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How to Sell to Senior Executives

Everyone wants their sales force to be able to sell to senior executives, right? Having been on both sides of the fence, I can tell you unequivocally, that 90% of sales people have no idea how to sell at the C-Level. You have to think completely different. You have to put yourself in the “operating reality” of the executive and look at problems and opportunities through their eyes.

The first thing you must think about, is which business improvement lever are you going to pull to create value for them? To sell to an executive, you need to think like an executive. As you can see by the graphic, there are eight levers and only eight ways that business can be improved.

Next, you must understand the fact that executive has finite amount of time and a finite amount of capital. Time is money and speed is the currency of today. Where will your project fall in terms of importance?

So, how do you get the opportunity to meet with the senior executive? Well according to LinkedIn, 84% of sales start with a referral. At the C-Level, that number is even higher. Associations, existing customers and a strong social selling network is the key to success in arranging a meeting.

Assuming you actually secure a meeting, how do you prepare for the meeting? It is critical you understand that you have only 5 minutes to establish a relationship. Within those first 5 minutes you must:

  • Demonstrate that you have done your homework and understand their business issues

  • Raise relevant questions and share new business perspectives

  • Listen to understand rather than try to sell

You must also understand, during those first five minutes, the senior executive is asking his/herself the following about you:

  • Does this person understand our needs, our industry and our long-range strategy?

  • Does this person understand our key business drivers?

  • Has this person conveyed to me how they can deliver value to me or my company?

  • Have they differentiated themselves?

  • Can this individual make decisions or will they need to consult a manager?

  • Is this person professional and confident?

  • Can she think on her feet and avoid a canned speech?

  • Is their agenda unstructured or pre-determined?

  • Does this person listen rather than tell?

The following are musts to establish credibility and trust with the senior executive:

  • Must demonstrate ability to marshal resources

  • Must be willing to be held accountable

  • Must understand their business objectives and be responsive to their requests

  • Must not discuss customer’s competition nor be hard sell

  • Must be decisive and confident

Once you begin to establish a relationship, you also must understand what senior executives expect from their partners:

  • Committed, dedicated resources

  • Integrated Information systems

  • Sharing of price and cost risks

  • Insight into your company’s overall product service strategy

You also must begin to introduce your executives through “like rank” selling. Bring in your VP of Sales or C-Level executive as most senior level executives feel a stronger commitment on behalf of your organization. Just make sure this is not a “glad-hand” meeting but rather one that communicates the strategic fit between the two companies.

At Butler Street, our partners and principals average 25 plus years’ experience selling to senior executives. Our ability to teach your sales team how to sell to senior executives through association networking, leveraging referrals and social selling is second to none. We’ve sold to senior executives and been sold to by sales reps, giving us a unique advantage in the sales training space. Click CONTACT and let’s arrange some time to talk about your strategic selling needs.

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