Selling directly to C-level executives is the dream of many salespeople. But the most common reality is you have to go through gatekeepers and mid-level employees to pitch your product or service.
The employee will have to get approval from their bosses to buy from you, which means they will have to argue on your behalf for your product or service. Like what happens in a game of telephone, your message is likely to get distorted or even completely lost.
Therefore, speaking with a C-level executive is valuable. Not only do you get the opportunity to sell directly to a decision-maker, but you’ll also ensure the executive receives your intended message.
However, there are some key points that you must prepare and know before the meetings to ensure a smooth sailing pitch. What are those? We’ll give you the tips and tricks in this blog.
What Is a C-Level Executive?
C-level executives are people who work in high positions in a company. They get their name from the “chief” used in their titles, such as chief financial officer, chief technology officer, etc., and the “C” in the acronyms that accompany them.such as chief financial officer, chief technology officer, etc., and the “C” in the acronyms accompanying them.
How C-Level Sales Is Different
In common sales situations with lower-level employees or individual consumers, you might get by with a generic pitch about the benefits of your product or service. However, with C-level executives, a pitch that sounds like you are reading it from a sales script will get you ignored or even cut—forever leaving the executives with a negative impression of your company.
To succeed at C-level sales, you must come up with a personalized pitch they will respond to positively—focusing on broad business value propositions like profitability, revenue, and corporate strategy, for instance.
Furthermore, you must invest time in understanding the executive’s industry, company, and motivations. Of course, personalizing your pitch is always crucial, but in lower-level sales, you may get by with less research—but in C-level sales, the stakes are higher, and, thus, you will have to prepare more for your meeting.
While everyone’s time is valuable, you must be more conscious of the time you spend delivering your pitch. Hone your presentation to maximize value while reducing the amount of time you take up. If you can provide a compelling argument for your product or service within the time you have scheduled with the executive, you will likely make a good impression and have earned their trust.
This may sound like a lot of effort. But remember that a C-level executive will not have to go through a chain of command before making a purchasing decision like a lower-level employee would have to. This ability for a C-level executive to decide without approval will make the sales process faster, saving you valuable time.
Finding the Right Executive
Contacting the right executive is also a crucial step. Going to the very top and getting a meeting with the CEO or the CFO may seem like a good idea, but they may not have direct involvement (or time) with the area of the company your product or service is likely to benefit.
Many executives will have decision-making power, so research them all to see who would be most interested in what you’re offering. Your sales effort will have the best chance to succeed if you target the executive who gain or lose the most from your pitch.
To find the executive who is receptive, you’ll want to examine the company, starting with its history. Who is responsible for what? Who works with whom? Has any executive worked with someone from your company before? Do you know anyone in the organization who can give you an insider’s perspective?
Having narrowed down your list of executives, you can make a list of them, ranking them by how approachable they seem and by how receptive they might be to your proposal based on your research.
Once you’ve identified the right executive for your sale, check if you have contacts in the industry or even at the company. If you have anyone that can be a reference, you’ll want to use them to get a meeting. A referral can be the difference between getting a meeting and not. On top of getting you in the room with the executive, a reference will give you some automatic credibility, making it easier to gain their trust.
After you’ve established your top-ranked executive and sought out any referrals, you’ll want to try to contact them and get to know them before you launch into your pitch.
If you target the right executive, you can earn a valuable, influential supporter in the organization, reduce the time you spend trying to come to a deal, and dramatically increase your chances of making a sale.
Reach out Before the Call
In most sales processes, where a company has established a need and begun looking for a solution to its problem, the executive is likely to be involved with the sales process at the beginning and the end. After outlining goals for the project, they will pass it along to lower-level employees and only return to the project to approve a final sale.
As they are most involved in the opening stages, you should try to establish contact early on. You have a few options to get on an executive’s radar to get a meeting.
First, by improving your online presence. Specifically, ensure your content includes plenty of keywords a high-level manager may enter when searching for a solution to their problem. If your website ranks highly in search results, the executive or an employee who works closely with them may reach out to you directly instead of you having to do the legwork to get a meeting with them.
Along with bettering your keywords, you can create content that will interest them and raise your profile. Even if they don’t see your work, an employee might come across it and refer you to the executives. At the very least, raising your online profile in the target industry can give you some name recognition when you reach out.
Other, more direct ways you can make contact are through social media and emails. Since their time is valuable, do your homework to find out what methods of communication they prefer.
To score a meeting, you must demonstrate your value to the executive before they even consider fitting you into their busy schedule.
Most importantly, you should attempt to put yourself in their shoes. If your message reflects that you’ve taken the time to consider what they will find valuable, you are much more likely to receive a meeting.
Meeting With Executives Tips
If you’ve found the right executive and established contact with them, chances are you’ll get an opportunity to pitch. Whether you are going to speak with them over the phone or in person, you will want to take the following tips for meeting with senior management before you try to convince them to buy your product or service.
