One of the toughest challenges sales people face is penetrating the C-Suite and successfully selling to C-level executives. Why? According to comments directly from C-level executives, “sales people focus the conversation on their product or service, and not what is important to them.”
So, what are the five “bees” of selling to executives or to business owners you need to know?
There are five critical areas that you must address in order to “bee” successful in selling your product or service to C-level executives or business owners:
- Do your homework. Review public records, annual reports and quarterly financial statements to help you prepare. Read the Chairman’s Letter for insight into the future business direction.
- Find an internal champion. Learn all you can about the business and its culture from an insider’s perspective for comparison.
- Have an agreed upon formal agenda with 3-5 talking points. Limit the meeting’s focus to only those topics most important to the executive.
- When possible, gain access to the C-level executive through a trusted colleague. This will help to elevate your professional stature in their eyes.
- Dress for success. First impressions are crucial to building lasting business relationships, so look and be at your best.
- Be respectful of their time. Stick to the allotted time for the meeting, unless they want to continue the discussion.
- Be yourself at all times. Let your personality shine through during the meeting. Don’t attempt to be someone you’re not.
- Remain upbeat and engaging. Keep the conversation moving by being brief and on target with your comments.
- Remember … people want to do business with others they are comfortable with and know, like and trust.
- If you are not the incumbent your chance of success is only 20%. So, find out why the executive had an interest in meeting with you.
- Determine the C-level executive’s priorities and pain points, and their role in the decision-making hierarchy.
- Bring something to the table. Be able to articulate your value proposition and WIIFM – “What’s in it for me?” in terms that are thought provoking and top-of-mind to them.
- In every sales engagement there is a seller, buyer, influencer, competitor, organizational politics and pain point(s). Discover the significance each plays in the decision outcome.
- Ask clarifying questions, so you can obtain a thorough understanding of their requirements, budget constraints and timeframes.
- From the first meeting you will want to be in a position to answer, “Do you have an opportunity?”. If yes, move to define and gain commitment to the next steps, and then follow-up.
Remember the ABC’s … Always Be Confirming (not closing). The key to selling to C-level executives isn’t how you close, but how you open. If you address these five critical “bees” you will be better prepared to successfully sell to a C-level executive or business owner, both now and in the future.
Good luck and good selling!
COPYRIGHT © 2012 John Carroll