Some will tell you to approach the C-Suite like a Challenger Rep. They advocate defying conventional wisdom and disrupting their thinking. Others advocate adapting a passive or diplomatic approach. In other words, acknowledge the authority of the office. And finally, others promote the toe-to-toe Prizefighter Approach. They believe you’ve got one shot to make the sale or blow it. There’s actually some truth in each approach. However, it depends on the context of the call (said like a true consultant).
Most reps aspire to selling to C-level executives (CXOs for short). In reality, CXOs have the power to say “yes” when everyone else says “no.” Unfortunately, they’re not always the buyers or influencers. Oftentimes the approvers and buyers are at a level below CXOs. While access to the C-Suite can be beneficial, it’s not always a silver bullet. Some sales organizations try desperately to sell to CXOs. Later, they learn they were talking to the wrong end of the horse. That means wasted time, effort, and money.
To help you determine where the power and strength is in your customer relationships, we developed the Power Matrix Sales Aid. It will help you do the following with each of your accounts:
• Identify buyer roles
• Clarify buyer relationships
• Uncover true buying decision influencers
Ultimately, you want to know which relationships have the power to purchase. If not, can they move you to the next stage? This information is very valuable for an efficient and effective sales process.
Once you identify where the purchasing power lies in an account, then you can develop a plan of attack. Assuming you identify a CXO as your ideal target, then you will want to customize your approach to gaining access. Following are 6 lesser-known strategies for selling to the C-Suite.
6 Strategies for Selling to the C-Suite
1. Referrals (leveraging personal network for referral/introduction): We’ve all heard the phrase. “Who you know is more important than what you know.” Introductions – internal and external – help the CXO cut through the bull. It allows the CXO to focus on relationships that have proven beneficial for others. Peer to peer introductions are the most effective and efficient way to access the CXO level.
2. Persona-based selling: Persona-based selling is critical in the C-Suite. You must know beforehand whom you are calling on. What are their objectives, obstacles, fears, hot buttons, influences, and sources? This saves you from wasting time during the meeting. You’ll be able to hone in right away on what motivates them to buy.
3. Social Selling: Apply the principles of social selling. Listen, and observe the areas where CXOs congregate. The use of LinkedIn and other social media sites help to socialize information. This is data that wouldn’t have been available just 5-10 years ago. Not everyone has adapted yet. Utilize it to get ahead of the competition and into the C-Suite.
4. Proximity: “Birds of a feather,” applies to CXOs as well. Use LinkedIn and personal connections to develop an executive network that shows commonality between you and CXOs. While they can be wildly independent, they still prefer to hang with other CXOs. As you organically build your network, you’ll find that there’s safety in numbers with CXOs. Work your way in with a few of them, and opportunities will open elsewhere.
5. Executive Sponsorship (Exec to Exec): Similar to Social Proximity, CXOs will provide time and availability to other executives. Solicit the help of executives within your organization to gain access to select CXO executives.
6. Champion or coach: Use of the Power Matrix Sales Aid helps to identify your strongest allies. Tap into them for coaching advice on ways to maneuver their internal political obstacle course. Don’t handicap yourself by pretending you know everything. Understanding the landscape and the game being played is crucial to getting in the door.
While not readily apparent, 4 of the 6 strategies are related to relationship. It’s not by chance. When calling on CXOs, due diligence pays big dividends. However, it’s the power of relationships (affiliation and affinity) that trump all. In a way, you need to think of persona knowledge and relationship as complimentary and interdependent. It’s not a robotic following of instructions that will get you in the door. It’s these relationships and interpersonal skills that will make you stand out.
Last thoughts when calling on CXO, focus on brevity and directness with your message. Be sure to provide opinions and insight. They are looking for trusted advisors who can provide solutions. Provide yours with confidence.
Download the Power Matrix Sales Aid to discover the best route to the C-Suite with your accounts. Once you get there, utilize these 6 strategies to knock it out of the park.