February 18, 2011

Landing the C-Suite Appointment

By Selling Power Editors

Selling to the C-suite can be one of the toughest nuts to crack for a sales professional – but given the payoff opportunities, it can also be the sweetest victory. So what’s the best way to get the attention of high-level players? According to Michael Scher, president and founder of Frontline Selling, all you need to do is ask.

“The short answer is, you just need to ask them,” Scher said in a recent Selling Power TV interview. “We find that a lot of account executives who do prospecting just don’t ask the right people the right questions.”

The second key element in getting attention is maximizing touch points. “Different people respond to different communication,” Scher observes. “Some people watch TV, some people listen to radio, some people read the newspaper – but McDonald’s advertises on all three.”

There are probably hundreds of people vying for the attention of the chief officer you’re trying to reach, but if you experiment with phone calls, direct mail (a simple letter will do, says Scher), and email and are cultivating relationships with admin assistants, you’ll increase your chances of moving to the top of the list. When you do book an appointment, make sure you’re prepared to put on a good performance. Here are answers to three of the most common questions about how to engage successfully with top-level decision makers.

How can I overcome top executives’ reluctance to meet with me?

Contrary to popular belief, research indicates that executives are not opposed to receiving sales presentations, as long as sales professionals listen to and understand the executives’ major concerns and business issues before proposing a solution. Rather than focus on overcoming reluctance, you should focus on understanding business issues so that you can have a productive conversation.

What irritates top executives most when they meet with sales professionals?

Top executives deeply resent it when sales professionals come to their office with a solution looking for a problem. Beyond that, they are annoyed with any sales situation that requires dealing with multiple points of contact. While they understand that complex solutions often involve multiple business partners, executives want you to be the single point of contact and accountability.

What do top executives really want from sales professionals who call on them?

Top executives greatly value responsiveness and timeliness. They typically get involved in the buying process for major purchases at specific points in the process, which is when they want to meet with sales professionals. They might not get involved in the process at other times. In other words, they want you to adapt to their schedule quickly and efficiently.