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The Top Down or Bottom Up Approach

bottom up and top down

You hear a lot about different ways to prospect and the expressions top down approach or bottom up approach you will surely come across. This might be pretty self-explanatory but let’s take a look at the meaning of both.

Top Down Approach – This is when you prospect the highest level of management within an organisation. Then they refer you down to someone who will spend the time discussing your offering and finally pass that information back up the chain for final approval.

When you get referred down it is pretty much guaranteed that the person you engage with next will make the time to talk with you due to the referral from above. The problem with this is how long it can take to get through to top level management in order to get a referral if that outcome even happens.

Bottom Up Approach – This is when you prospect to the lower level of an organisation and they refer you up to a potential decision maker or someone better positioned to discuss your offering.

When you get referred up you’re steadily climbing the ladder as a referral from below is not typically considered as strong as one from above. Using the bottom up approach means you will likely need to speak with more people in order to get through to a decision maker.

So which one is the best approach?

Why not both? I don’t understand why some experts out there advise salespeople to only go for the top down approach instead of including both into your prospecting activities. For me, this is limiting the scope of contact a salesperson can make with an organisation. By speaking to other members within a business (the bottom up) and not just senior level (the top down) you not only increase the percentage of people talking about your product or service but you also increase the familiarity within that company. Think about it this way, if you had a really good conversation with a marketing assistant, for example, and they liked you or your offering they may get off the phone and speak to their colleague sitting next to them about that call. They may connect with a decision maker at lunch or while grabbing a coffee in the communal area and mention you and your company. When you send through additional information by email and they forward this up the chain, their email might be opened and not ignored like your cold outreach potentially will be. These are just some examples of what could happen, but the point of this is to not completely dismiss one approach over the other.

Top salespeople know that incorporating both of these approaches will lead to greater success!

You Never Know Who Could Be An Influencer

Following on from my previous comment, you never know who could be a potential influencer to your preferred contact. Even speaking with different departments to the one you need to speak with can be productive to your prospecting endeavours. You can gain insights into organisations and the people within by talking to others outside of the department that you ultimately want to engage with.

Ask yourself this, who do you speak with in your company or who do you see speaking to each other in your company? Does the customer success team engage with the sales team around the office or at lunch? Does the marketing team engage with people from these departments? Do any of these people engage in out of work activities, sports, drinks, meals etc? Maybe someone from the marketing department is dating or married to someone from the sales department?

My point here is a simple one, by speaking to and building rapport with multiple people within an organisation, inside and potentially outside of your preferred scope can lead to your ultimate goal. You never know who could put in a good word for you, you never know who might bring you, your company or your product or service up during a conversation and then, when you call again or send your next email to your primary contact, he or she might have a flicker of recognition to the name which could then open up the opportunity that you are waiting for.

Spend some of your time building rapport with multiple people within a company you’re targeting through social media, phone, email, it doesn’t matter the channel but by mixing this into your daily prospecting activities you can increase your presence and your success.

Ultimately, think about and remember this: you never know who can be an influencer to your preferred contact.

In Conclusion

Prospecting is tough at the best of times and if you have days where you don’t have any meaningful conversations with potential buyers it can be even tougher and potentially discouraging for some. By including both the top down approach as well as the bottom up approach in your daily activities you will be targeting the key decision makers and budget holders, but if you haven’t had any luck with getting their attention by speaking to lower level contacts you’re engaging, finding insights and information to note in your CRM which you can use on your next attempt. Remember information is key and you never know where you might get that information from!

“Build rapport with everyone you speak with. If they’re not the decision maker that doesn’t mean they have no authority. You never know who could be an influencer to your preferred contact”

– Ben James

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The Top Down or Bottom Up Approach

by Ben James time to read: 3 min
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