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Selling At the C-Level: 5 Essential Tips

Tuesday, December 27, 2011   (0 Comments)
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Leslie Shields

Selling to an executive is multidimensional and often not easy.

We spoke to several executives across industries and across geographical locations to identify what they wanted from consultants. Three areas were consistently cited - relevancy, credibility and trust. In order to get a seat at the executive table one needs to demonstrate competency in these areas. How do you do this? Consider these 5 essential tips.

Tip #1 Leverage two agendas - yours and the executive.

According to Jeff Thull, CEO and President, Prime Resource, your objective is to establish relevancy and to be seen as a valued business resource.

Secondly, you want to gain sponsorship for an extended diagnosis for at lower levels in the organization.

The executive’s objective is getting ideas and resources to execute his/her strategy. A second objective is to get help aligning his/her internal resources with his/her strategy.

Tip #2 Do your research.

Stretch beyond the basic facts about the company. Be prepared to share new info such as what competitors are doing; or what you have been doing for similar companies. Remember most executives have accessed the internet. Draw on both public and private sources. An executive from a pharmaceutical firm noted that he was impressed when information from the company’s annual report was cited. For him it showed that the consultant did his/her homework.

Tip #3 Prepare for tough questions.

Executives may feel insecure, impatient, worried, skeptical, and suspicious when taking on the role as a buyer. They are not trying to throw you under the bus. Their focus consists of 3 questions. Can you do the engagement? Will you do the engagement (motivation) and is there a fit with the company culture?

Tip #4 Sell a meeting.

Your initial task is to is to engage, intrigue and to spark interest. Pitching products and services with the initial communication should be minimized. An executive from the airline industry commented "I want to talk about me and my situation.” I want someone who feels my pain.” A line from the movie Wall Street provides another perspective. Gordon Geckko tells Bud Fox, "You had what it took to get into my office, the question is do you have what it takes to stay.”

Tip #5 Get Your "Net” Working.

Yes, networking can lead to a personal introduction to the executive. Use your networking circle, to gather info on the executives’ life and interests. Don’t have a networking circle? Now is the time to start building one. It begins with collaboration. You may have industry contacts that you can share with a colleague. He/she may reciprocate with his/her industry contacts.

One final note. Depending on your level of boldness, you can try to meet the executive socially and then use that meeting to spur a business meeting.

Learn more from these resources:

The Key to the C-Suite: What You Need to Know to Sell Successfully to Top Executives by Michael Nick and Jill Konarth

Visionary Selling: How to Get to Top Executives And How to Sell Them When You’re There by Barbara Geraghty

Beyond Selling Value by Mark Shonka and Dan Kosch

Leslie Shields, CPC, is the President of Chevannes Global Group, offering consulting and coaching to small businesses. Our leadership team has over 50 combined years of diverse experience brought from corporate, government, non-profit and entrepreneurial sectors. What differentiates us is our unique blendof services from ourown business evaluation tools to how we coach and strategize to move businesses forward.