Use the ‘Silver Bullet’

Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:36 pm

This is one of those things I put into the category of a "best-kept secret in selling," or, if you like, a "silver bullet."

It is almost magical in its simplicity and effectiveness.

Here’s the scenario. You’ve targeted an executive that you want to reach at a prospective customer account. You’ve determined that, in this case, the best way to get his or her attention is through an executive access letter. And, if you don’t mind saying so yourself, you’ve crafted a beaut!

Now what?

You could drop it in the mail, but you know from experience that it’s likely to be intercepted and redirected to, "a more appropriate sales contact" by the exec’s administrative assistant (AA). You could FedEx it. Ah yes, that will show its importance! Actually, not really. This usually ends up as just a faster and more expensive redirect.

Here’s what you do: "pre-sell" it with the AA. It goes like this:

1. Call switchboard to confirm name of executive and get administrative assistant’s name (if you don’t already have them)

2. Call administrative assistant:

a. "Hi this is [ XX ] from [ XX ] (don’t pause and, whatever you do, don’t ask how she is) and I’m sending a letter to [Mr. Smith] (still no pausing), I just want to make sure I have the spelling and address, and the like correct. Can you help me?"

b. Verify everything (including middle initial and spelling of executive’s first name). Then add,

c. "I’m wondering, since his name is Harold, do most people call him Harry? Hank? Mr. Smith?" Executive’s assistant responds, "EVERYONE calls him ‘Bud.’ "(Your letter should now be addressed, "Dear Bud," not, "Dear Mr. Smith.")

d. Then you say, "By the way, the letter requests a meeting with Bud. Naturally he’ll want to read it before scheduling a meeting with me. If he does choose to schedule the meeting, would he normally do that directly, or through you?" The AA says, "Through me."

e. Then you say, "I’ll bet he gets a ton of mail, doesn’t he? I wonder if I could bother you to keep an eye out for the letter and just get it in a stack he’ll see in the next few days (understate your request). It’ll be in a 9×12 envelope I’ll call you in a few days to follow up." (If she says, "he’ll be gone for two weeks," wait to send the letter.)

On the appointed day, call to see if the letter has arrived. Ask if she is aware if Bud has read it or not. Be prepared for anything. Have your sound bites ready because the assistant might just put you straight into the executive without much warning.

I don’t make a lot of "guarantees." But I do with the Pre-selling Process. It is among the most time-tested proven tactics in all of selling. Its hit rate, in terms of getting the letter to its intended recipient, is over 90 percent. But be forewarned: don’t mess with the recipe! One little, "how are you" at the opening or "Could you get it to him right away" (instead of  "just get it in a stack he’ll see in the next few days"), and all bets – and guarantees – are off.

Jerry Stapleton is the founder of Stapleton Resources LLC, a Waukesha-based sales force effectiveness practice. He can be reached at (262) 524-8099 or on the Web at

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