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How to Know If You’re Selling High Enough in the Organization

Author Kendra Lee

Every successful salesperson knows that you’re supposed to sell to the decision maker. It’s one of the primary qualification questions in requirements gathering right out of the gate: who will be making the decision?

The contacts you’re speaking with are quick to affirm that they are indeed the decision maker. They ask key questions. They even share their version of the strategic need for your solution. But still your gut tells you, this isn’t the right person.

When you’re selling a solution that will impact how a company fundamentally does business, it’s critical that you’re talking high enough in the organization for the value of your solution and your company’s differentiation to be fully understood. But are you?

Will this person recognize the value you bring? Will they understand the nuances of your differentiation? Will the impact of your recommendations make sense to them?

Simple Tips

One quick way to determine if you’re selling high enough in the organization is to watch how your contact responds to your strategic business recommendations.

  • If you are selling too low in the organization then your strategic recommendations will fall on deaf ears. It may not be because your contacts don’t want to hear your ideas. It’s more likely that they don’t fully understand your recommendations and can’t see the value of them for their company.
  • If you’re selling at the right level, your contact will engage in the conversation and ask tough questions to validate the believability of your recommendation. They understand the significance to their company. Now they have to determine if it fits their vision.

Here’s how to know when you’re selling too low in the organization.

Let’s say you’re talking with an office manager about moving their IT managed services from their current provider to you. There have been recurring issues that haven’t been resolved and the office manager is downright frustrated with the staff’s complaints. You know your solution is going to cost more and fixing the recurring issues isn’t the only benefit to their business of outsourcing support to your firm. You start to discuss how IT is not an expense. Rather, if you’re using it shrewdly, it can help grow the company in both revenue and profitability. You have ideas on how they can do that.

The office manager simply looks at you with a blank stare. You push on and share how you recommend she put a technology plan in place to address the business growth objectives and include a security plan to avoid ransomware and hacking that has become so prevalent. You talk about how important it is to think 3 years ahead and plan for growth.

She interrupts you with, “Yea, that sounds expensive. What we really need is for the recurring issues to go away. That’s all.”

You’re talking to the wrong person.

Who’s Got Vision?

In order to have your strategic recommendations and comprehensive proposals heard and their value fully understood, you need to talk with somebody who sets the vision within the company. Most likely that means the CEO or CFO in midsize companies, or the business owner in small companies.

If you’re selling below the C-level at a manager level, those people don’t have the right insight into where the company is going. They can’t comprehend the strategic recommendations that you’re making and how they can help forward the company’s growth. Nor do they have the budget to implement a comprehensive proposal.

If you have a strategic proposal that you want to get passed through a company, then you have to sell to the top level: the C-level, the CFO and the business owner. If you’re not selling high enough in the company, then your proposals will fall on deaf ears and never move forward.


Kendra Lee is president of KLA Group, which works with companies to break in and exceed revenue objectives in the Small and Midmarket Business (SMB) segment. Read more blogs from Kendra here.

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