Effective sales people will tell you that selling is as much science as art. Selling to the C-Suite even more so. Done well, it requires a system that can be planned, delivered, measured and repeated. Yet often, sellers fear they will never get the CXO meeting again and throw out the systemic thinking.
As one sales leader told me recently. “We need to pitch this hard, we may never get them again.” It is true that you cannot count on getting two meetings with a C-level executive, but the system of engaging a client and having a strategy and plan for connecting with them beyond a one-time meeting is equally important with this audience. Here are some tips to help you build a relationship science into your CXO meetings:
- Spend time to understand their business challenges beyond your solutions. We speak to hundreds of CXOs every year and our opening question is always – what are your challenges. We learn enough from that single question to shape many follow-on discussions.
- Throw away the PowerPoint slides and focus on a few main points you want to discuss – not pitch. Make sure they are tied to their challenges. Too often we recycle or repurpose the same presentations that were not written for a C-level audience and should never be shared with that audience.
- Ask don’t tell. When there is a moment of silence everyone tends to pitch – it is the comfort zone. Stop, pause and turn your pitch into a question. Rather than pitching your security idea, ask a question that will lead to a discussion about security. Through questions and discussion you leave with more information than you came with and several openings for the next meeting.
- Follow up with meaningful content and connections. Meeting follow-up is as critical as the meeting itself – this is where you will turn the meeting into a series of discussions or lose the opportunity. Identify interesting content that connects to areas of interest that you learned in your discussion. Connect the CXO to other C-suite leaders that are tackling similar problems.
Finally, develop a plan for the next meeting that connects to the mutual business value agreed to in the meeting.