A critical attribute of a pivotal contact is their level of access. How well are they known, respected and trusted? Are they perceived to be of quantifiable value? If not regarded highly, their access will be extremely limited. A pivotal contact’s level of access can be categorized in four distinct areas:
Meet almost any chief strategy officer, astute executive in investor relations, strategic general counsel, or those few in human resources who can align business strategy with investing in an organization’s human capital and you will quickly recognize their unfettered and unrestricted access. While many complain about not having a seat at the table, the roles characterized here earned that seat through exemplary performance in their respective functions and their canny ability to quickly assess opportunities and risk and communicate critical matters to the appropriate executives.
Restricted access could be due to a functional role such as that of a product engineer, which doesn’t necessarily lend itself to private conversations with a CEO. This could also include geographic limitations – a remote office in Albuquerque, New Mexico, has trouble accessing executives at the corporate office in downtown Manhattan.
New members of an organization may have restricted access because they haven’t earned their stripes or don’t yet have the proper professional maturity. Or, perhaps they have stumbled in the past and have lost their access because they have abused it and broke someone’s trust. In some cases, an individual’s access is limited because their superiors are potentially threatened or annoyed by them.
It is critical to understand why a pivotal contact’s access is restricted because there are certain reasons – like experience – that can be made up for and others that are truly insurmountable.
There is another group not to be ignored because they can often be a great source of firsthand knowledge and insights at the street-level rank and file. This group is often passionate about their contributions, and their lack of access could be easily overlooked with a high degree of domain expertise. Think of that frontline project manager or that firt-year associate out of law school.
It’s okay to not know – but assume to have access and pursue that pivotal contact and you will waste a lot of cycles and resources.
Make sure you take the time to answer the question about your pivotal contacts level of access. You will begin to see dramatic results as a result of your strategic relationship efforts.