Sales Training – Selling to The C-Suite – Do You Have What It Takes?

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June 30, 2014
Sales Training – Selling to The C-Suite – Do You Have What It Takes?

Hi and welcome back to my blog.
As I said last week, I was in Kazakhstan. The photo above was the view from my room. The city is surrounded by 4,000m snow capped mountains. What a glorious, multi cultural city Almaty is. Working with my customers there was exhilarating – everyone is like a sponge so keen to learn and improve themselves.

As we all know the stakes can be very high when you are dealing with C-level executives such as the chief executive, financial, information, marketing or technology officers (let’s use CXO for short), and the challenges of selling to the executive level can be very unique.

Discomfort, fear, and a need to make the sale at all costs are all common emotions, and all impede our ability to lead with trust. Believe me when I say that C-level executives are bombarded by people trying to sell them products, services and ideas constantly, but they are rarely approached by people who are willing to put them first, the relationship second, the sale third, and their own ego last. An interesting reversal isn’t it?
However good a salesman you are, you need to understand their world, their needs and how they think. Then mentally prepare yourself to sell effectively to the C-suite. They are after all human beings just like us. They respond to the same stimuli as us. Always, remember, they are busy people and don’t like to waste their time.

This approach will set you apart from others who compete for executive attention and will pave the way for a relationship. The relationship itself will be worth more than any single sale. A lost sale in the C-suite is not a failure, if trust is earned in the process.

C-level executives really are different. Below are four major differences that distinguish them from other potential customers, and how you can adapt in a trust-building way.

  1. Sphere of influence – The CXO has responsibility across the entire organisation. So the onus is on you as a trusted advisor to:
  • Put more emphasis on the why of your proposal than the how or what.
  • Adopt the language of the C-Suite, such as:

o   Strategy,

o   Business Impact,

o   Change.

  1. Resource constraints – A CXO works with inadequate resources under difficult deadlines. There isn’t time, budget, or resources to say yes to all the requests received. Respect his position:
  • Be quick to demonstrate the value you bring.
  • Come prepared to directly describe a strong Point of View (POV). Be concise and clear in your communications
  • Think Big and Bold.
  1. Data overload – The CXO is besieged with incomplete, inconclusive or contradictory data.

You should ensure that you:

  • Help simplify, clarify, and focus
  • Help identify the few critical factors in making a decision.
  1. Isolation – It’s lonely at the top. The information a CXO receives is often filtered by subordinates, suppliers, others who have their own agenda or people who don’t want to deliver bad news. You can make a difference when you:
  • Be Brief.
  • Be Honest.
  • Be yourself.

When building relationships in the C-suite, your mental preparation matters as much, if not more, than your slide presentations and collateral. Think about it: you have done your research and gone over the presentation until you have it down pat. But have you prepared your mind for a C-level meeting? Your state of mind matters. Spend at least as much time managing yourself as you do managing tasks?

Til’ the next time…. Andrew

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