. your product features. Do you know the irony of how difficult it is to hire great long-term recruiters? Do you know the less predictable capital challenges of being in a cash for services business that isn’t built on perpetuity models (like SaaS)? Stand out by knowing something about me and the lens I look through, otherwise, I’ve already deleted your email.
I also receive inquiries everyday from several would-be candidates who want to speak with me about their career goals. That’s cool, I get it, and I like helping people…..I really do. That said, executive recruiters are not paid by candidates and it’s not a personnel agency. If you want a good recruiter’s attention, make it easy. If you’re in a different time zone, please don’t ask to speak at a time without designating the time zone. I’m not saying I’m so important, it’s not an ego thing, but I’m busy and that is annoying. Now I need to reply back to you by qualifying which time zone and this isn’t an efficient use of my time. Make it easy on me. If you’re requesting a call, but don’t provide your number in your email – guess what? Annoying too. This isn’t a good use of my time and will yield less desired responses. If you’re seeking advice or opportunities, please don’t email a recruiter even if you’re responding to a warm introduction without a copy of your CV or at least your LinkedIn profile and contact number. Make it easy on them. When a recruiter asks for a “CV”, don’t respond asking “what is a CV?”. Ever heard of Google? Ok ok, now I’m getting snarky, but hopefully, the point is received. VITO could be anyone whose attention you want so just think about “well, what do they want?” and you’ll be amazed how that approach will actually produce your desired outcome. Add value and make it easy.
I actually received a note from someone the other day who caught my attention. In a concise message asking to connect and have a conversation he included the phrasing “happy to help unconditionally anytime – intros to my network or any other way I can assist”. Her profile wasn’t terribly relevant, but I just flat out appreciated her approach – she was looking through my lens, thinking about ways she could add value to me, making it easy on me……help unconditionally. I don’t know what she’s gonna try to sell me, but she got my attention and I’m going to listen and if I perceive value, I’ll keep listening. The most self-serving practice you can have as a professional is to seek to understand and help those you want to do business with.
Add value, and make it easy.