How to Get an 'In' at the Fortune 1000

Fortune 1000 companies are what I like to call premium client accounts because they are typically larger, which gives you the opportunity to sell more of what you sell. But they are difficult to procure as clients because their decision makers are bombarded by salespeople on a regular basis and, as a result, practice tight screening tactics to prevent you from getting through.

While cold-calling techniques can be very effective if you're both persistent and patient -- even in calling on Fortune 1000 companies -- there is a better way.

You're probably familiar with networking as a technique to try to get into high-level companies, but I would guess your networking strategy is typical of most entrepreneurs. If so, you attend networking events and work with referral partners by asking, "Whom do you know that I could talk to who might benefit from the products and services I offer?"

Instead of this approach to networking, try company-specific networking. Here's how it works:

Create a spreadsheet of your top 10 most desirable premium accounts. The headings across the top of each column should read as follows: Company name, contact name, mailing address, e-mail address, phone number and notes.

Next, complete as much of the information on the spreadsheet as you already have. Company name is the most obvious, but include mailing address and phone number if you have it. Whatever information you don't have, leave blank.

Here's where it gets interesting.

E-mail your best referral partners and contacts, and attach the desired premium accounts spreadsheet you've just completed. Send the e-mail to one referral partner at a time, rather than an e-mail blast, to keep it more personal. The body of the e-mail should read something like this:

"Hi (referral partner name)! I'm on a quest for some new premium accounts, and I'm hoping you can help me.

"Attached you will find a spreadsheet of my top 10 most desired accounts. I have completed the information I already have and am hoping you will have some additional information that I am missing, such as the appropriate contact name at each company. I prefer to speak directly with (title of your decision maker); however, I would greatly appreciate having contact information for anyone you know inside each organization so I can get my foot in the door.

"In exchange for your help with this project, I would be happy to do the same for you. Thanks in advance for your help!"

You may also consider offering a Starbucks gift card, in a nominal amount, as a thank-you for any information provided by your referral partners.

Also, notice the offer at the end of the e-mail that you would be happy to do the same for each of your referral partners. That offer will increase your chances for success in getting your spreadsheet back with some of the additional information you're missing. The people who receive your e-mail will be thrilled to help because they understand the effectiveness of such a networking strategy and can implement the same strategy with you and their other referral partners.

Once you get your spreadsheet back, you'll have the information you need to get your foot in the door with each of your premium accounts. Ideally, instead of cold calling, you'll have a contact name at each company. If the contact is the decision maker you needed, great. All you have to do now is call that person and use your referral partner's name as a reference.

If the person you have been referred to is not the decision maker, you still have the "in" you need. Call the contact you were given, using your referral partner's name as a reference. Then simply ask the person you've been referred to the name of the appropriate person to speak with, based on the products and services you provide.