If you’ve never been to the Guggenheim Museum in New York City, you’re missing an exceptional experience and an incredible lesson in sales.

When you enter this Frank Lloyd Wright-designed building, you’ll be immediately amazed by the rotunda exposing the entire museum. Art is everywhere, and a giant ramp wraps around six floors of art treasures.

The question is: Where do you start? 

The answer is simple: Start at the top. 

Same in sales.

When I first wrote about this process 21 years ago, there was no Internet to speak of. Your cellphone was in a bag or hard-wired into your car. No email. Life was simple, but getting to the CEO was hard.

I wrote about starting at the top, and gave recommendations about how to contact the CEO’s “secretary” to get the appointment.

I asked the obvious (sales) questions: Why would you walk uphill when you can walk downhill? Why would you start at the bottom when you can start at the top? 

Those questions still apply today.

Isn’t it easier to make a sale when you start with the CEO? And today there are a dozen or more different ways to get to that CEO than there were 21 years ago.

PICTURE THIS: You walk into a crowded museum (or a crowded sales environment), and you saunter over to an uncrowded elevator. You enter an empty elevator car and push the top floor button. Boom! Easier than you thought. Same in sales. 

THINK ABOUT THIS: If you start on the first floor, at the lowest and easiest point of entry, the guy in charge has to call upstairs to his daddy on the second floor to find out if he can do business with you. 

And depending on the size and deal, the guy on the second floor may have to call his daddy on the third floor. And of course the guy on the third floor may have to call his dad on the fourth floor, and so on up the ladder. 

And of course the salesperson has to climb  up the ladder instead of walking down or climbing down the ladder. Complaining all the way. 

Or worse, sometimes that salesperson will send me an email saying, “The guy at the bottom won’t let me talk to his boss” and wants to know how to get around him. The easy answer is: Never start with him to begin with. 

REALITY: Which is more powerful: Having to claw your way up the ladder and beg for permission or beg for the sale? Or having the CEO come down and tell that guy on the first, second or third floor who he’s going to be doing business with?

That’s the difference between bottom-up and top-down. 

GREAT NEWS: Enter social media, the Internet, blogging, YouTube and a host of other search avenues. And enter your online reputation. All of these elements will determine whether you can earn a meeting at the top. 

REAL-WORLD SCENARIO: “Hi, My name is Jeffrey Gitomer. I’d like to schedule a brief appointment with the CEO. Would you mind Googling me while I’m on the phone to determine my worthiness, look at my accomplishments and perhaps check on my reputation?” 

In the old days, YOU had to convince the admin to get a meeting. Today, the Internet does the convincing for you. Gotta love it – unless you have no social media presence, no Internet presence, no Google presence, no blog and no reputation to speak of. 

Next week I’m going to talk about the five things that CEOs are interested in. Here’s a hint: They have nothing to do with your product, but they have everything to do with the CEO, or his appointee, buying your product.

But today’s lesson is not “See you at the top.” The lesson is “Start at the top.”