How to Successfully Engage with the C-Suite
Stop Selling to Executives and Start Using Tactics That Work
Engaging with your customer is essential to building relationships and to landing deals, but you need to approach the C-suite from a very specific angle in order to earn that engagement. Here are the tips you need to get executives nodding their heads, talking, and signing on the dotted line.
Engaging with Executives in Sales Meetings, Preparation Is Everything
More than any other sales meeting, your success with an executive is determined by how much legwork and preparation you put in before you even enter the meeting.
Executives are strapped for time. Always. They don’t want to spend a meeting acting as an educator about their businesses, core challenges, or goals. You have to learn all this critical information by speaking to other members of the organization before interacting with anyone in the C-suite.
When conducting your interviews, gather information about the following:
• Market trends
• Competitive threats
• Ideal customers and existing customers
• Business financials
• Goals and objectives
• Obstacles or challenges hindering those goals and objectives
Interviewing other stakeholders in the organization provides some key benefits:
- Get a more granular perspective on challenges. Executives intentionally maintain a high-level, broad focus on the business. Managers and employees below that level can often offer more tangible insight on day-to-day challenges.
- Benefit from honesty. Employees aren’t always willing to be candid about challenges or problems with the executive team. They tend to be more open and honest when dealing with a third party.
- Enjoy multiple perspectives. Talking to people at every level within the company gives you a more holistic view of that organization and allows you to account for multiple perspectives.
You can certainly ask questions during your meeting with the C-suite, but timing is important. Establish your value first. Demonstrate that you understand their underlying market, industry, organization, challenges, and desired outcomes. Once you’ve provided that initial credibility and trust, an executive will often be willing to engage in a dialogue at that point.
8 Tips for Succeeding with an Executive
1. Prove Your Credibility Immediately
Executives don’t have a lot of time, and they have exactly no time to waste. You need to start proving your value, credibility, and trust from the second you walk in the door. Otherwise, your meeting could end up being a lot shorter than you’d planned.
2. Prove Measurable Value
Executives think in terms of how changes affect the entire company, and then they make decisions that are the best holistic moves. This means you shouldn’t just bring value to the table. You should frame that value in terms of measurable impact. Show how the changes you’re proposing affect the bottom line for the company as a whole.
Remember, your competition in this scenario is not your industry competitors. It’s anything the C-suite could spend their available capital on. Your job is to demonstrate that your solution or product will offer the most tangible, widespread benefit to the organization.
Positioning your argument in this way can actually boost your credibility significantly because it demonstrates you’re also thinking like an executive.
3. Know Everything You Can about the Organization
The way to immediately build trust in this scenario is to demonstrate the insight and knowledge you can bring about the executive’s market in general and the organization specifically. Point out potentially unconsidered needs, and show how to successfully work toward outcomes that address core business challenges and reach company goals.
In this approach, you’re starting with your customer and working backward. Rather than coming in and assuming your features and benefits are going to solve their problems, you’re providing a more strategic framework that lays out their core challenges and offers insight into how to address them.
4. Prize Value over Product
If you enter a meeting with an executive and immediately start pushing your product or service, you’re setting yourself up for failure. With nearly every company today shouting from the rooftop about their features and benefits, this all becomes white noise.
Cut through it by being more strategic. Make sure you know their questions before you assume your product or service is the answer. This simple, logical shift will help you remember to lead with value, not product.
What constitutes value is also specific to the customer, so keep the individual in mind when deciding on areas of emphasis.
5. Focus on the Future
Executives not only think holistically about their companies but they are also tasked with the continued success of those organizations. For this reason, they are often much more focused on the future than they are on the present.
Demonstrate how the ideas and value you’re bringing fit into the company’s plans over the next two to three years. (When you’re interviewing organizational stakeholders, these future plans are another great topic to cover.)
6. Have a Step-by-Step Plan
Lay out your plan in a logical, step-by-step way. Explain how each stage of your plan will work, detail how and when to implement the various components, and then outline a system for measuring and sustaining success long term.
7. Be Authoritative
Senior decision-makers like to deal with other decision-makers. Be careful not to undermine the authority and credibility you’ve built by saying you’ll verify details later or run things by a higher-up. Demonstrate you have the authority to wield the resources of your organization, making them available to the executive and his or her team.
8. Be a Strategic Partner
The goal is not just to land one sale or to enjoy a one-off victory. You want to capitalize on the lifetime value of that client. If you’ve appropriately demonstrated your value, that executive will see you as an integral partner in the implementation process.
Being a strategic partner that helps navigate through implementation positions you to continually provide value and to strengthen and to grow that professional relationship over time.
Join the Webinar
Interested in learning even more about the tactics and strategies that pay off when engaging with executives in sales meetings? Then join our free upcoming webinar on May 20, 2021, at 1:00 p.m., Why You Can’t Sell to the C-Suite.
Learn from these expert panelists:
- Alice Heiman, Alice Heiman LLC
- Tim Sullivan, Richardson Sales Performance
- Alejandro Cabral, Kimberly-Clark Professional
- Brandon Fluharty, LivePerson
- Robert Beattie, Modernizing Medicine
Special thanks to Richardson Sales Performance for their perspective on selling to the C-suite. Grab their full sales brief here.