Selling to CEOs: The one thing that’s always on their mind

by on February 1, 2010 · 4 Comments POSTED IN: Top Sales Dog

It takes a lot of good selling to get in front of a CEO. But it only takes one mistake to blow the opportunity.

Here’s an exchange between a salesperson and a CEO that got completely derailed. Can you guess why?

JOE (the seller): I’ve done some research on Global and I know the new components you’re launching next year are key to your expansion strategy.
CEO: I see you’ve done your homework, Joe. And you’re right, we need a vendor who can deliver top quality product within budget and on time.
JOE: At Superior, we’ve built a reputation for on-time delivery, and for product innovation. Our innovative new bearing design has the highest dynamic load ratings in the industry; it can handle shaft deflections better than anything our competitors can offer.
CEO: Joe, what you say sounds good to me. You should see Fred and Dave in engineering. My assistant will give you their contact information. I gotta run.”

Joe’s thinking, “Awesome. When I tell Fred and Dave, they’re going to hand me the business.” But guess what? Fred and Dave have seen this before. The CEO was just blowing Joe off.

The worst part is: Joe had this sale and blew it.

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The minute Joe started talking about “bearing designs” and “dynamic load ratings,” the CEO thought, “I can delegate this to engineering.” Yes, the CEO cares about product innovation, but it’s not what he cares the MOST about. “Joe’s a techie,” he thinks. “He can’t really help me with the big picture.” So he pushed Joe down the organization to his technical people.

At the CEO level, talk results, not process

CEOs have one key job, and nobody else can do it. Every decision they make boils down to this: Where should I allocate my scarce resources to get the best return?

That’s the question you have to answer if you want a seat at the big table.

And you have to do it immediately. Because the CEO’s scarcest resource is his or her own time. When you’re meeting with the CEO, those aren’t seconds ticking away on the clock in the corner. They’re dollars.

So here’s what Joe could have done to avoid the blowoff:

JOE: I’ve done some research on Global and I know the new components you’re launching next year are key to your expansion strategy.
CEO: I see you’ve done your homework, Joe. And you’re right, we need a vendor who can deliver top quality product within budget and on time.
JOE: I also know your shaft-related warranty claims are running over a million dollars a year. Other manufacturers who’ve adopted our shaft-deflection technology have seen those costs drop by 80 percent.
CEO: Geez, that would save us more than $800,000 a year. I could really use that money for the marketing campaign…. I think this is going to be the beginning of a great relationship.”

See the difference? Joe’s still selling shaft deflection, but it’s no longer about product innovation. It’s about freeing up scarce resources. The CEO’s thinking, “I just spent two minutes and might have saved 800 grand. That’s a pretty good use of my time.”

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4 Comments on This Post

  1. April 9, 2010 - 11:04 am

    A sales technique for selling to CEOs: Learn their language

  2. April 9, 2010 - 11:04 am

    A sales technique for selling to CEOs: Learn their language

  3. November 3, 2010 - 11:31 am

    Selling to the CEO

  4. November 3, 2010 - 11:31 am

    Selling to the CEO

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