Does This Kind of Sales Call Ever Work?

I’m occasionally amazed at what kind of sales tactics people use. Apparently this must work on occasion, but if so, I’m amazed.

I just listened to a voicemail message in which a would-be vendor of a fairly expensive online service implicitly complains to me about the inability of somebody else in the company to see how much and why we need what this person is selling.

What is he thinking? Does he imagine I’m going to walk down the hall and pass that complaint on?

One thing I’ve learned about delegation — and it may have taken me a long time, but I do think I’ve learned it — is that you can’t ask anybody to do something for you, much less decide something for you, if you’re going to second guess them on it later. And that means, by extension, if you’re going to listen to a vendor about what’s wrong with your teammate.

In this case it’s about an area of the business that we do very well and that I’ve not been involved in for years. And its even more ironic because we changed management last year, the teammate in question doesn’t even report to me, and is in fact way more involved in the daily operation and management than I am.

I wouldn’t have taken the call, but of course that’s why the person is in voicemail.

Which brings me to the question in the title of this post: does that ever work? Does anybody ever make a sale by going over the head of the person making the decision?


  • John Ainsworth says:

    I used to work in sales and run a sales team, and learnt the hard way that most of what most sales people do doesn't work.

    I never worked in B2B sales, so don't know about the tactic this guy is trying first hand. I can't see this working very often. Unfortunately though that's not because he's going above the decision maker.

    In my experience most people don't delegate well, and many bosses are perfectly prepared to unpick a decision made by someone they've 'delegated' to. However in order to get in with this boss would normally require some kind of leverage – knowing them through another route works particularly well.

  • Charles Robinson says:

    Actually it happens a lot, particularly in certain areas. I have seen a certain vendor win competitive situations time and again by going over the head of IT managers or directors directly to board members or CxO's and either buying them out or lieing to them. The latter shouldn't work, but it does.

  • Jamie says:

    What an annoying way to be pitched. However, since it is, as you say, "an expensive online service," then this tactic need work only a handful of times to reap huge (and ongoing) dividends for the salesman.

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