Many sales people miss out on significant opportunities simply because they are not effective at engaging C-level executives. You can dramatically increase your sales performance by applying these three principles:
C-suite executives meet with salespeople all the time. Very few of these salespeople, however, get a second meeting. Those who do, get one because they did their homework and were able to have a focused and value-driven conversation with the executive.
Prior to meeting, do your best to understand what is happening in the industry at a macro level. Are there certain trends that are creating pressures or opportunities for the players in the industry? Has the C-level executive publicly stated any strategic goals? Is the company's financial performance publicly available? If so, what does a ratio analysis tell you about their performance trends over the past 3-5 years, and how might you be in a position to improve their income statement or balance sheet? Finally, don’t waste your executive’s time meeting them to conduct a fishing expedition.
According to the Corporate Executive Board’s research, C-level executives are looking for value in every meeting. If you simply ask questions, you’re the one extracting value from the meeting, not giving value. In the book, The Challenger Sale, based on research by the Corporate Executive Board, Matt Dixon makes it clear that the most effective salespeople, “the Challengers,” go into a meeting with a well-formulated hypothesis as to what the executive’s issues really are. They challenge executives to think more clearly about the issues they are facing.
CEOs and other C-level executives are leaders who create value for their organizations by taking the organization from where it is now to where it needs to be. Understanding the gap between a company's current state and its ideal future state is where you'll find your opportunity to be of service. Most salespeople ask the question, “What keeps you up at night?”; sellers to the C-suite are more focused on the question, “What gets you up in the morning?”
It is the executive’s drive towards a future state that creates multi-year and multimillion-dollar opportunities for sales professionals. Based on the hypothesis you presented in principle #1, the executive will see that you are a professional who has done the relevant homework, and he or she will be willing to open up to you. As the executive begins to open up, find out what his/her specific vision is and where he/she wants to take the organization.
C-level executives are inundated with external pressures, internal obstacles, and multiple hurdles. Even during your meeting, they are operating against a backdrop of immediate problem-solving to address these challenges. Inundating them with facts and figures will not hold their attention.
Nothing grabs and holds attention like a good story, especially if it is relevant to the executive’s challenges. Be prepared to tell a great story about an executive in a similar role with a similar goal, including the suspense and drama of what was going wrong, your intervention, and the successful resolution. Your story should provide a very clear contrast of the before and after states. The executive should see herself in your story, and have no trouble imagining how it will feel when she overcomes her challenges and experiences the new future state.
By developing your strengths in these three areas, you will find that at the end of a C-level executive meeting your prospect will be commending you on what a great meeting it was and asking you when they can meet with you again. All the success in sales happens when talented individuals are in front of qualified prospects and they make every meeting count. Imagine if you could make every meeting with a C-level executive count?
Adrian Davis, the author of Human-to-Human Selling: How to Sell Real and Lasting Value in an Increasingly Digital and Fast-Paced World, is a Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) and an expert in strategic selling and account management. He is frequently called upon to advise senior management teams and sales groups on the optimization of sales performance and the development of strategic client relationships. To book Adrian for your sales or leadership conference, or for a complimentary consultation, you can reach him via Twitter (@TheSalesOracle) or LinkedIn. Find out more at www.whetstoneinc.ca or www.adriandavis.com/blog.
Research has shown that "challengers" win more sales. Are you a challenger? Download the free e-book to find out!