7 Tips for Selling to Senior Executives
I can vividly remember the time when I was accompanying a seasoned sales professional who was visiting one of his best customers. The salesperson was used to doing business with a few primary contacts, whom he had developed strong relationships with. However the company was experiencing significant operational challenges, and senior management was now getting involved in purchasing decisions.
Before the visit, I asked the salesperson what his objective was for the meeting. The salesperson replied, “Well I’m going to make sure everyone in the room is fully aware of our capabilities. I’ll need to spend some time explaining our newest offering. Other than that, it’s not going to be much different from any other meeting.”
The meeting did not go well. The salesperson could not speak the language of the C-Suite and it showed…in a painful manner.
The Danger of Selling in a Comfort Zone
All too often, we fall within our comfort zones. We tend to call on the people we are most comfortable with and talk about our products in a way that we’re most comfortable with. However with an increase in consensus-based decision making, more and more senior executives are getting involved in buying decisions. If you want to stand a chance, you need to be able to connect with them on their level.
The Keys to the C-Suite
The first step in connecting with senior decision makers is by understanding the way they think. There are two key principles you should always keep in mind:
- Senior executives are focused primarily on external market factors, industry drivers, business objectives, and strategic priorities.
- When evaluating an offer, senior leaders think about how the offer is going to help them increase profitability, grow market share, enhance shareholder value, or reduce risk.
This means that your offering needs to be framed in terms of how it impacts these areas and the business outcomes they are most focused on.
7 Tips for Selling to Senior Executives
After getting the keys to the C-Suite, you will want to be seen as a trustworthy and credible business partner. Here are seven tips that will enable you to achieve this:
- Know their industry.To build credibility with senior leaders you need to understand their industry and key business drivers. Demonstrate that you understand the industry trends and market pressures that impact their business objectives.To increase your industry knowledge, read trade journals, attend trade shows, and follow industry experts on social media.
- Get to the point.Your time will be limited so come prepared. Pre-call planning is a must. If you fail to plan…then plan to fail.
- Speak their language.Share valuable insights. If you talk about all the bells and whistles of your product…you’ll be viewed as just another sales rep. Instead you want senior executives to see you as a trusted adviser.
- Engage them earlyon in the sales process in order to have the most impact. If you don’t they will tend to get involved later on in the sales process – which may not go according to your favor.
- Leverage existing relationshipsto help you gain access to senior executives. The best way to secure an appointment with a senior leader is through an internal recommendation who can put in a good word for you. This should be someone who has strong influence with that senior leader.
- Be prepared to get tested. Whether its conscious or unconscious, senior executives will test you to see what value you will bring to the meeting. Demonstrate your understanding of their key business drivers, industry trends, and the external forces that shape their industry.
- Use ‘like rank’ selling.If you’re not comfortable meeting with a senior executive yourself, use one of yours. Senior leaders like to meet with other senior leaders. Bring in one of your senior leaders to affirm the value of the relationship.
By applying these seven tips consistently, senior executives will perceive you as a business partner who adds value. This will make you stand out from your competition. Meetings with senior executives tend to be limited, both in frequency and duration. Remember, you don’t get a second chance to make a good first impression…so make every meeting count!
About the Author:
Matt Hallett is a partner and founding member of the Global Growth Group. Based in the USA, Matt works with companies across a variety of different industries helping them accelerate sales performance.