- Blog post
Want to know how to sell to top execs? Here’s advice from the horse’s mouth
Top executives don’t have much patience with salespeople. They’re smart. They’re busy. And if they suspect you’re wasting their time, they’re done with you.
But that doesn’t mean they’re hostile to salespeople. On the contrary: Studies from the University of North Carolina and Georgia State show that senior execs put a high value on good salespeople. Why? Because salespeople are outsiders and can offer them fresh perspectives.
Source of ideas
Sure, these execs know you have a vested interest in the recommendations you offer. But even so, they look to salespeople as a source of new ideas.
One CIO, for example, said that salespeople “often offer solutions … that people in my own organization can’t address. I want to meet with them because of their experience in solving problems in other organizations.”
The implication, of course, is that you’ll be more likely to connect with top execs if you can bring new ideas and perspectives to the table.
What’s not important
Here are some things that top executives said aren’t all that important to them:
- Chemistry. Customer relationships are important in any sale. But high-level decision makers aren’t as concerned as you might think about whether you hit it off personally. When it comes to their business, the stakes are too high to base their decision on whether they like you as a person. They’re not looking for a best friend; they’re looking for results.
- Credentials. They get you in the door, but they’re seldom the deciding factor in whether you walk out with the business. Capabilities and experience alone don’t create much competitive advantage. Usually there are plenty of vendors with great resumes. Top decision makers want to see how you’re going to leverage that experience to solve their unique challenges. Example: “We did a similar project for Megalith Industries last year. Based on that experience, let me outline some of the challenges you’re likely to face in the first six months of your project.”
- The big guns. It’s not especially useful to trot out your bigwigs, unless they know enough about the customer to make a real contribution. Otherwise, top execs view high-level stroking as a waste of time. They’d rather meet with someone who has first-hand experience solving the kinds of problems they face.
What is important
In addition to new ideas, top execs are really looking for one quality in vendors: They want someone they can trust not to screw things up.
Why is trust so important to these executives? Because time is their most precious commodity. They don’t have time to micromanage their vendors, and they don’t have time to fix the mess if you make a mistake.
How can you quickly establish trust with people who haven’t worked with you?
These three elements matter most, execs in the surveys said:
- Show you know their business. Don’t bury them in technical talk, but use terms that let them know you belong to their club. Drop names. Use industry jargon. If their business is new to you, do lots of homework before you meet.
- Show that you understand their problems. When they explain what they want, reflect it back to them in a way that shows you really get it. Example: “Let me be sure I understand: You said your objective is to increase your wholesale business by 10%. So are we talking profits or gross sales?”
- Be candid. Top execs are suspicious of salespeople who are too upbeat. They want to be sure they can trust you to give them all the facts and that you understand the risks. Best way: Acknowledge that every potential solution – including yours – has upsides and downsides. Be prepared to discuss both.
Source: Dr. Steve Bistritz. Info: www.sellxl.com
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