It’s not easy to land a meeting with the top exec. With their packed schedules and legions of gatekeepers, proximity to these decision-makers comes only with a well-developed network, clever outreach, a successful cold email, or pure chance.
But, scheduling a meeting is only the beginning. After successfully passing through assistants and low-level decision-makers, you have one chance to persuade the top boss.
Play your cards right, and you’re going to end up with a huge opportunity. Fumble and the prospects of ever selling to this prospect or account melt faster than ice cream on a sunny summer day.
There are fantastic posts out there that recommend you focus on senior-level people below executives to get the sale. With planning and the right approach, however, selling to the C-suite can be more fruitful.
Here are the seven best tactics if you want to sell to the C-suite like a pro.
1. Leverage a Champion
The smoothest way to access C-level buyers is to go through someone they already know and trust. This could be a former work colleague or a common customer. Often, it will be a key stakeholder working under the executive – your champion sales rep.
A champion sales rep has the internal sway to move your opportunity forward. If your sales rep is built into a strong enough advocate, he or she will effectively sell for you. This method requires time and patience, but when it works it’s your easiest ticket to an audience with the C-level.
Consider the following questions when identifying and building a relationship with your champion:
- Does that person have the power of decision-making that I require?
- Have I won the trust of this person? Are they in my corner, truly?
- Does this person fully understand the value proposition of my company?
- Will this person have all the knowledge they need to successfully sell to others?
2. Research and Personalize
It’s not always possible to leverage a winner, nor is it always the safest course of action. Direct outreach will get you in touch with a C-level customer a lot quicker if the timing is correct.
If you want to go straight to the top, there’s a need for detailed analysis. Sales reps must be prepared to easily show a real understanding of the executive’s market and relate it to a pressure point or an opportunity unique to the organization.
Useful sources of research include:
- A business website, including news releases, corporate websites, and About Us.
- Google News, where reps will see if the organization or its rivals have made recent headlines.
- Customers of the goal company; their point of view is of special importance at C-level.
- Contacts with the target organization, which can share their insight into culture and industry issues.
Sales reps can then use this data to effectively personalize their message and ultimately show that they know the business through statistics, examples, news articles, or even a quote from the C-suite itself.
For example, you might find that a company has several current job openings on its engineering team, and by digging further, you might find the CEO called talent retention a real challenge for the company during his most recent investor briefing. Any sales reps targeting the CEO automatically obtain an urgent, important talking point to strengthen their story. Understanding your prospects at the micro-level using technographic, firmographic, and Intent data is crucial.
3. Utilize the ‘Old-School’ Channels – They Work
Some customers might pick up the phone right away, while others might choose to respond to an email. Because you don’t have a way to anticipate your buyer’s preferences, your outreach can include a variety of contact strategies. Email, mobile and social media are also valid alternatives.
A lot of people have the misconception that bulk emailing has poor returns. The truth is the returns on cold emails vary significantly. What makes things different for the professionals who send 10,000 emails and get 5 responses vs. the professionals who send 100 emails and get 20 answers? The response is twofold: data quality and targeting. Many organizations, particularly start-ups, rely on data researched by their internal team based on information accessible on the listing pages, contact info, review pages, and the Press Release.
However, the data obtained from these sources is often wrong, since the data shifts every 12-13 months for various reasons. Owing to the anticipation of low returns, little attention is paid to recovering email addresses. Bad data quality ensures that only a limited number of recipients will likely be reached about your product or service, further decreasing the response rate.
4. Vary Your Phone Strategy, and Leverage the Gatekeeper
When it comes to using the cold calling methods, there’s always an unending debate about its effectiveness. However, it is important to realize that the cold part is dead but not the calling.
Instead of selling to C-suite prospects at the opening hours (9:15 am-11 am) and leaving a voicemail, try making several calls at off-peak times. The trick is to be consistent without being a nuisance. Spamming your customers with voicemails, e-mails, and LinkedIn messages will not achieve the desired result.
Sales speaker Marc Wayshak advises that sales reps contact C-level customers after normal business hours, even on weekends, in some cases, to get a greater chance of having a direct line to the prospect.
Of course, a lot of C-level buyers have an administrative assistant answering their phone lines. See these professionals as a potential asset, not a roadblock. The sales reps should introduce themselves, clearly tell them the reason for calling and why they are worth spending a few minutes, and ask the gatekeeper to help them get in touch with the executive.
5. Don’t Forget the Basics
Having an executive on the phone might seem intimidating, but at the end of the day, they are just another prospective client. Believe in yourself, believe in the importance of what you’re selling, and remember the basics that have taken you to this stage. If required, review the applicable sales material or use a video coaching solution to plan for possible scenarios.
When selling to the C-suite, the reps should be aware of the following:
- Don’t waste their time. They are among the busiest people you’re ever going to talk with; get to the point and be mindful of their time.
- Be respectful. The aim is to prove you understand the company’s business without behaving as though you know more about it than they do.
- Be sure to listen to them. Executives are used to managing their interactions. Sales reps catching C-level curiosity should be able to let their prospects do most of the conversational guidance.
6. Expect to Be Tested and Critiqued
It’s not unprecedented for an executive to ask you uncomfortable questions to get you out of your comfort zone or caught off-guard. This is particularly likely to happen when it comes to approaching an analytical executive in finance or technology.
When this occurs, you need to retain your equilibrium and confidence. Take a long, deep breath, and note that you are balanced and completely capable of producing an articulate response.
Much of the time, when these difficult questions are posed, the executive is more interested in how you react than in the real answer. Provide an ingenious response (without being offensive), provide a well-founded response, or merely validate the quality of the executive’s response, and confess that you don’t have a strong response but will follow up with one.
As long as you can remain collected during a meeting, you will be able to provide legitimate answers to everything the executive throws in your way.
7. Quickly Deliver on Your Post-Meeting Promises
Did you tell the exec that you were going to give them precise numbers to discuss with their CFO? Have you decided to make a follow-up meeting with someone else in your business or to submit a white paper from which the executive will benefit?
If so, deliver on your promise right away. As soon as you have time – hopefully within a 24-hour timeframe – email all the information and specifics you have agreed to send. In addition to this information, thank them for the conversation and share your enthusiasm for your future partnership.
By answering immediately, you prove that you are willing to produce outcomes quickly, and you make sure that the prospect doesn’t forget about your meeting.
Conclusion: It’s All About Your Preparation
If you’ve landed a meeting with an executive, you are well on the way to another major customer. Through spending a sufficient amount of time in preparation, you will guarantee that the meeting flows seamlessly and ends in a mutually beneficial relationship.
Success is about having the right data with you and using it at the right time. SalesIntel offers you just that. You can access millions of human-verified company and contact data using specialty filters to narrow down your search. Start your free trial today.
Bigger deals are around the corner. Best of luck!