Are you struggling to accelerate sales cycles and meet your sales objectives? Maybe it’s because your people aren’t reaching enough senior decision makers.

You may even be pressing your people to sell higher. You may be frustrated by their tendency to spend most of their time with people who don’t have much influence on the decison. You may be imploring them to storm the executive suite. But can they? Do they have the credibility to get a meeting with the top person?

After all, senior-level decision makers may be unwilling to meet with people who are perceived as lower status than themselves. They may tend to push those meetings down to lower levels. To grant a meeting, they generally need to know the person they are meeting with is truly an expert — an authority in some sense on matters relevant to them.

This is the new logic of high impact selling: The larger the deal size, the more senior the decision maker. The more senior the decision maker, the more they expect the person conducting the initial meeting to be a thought leader (in some respect) and to understand their specific situation (in some depth). They want to meet with someone they see as a peer. That person must have the requisite business acumen; the confidence to converse on an executive level. 

If your salespeople are not likely to be seen as peers by key decision-makers, it may be necessary to selectively draw on others in your company — individuals that are perceived as authorities in the field.

With this in mind, companies engaged in a high impact sale should consider developing a thought leadership platform — a solid base on which key experts can stand and be elevated. Your appointed experts should be encouraged to publish, present, and develop a following. You’ll then want to sequence them into the sales process at the opportune moment — perhaps the initial meeting with the buyer’s key decision maker. This is how you can get much-needed deal velocity.

Your thought leaders may be limited in number, but their time can be actively leveraged. How? By enabling them to conduct meetings through web and videoconferencing. Evidence suggests that buyers are increasingly comfortable with such media. In fact, such media can enable your thought leaders to present ideas, graphics and visual concepts that may be far more difficult to convey in person.

While these high-level meetings may or may not happen in person, the point is that the executive decision maker is most likely to meet with someone who is perceived as having equal (or superior) status. They are far less enthusiastic about meeting someone with lower perceived status.

Now, here’s the interesting thing: status can be borrowed.

Think of your sales people as members of a diplomatic corps. Their role may be to set up virtual or face-to-face “summits” where the most senior people can meet and discuss key principles for an agreement. Then, the deal can be handed back to your sales team and the decision-maker’s buying team to work out the details. If the senior decision maker agrees, in principle, that the ideas presented have merit, then the opportunity will have gained considerable momentum.

Thought leaders, in other words, don’t have to be deal closers. But it may be increasingly important to involve them as deal openers — trusted authorities that can enable your organization to obtain and conduct key meetings with key decision makers at an early stage. If you can reach these senior people early in a business relationship, you can challenge the status quo, articulate a new direction, establish trust and confidence, and accelerate the deal cycle.

Otherwise, your sales people are constantly pushing a boulder uphill, trying to gain executive access that is reluctantly (if ever) granted. They will have no ability to initiate a new deal  — much less close one.

The new logic of high impact selling dictates you must get access to senior decision-makers — early in a deal cycle — if you wish to identify latent demand and create new business. The question is: Who has the status to get and lead these critical meetings?