There is some research done, suggesting only 31% of salespeople can converse effectively with senior executives. Doubtfully this statistic is representative of all salespeople across all industries but the low percentage tells you something; once sales executives get themselves in front of a CEO, CFO or any member of a top management board, not everyone is comfortable in getting key messages across the way they intended to before stepping into that boardroom.
If selling to C-suite buyers was easy than that percentage would be a lot higher. Read on to become a top seller to CEOs, CFOs or any chief officer.
Nr.1: See Yourself as C-Suite. This is about mindset and self-belief. If you don’t see yourself as worthy of selling to top executives how do you think they will perceive you? Although it is natural to feel a little bit uncomfortable never let top executives know you feel somehow inferior to them. If you do, they sense it and they lose interest in having a good business conversation with you. To leave that boardroom successfully you need to be willing to step outside of your comfort zone; act like an equal, no matter the top executive’s title.
If you have a solid business case for the executive’s company to make a change resulting in true benefits then show you earn a spot at their table. Be confident and view yourself as an expert in your field. Then your C-suite buyers will view you as a trusted advisor—and a peer.
Nr. 2: Get Right To the Point. Top executives have tremendous demands on their time, and they are necessarily very protective of that time. They focus on producing business results and avoid anything that does not have any connection with that. Be friendly, but get straight to the point in your conversations. If your focus is, like them, driving better business results then you will have their attention. This skill must not be overlooked. Practice converting complex details into easy to understand key messages. Many C-suite buyers get frustrated if you fail to get right to the point. If you need more practice, ask your manager, colleague, actually anyone to listen to your pitch. Be open to their feedback and improve.
Nr. 3: Talk about their business, not your products, services or solutions. Don’t even think about pitching your products, your services, or your solutions. Your first objective when sitting in that chair opposite the C-suite buyer is to be trusted as someone who can help them to move their business forward. Describe high level the business-purpose of your visit which is how your offering can help their business improve profits in a big way. You need to be able to back up that statement (see tip no. 2), and if you can, they may even offer you a cup of coffee to stay a little longer.
Talk about how you can help them increase their revenue income stream, increase their profits, or lower their costs. You need to talk about how a change of supplier can create strategic advantages for their company.
Being skillful in the above does not mean you can skip middle management and go “straight to the top”. The more complex the sale the more likely C-suite buyers want to know if you have done your homework by talking to their management team. Your solution may make absolute sense to the top executive but they want to know if key stakeholders consent with the change.
Once you land well-prepared in the boardroom, selling to C-suite buyers is pure green space when it comes to getting the approval to invest. If your solution comes with a compelling monetary value, C-suite buyers understand a change comes at a price. As long as you can demonstrate that your price is fair they are willing to move money around.
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