“You talkin’ to me? You talkin’ to me? You talkin’ to me?” (Travis Bickle, Taxi Driver, 1976)
Many sales people feel calling on prospects’ C-suite is like confronting Travis on a bad day. It makes them anxious, sweaty. They’d rather talk to anyone other than the CEO.
Then there’s the fearless but clueless salesperson. The one who attempts ramming their way into the exec office totally unprepared. Of course they’re soundly and forcefully rebuked by the Gatekeeper extraordinaire – the exec admin.
The C-suite is where its at
Many sales people want to first talk with their prospects’ top dog, knowing they’ll likely get referred to the lower level buying manager. That works.
Many sales people want to talk to others in the prospect’s org before reaching up for the C-suite. That works too.
The 6 Gold Keys speaking to the C-Suite
The C-suite is the sales destination for greatest influence whenever its approached. You want to go there.
When that hopeful moment arrives it’s absolutely essential to be prepared. This is true whether it comes through an introduction, or you cold call and luck out.
Here’s the basic research sales people must have if they don’t want end up with egg on their face, nor waste a CEO’s time and blow future chances.
The following must roll effortlessly off your tongue, in your own words.
#1 Knowledgeable about Their Industry
What are the trends, new regulations, technology developments, market drivers, etc. of their industry? This is the water your prospect swims in. You need to know it really well.
#2 Understand Their Issues & Where You Can Help
This isn’t the granular details, but a concise synopsis of ROI, adding to their competitive advantage, enhancing their brand/reputation, improving their performance, lowering their costs, etc.
This forces you to connect your service to their larger overall business issues and goals. Can you do that? Better had.
#3 Prepare for the Questions They’ll Ask
Imagine what a CEO would ask you about. Credibility? Proven results? Referrals they know and admire? Proof that what you’re saying is true? Or is it implementation time? Past failures? Your firm’s R&D investment?
#4 Relate to Their Organizational Role & Responsibilities
The C-level have big responsibilities. Make sure you include those considerations in your preparation, such as SOX compliance, public image, investor accountability, time constraints, community participation, etc.
#5 Have Relevant Case Studies/Examples to Share Right Then
Time is crucial. You’re in front of the highest decision maker. Have those proof materials with you.
Bring only the brief, cleanly produced ones. Leave the 6 page, single-spaced versions at the office. You’ve got seconds. The material has to be eminently skimmable. No in depth reading will be done then, and if not then, likely not ever.
#6 Knowledgeable about Their Specific Business
Obvious. Embarrassing though if you only have a superficial understanding of the CEO’s raison d’être.
In addition to the web, talk to those you know who know about that business. Here’s where lower level initial conversations can help supply that background. Just don’t put off approaching the C-suite with “forever research.”
Dig for these. Get them down cold. Bring sharp leave behinds. Go for it. After all, the C-suite are only human.