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Getting Past the Secretary

Have you ever needed to call a manager for an interview or ever wanted the opportunity to deliver a ten (10) second "elevator pitch" to an executive? Try a new strategy that has gotten me through to (2) CEO’s of multi-billion dollar corporations, (14) Manager Partners at Big Six accounting firms, and (35) Senior Vice Presidents that led to join ventures discussions for a small enterprise in NH. The approach addresses the biggest roadblock developed in corporate culture, how do you get past a secretary?

=== The Timing ===

My philosophy - Secretaries Stall & Saturdays Rule!

How many secretaries work on Saturday morning?

How many executives or senior managers work on Saturday morning?

As much as you may despise corporate management, unless you have been one, you may not understand their behavior and what motivates them. Many executives are casually doing paperwork on Saturday mornings and will answer the phone as they are not expecting anyone but family to be calling them. Their guard is down and they are relaxed without the hectic noise of the office crowd. Additionally, they will not cut short your conversation to tend a crisis. Who is bringing them a crisis on a Saturday?

A few years ago, when I held a senior post, I had my most productive office time on Saturdays from 7:00am to 11:00am. A person calling my office at 8:00am on a Saturday with a sense of humor, I would ask them "why are you working on Saturday", then would give them 10 minutes for their effort.

=== The Pitch ===

Who to call? Start at the top. Don't be shy, timid, or afraid to call a CEO's office. Being forwarded to a Senior Vice President by the CEO's office has had a positive impact for me. Your pitch needs to be concise, well rehearsed, and no more than five sentences. You'll have 10 seconds before they hang up or delete your voice message.

An example - "Hi, I'm calling to introduce myself..." (click)

An example - "Hi, I'm calling to bring your business $7 million in sales. With whom should I speak with?" (the hook – you have their attention - now proceed)

=== The Technique ===

Leave a message for an executive on a Saturday morning at 9:00am. Your ten (10) second "hook" needs to be up beat, clear, and be of cash benefit to THEM. It cannot be about you. The most common mistake is to babble on about what YOU want - they don't care - but if you talk about how you can increase their bonus by increasing next quarter's profits, your odds of getting a call back are much higher.

Many executives check their messages over the weekend. Few secretaries check messages until 8:30am Monday morning. Use the Dial-by-Name feature on their phone system to get directly into an executive's voice mailbox. With no gatekeeper on the line to say, "sorry he/she's in a meeting, may I ask why you're calling?" you should feel confident in your approach and delivery.

I have used this technique successfully over my career. Once I was cold calling Managing Partners at Big Six accounting firms to discuss expanding their consulting business through a joint marketing program. Unless you are a senior executive at one of their client sites or can discuss getting them access to a senior executive at a new potential client, you will have little hope of getting their attention. However, with a concise pitch, I had consistent results each Monday morning. When I left a message for (10) different partners on Saturday, I would receive (1-2) “call backs” on Monday. When I left (30) messages, I would be chuckling on Monday as I received (3-4) “call backs”. My Monday mornings were exciting. While others were discussing their weekend activities over coffee, I was on the phone with Senior Executives setting appointments.

Of (100) Saturday messages left over 4 weekends, I received (14) “call backs” and, yes, I did receive one complaint. I gave my boss a heads-up about the less than positive returned message. As a CEO he shook my hand and said "Congrats! Is that the only one you received? I wish more of my staff had your drive…"

=== Tips & Warnings ===

  • Tape your "elevator pitch" and listen to how amateur you sound.
  • Play your "elevator pitch" to the CFO of your company. CFO's are notorious for candid feedback and (face reality) they WILL understand what a CEO wants as they report to one.
  • Don't lie. If you offer value, say so. If you don't, find another company that does to work for.
  • Don't waste an exec's time. They appreciate value and hate idiots.
  • Don't assume they care. They don't. They aren't your buddy. They work for a living and may be in on a Saturday prior to a vacation trip.
  • Don't overuse this technique calling the same executive. You want to provide them value, not be perceived as a stalker.

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