You’ve landed an appointment with the CEO? That’s great news. After all, the CEO is your most qualified buyer. The keeper of the budget. The one person in the organization who doesn’t have to run anything by the boss.

Of course, there’s a downside.

If you blow it with the boss, you’re done. There’s nowhere else to go.

Before you walk into that high-stakes meeting, keep in mind that selling to the top is fundamentally different from any other sales effort you will make.

Here’s one way it’s different: Most CEOs aren’t that interested in features and benefits. Yes, they know features and benefits are important. But they have people to evaluate that sort of thing. “Your new accounting software can do everything except lick the stamps? Why don’t you go talk to Mary in accounting? You say your outsourcing solution will reduce manufacturing costs by 22 percent? I’m sure Ed, our VP for production, will be very interested. My assistant can give you their numbers.”

Another difference: Your competitive landscape just got a lot bigger. In selling to CEOs, you’re no longer simply going up against other vendors or the existing solution. You’re competing against everything else the organization does or wants to do. Because that’s what CEOs think about: everything. “If we buy this, where’s the money coming from? Should I take it out of the marketing budget? Hold off on opening the branch office in Sacramento? Defer raises?”

One more difference: Simply by showing up, you’re already costing CEOs their most precious resource — time. CEOs never have enough of it. While you’re talking, they’re thinking, “Is listening to this salesperson the best possible use of my time at this moment?” If it isn’t … game over.

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