We’ve spent significant time lately with senior sales executives, helping them to create programs and processes that elevate their selling to an executive level. Effective sales people will tell you that selling is more of a science than all of us think. Done well, it requires a system that can be planned, delivered, measured and repeated.
But even those most effective sellers became less so when we start to talk to them about selling to a C-level client. With this audience, the sales people quickly shifted from their tried and true system to preparing for the meeting as if it was a one-time event. “We need to put all of our focus on this meeting because we may never get them again,” expressed one sales person. 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 very important with this audience.
Here are some tips to keep the science in your C-suite selling:
- Spend time to understand their business challenges. We speak to hundreds of CXOs every year and our opening question is always – what are your top business challenges. We learn enough from that single question to shape many follow-on discussions.
- Throw away the PowerPoint slides and focus on the 3 main points you want to discuss- and 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 sales people tend to pitch – it is the comfort zone for many. Stop, pause and turn your statement into a question – this will allow you to leave with more information on the CXO than you arrived with.
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.