Putting executives first differentiates you and paves the way for a relationship. Demonstrating your understanding of their issues and sharing insight and perspective on their challenges will have them asking for more of your thoughts, earn you their respect, and gain you more access.
These 12 best practices share what executives care about…how to gain access to them…and how to prepare for an executive call.
1. Know who to sell to. Many people weigh in on the buying decision. This begs the question, "Which executive is most relevant to each component of your solution?"
The answer: The executive who stands to gain or lose the most as a result of buying your product/service associated with the opportunity.
2. Understand the executive perspective. Executives are interested in your knowledge of broad business issues relevant to their company and their industry. Be a resource not only to their business, but to their personal agenda as well. Toward that end, share information of value—develop some ideas on issues, opportunities, and possible solutions. Synthesize data points for easy consumption. Demonstrate an understanding of their issues and how you’ve helped other companies solve for them.
3. Understand your executive’s business drivers and how they are measured. This helps you frame your sales conversations in relevant terms. Once you have context for what they consider most important, you can target the most important relevant things you can do for them, and tailor your sales message to each executive’s specific needs.
4. Use an organization map. Who are your most important decision makers, key users, and approvers? Identify the influencers—both internal and external—the analysts, champion, and gatekeeper. Which of these people are positive to your proposal, which are neutral, which are negative, and what can you do to influence them? The point is to leverage the internal lines of communication in your messaging strategy.
5. Gather information about your executive’s business background. Take advantage of your existing contacts, LinkedIn, your customer’s Website, and Google searches to collect bios, news articles, corporate reports, and other relevant information that will help you to understand your customer executive better.
6. Understand the personal styles of the key executives. Understanding their personalities will allow you to more effectively deliver what they need in a way that is most comfortable for them. Are they a Driver, an Influencer, Steady, or Conscientious?
7. Focus on your executive relationships—that’s where the money is. Don’t mistake executive contacts with executive relationships. Your executive contacts are more focused on the goings-on within their particular departments. It’s the executive’s job to develop strategies to drive growth—and they are interested in how you can help them do that. The potential for broader opportunities, competitive immunity, and greater access is yours when you develop a clear understanding of their business and their personal agendas.
8. Get introduced. There are two high-value ways to get introduced to a customer executive:
A recommendation from someone in your customer’s company
Meeting them at an off-site event
Facilitate an introduction by sending an email to the executives who have agreed to recommend you. Include a sample email that they, in turn, can forward. This makes it convenient for them and ensures your customer executive gets the right message.
9. Manage obstacles. It’s undeniable…you will encounter obstacles along the way to gaining access to your customer executive. Engage a gatekeeper, a customer sponsor, a referral, or the executive’s network to find a route to executive access.
10. Be ready with your elevator pitch. When you do get your customer’s attention, be sure your pitch provides information, makes it intriguing so your customer executive wants to learn more, and leads to an invitation to have another conversation.
11. Play the rebound. Sometimes your target executives will bounce you down to another member of their team. Take advantage of this opportunity—ask your customer executive to introduce you to the team member, find out what you should learn from this person, and plan to report back on what you learned. With the rebound, you’ve established credibility with a potential influencer and have the opportunity to reengage with your customer executive with even more traction.
12. Get the answers you’re looking for. When executives are concerned, selling conversations must focus on what can be done for their business, either strategically or financially.
What are you trying to accomplish?
What business problem are you trying to solve?
How do you measure the success of major investments?
How do you and your team manage major projects?
Why is the company evaluating new approaches?
Why is this particular person on the evaluation team?
Who will perform the evaluation?
Whose operations will benefit the most?
When will a decision be made?
When is the project to be completed?
Customer executives want a few selected people around them who understand their needs, serve as a focal point for information about the outside world and their own company, and help make them a professional winner. Do this and you’ll have the access to your customer you were looking for.