Apple introduced a well-recognized marketing campaign under Steve Jobs with the slogan "Think Different" knowing full well that it could be interpreted as a grammatically incorrect statement and stir controversy. Nevertheless, Jobs insisted that he wanted the word "different" to be used as a noun, as in "think victory" or "think beauty," focusing on what people should think instead of how they should think (requiring an adverb). History proves that he made the correct choice because that campaign firmly established Apple as the "different" provider - the creative alternative. Apple became the innovator in a field dominated by a larger, yet less imaginative competitor who would one day be overtaken in the competitive world of consumer electronics.

The point here is to recognize that getting that first appointment with the "right" person in a world where the messaging noise has reached epic proportions requires that we think "different." We must position ourselves as the creative and intriguing provider with whom a prospective customer would want to talk or better yet, meet. We can only do that by truly understanding our prospect's operating reality. We need to use Objective Perception and focus our efforts on what would be interesting to them in order to strike their desire to have a conversation with us.

Planning to attain that result begins before our initial communication, be it phone or e-mail. We need to first imagine what product or service performance gaps our customers routinely face and then apply that knowledge to the message we deliver to our prospect - most optimally in the form of a question. For instance, "When you think of sales performance improvement, what skills are most in demand in your customer interactions?"

Additionally, there should be an understanding of "who" within the prospective organization has the most interest in that question, which then helps us navigate toward the right role, title, or position of the prospect we want to be in contact with. If more than one role or position is involved, we might consider a prioritization of making contact so we aim for the nearest target first.

Getting the first appointment with the "right" person is a combination of interpersonal effectiveness and functional skill. The payoff from good planning is that we shorten the prospecting time and engage with the contact that will be the most helpful in gaining information and leveraging access as we develop our relationships throughout the account.