The first tip in meeting with the top executives is to reintroduce yourself. Due to C-level executives’ busy schedules, they may not remember who you are or why they agreed to meet with you. Don’t take it personally; be proactive in letting them know who you are. You should tell them not only your name but also the name of your company and the reason why you are speaking to them.
You can use this formula for an excellent introduction: “Hi, (executive’s name). This is (your name) from (your company). I’m calling/here to discuss (the reason for the meeting) today.”
In the introduction above, you’ve covered all your bases and reminded them who you are and why you are calling. To spruce up your introduction, you can craft a way to reference the executive’s goals or agenda. For instance, if your product boosts profitability, you can say something along the lines of, “I’m here to discuss how (the product) can increase your profitability through (reasons why it will increase profitability).”
Strategies for Keeping Their Attention
Many executives are not going to want to waste time with small talk. Instead, they’ll prefer to go directly into the reason for the meeting. Opening the conversation with a conventional icebreaker may make the executive lose patience in the meeting before it even begins.
However, some executives may still want to get to know the salesperson first and connect with them. Jumping right into the business may make you seem self-absorbed or unfriendly.
One way you can still build rapport and establish credibility with the executive is to begin your conversation by showing you’ve done your research. You don’t need to launch right into your pitch. Instead, ask them about their company’s recent developments, announcements, changes in their industry, or other company-focused subjects.
By starting the conversation with a topic focused on their company, you can show you have researched what they do and are interested in their business. You will come across as friendly, allowing yourself to connect with them over a shared interest.
When you talk about the business at hand, you’ll want to focus on the big-picture—the main advantages of using your products or services. Don’t bog them down with going over all the features and details of what you’re selling them. You might do this with a lower-level employee, clearly marking out all the ways it will help benefit their daily goals, but with an executive, you want to show them how adopting your products or services will benefit their organization as a whole.
Of course, you still need to prepare answers about the features and functions of your product or service, as they might ask. Just don’t focus on these topics in your pitch. Instead, explain how what you’re offering is going to affect their bottom line positively. In short, keep your presentation clear, concise, and compelling—this is the best strategy for selling to C-suites.
Make It Personal
To make your pitch more personal, don’t wing the conversation. You’ll need to continue to research the executive. Ask any of your contacts at the potential client’s company about the executive’s goals or challenges they might be facing.
Additionally, familiarize yourself with the executive’s industry and competition. Knowing their company’s goals and who they are competing against will help you craft a stronger argument for why they should become clients.
When heading into the meeting, you want to find a middle ground between over-preparing and under-preparing for the discussion.
Someone who has over-prepared may try to fit too much into a limited time, but more importantly, they will not leave time to respond to any curveballs a client might have thrown at them. If the executive mentions another need or challenge, you want to have enough time to address that, especially if you have a solution.
If you are prepared, you can avoid coming across as unprofessional or disorganized. Your central message may get lost, and the executives may not even be sure how exactly your solutions could impact their company’s bottom line. Also, you don’t want to lose control of the meeting by running out of things to say and turning the conversation over to them.
Find a balance by preparing an agenda that isn’t too ambitious but still makes a convincing argument. Leave enough time for any topics you might not expect, and be prepared to stop your presentation to answer a question.
Along with preparing an agenda, you should know how to condense your topic. If an executive has to cut the meeting short or if a previous appointment runs late, you will want to be able to shorten your pitch which still can be effective under time constraints.
While a decision-maker has the final say on purchasing decisions, they still want their teams to be on board with them. Before they give you an answer, they will likely want to speak with members of the organization about what you’re selling and get their opinions on your company. Getting widespread support is going to be one of their top priorities before they invest in whatever you’re selling.
With this in mind, you’ll want to try to find out what the buying process looks like at the prospect’s company. You might be able to do this during your initial research. One source of information could be through the gatekeeper, who will often know the executive’s priorities and how they do business. Getting on their good side will put a supporter directly in the executive’s ear and help you understand how that executives handle a big decision.
If you find out the executive will discuss your proposal with other stakeholders and executives, you’ll need to do more homework. In your conversation with the executive, you’ll need to highlight areas that will appeal to their values, but also the values of the stakeholders. Additionally, you will want to reach out to any other team members the executive will be consulting with to gain their support.
By the time you meet with your prospect, you should have supporters throughout the company who will back up your claims.
While feeling nervous about selling to a high-level executive is natural, you will want to hide your jitters from them. Appearing nervous may make the prospect find you untrustworthy or lacking in credibility.
A good way to calm your nerves is to remind yourself of your expertise and insights you’ve acquired during the research. While C-level executivea have their fingers in many pies across the company, you are an expert in whatever you are offering them.
Though you need the executive to help you make the sale, they also require you to help them understand how your offering will improve their company. As executives, they will want to grow their company, so they need you just like you need them.
Ask for Help If Needed
Your company wants you to succeed, and there’s no shame in asking for help. Especially if you’re new to C-level selling, reach out to other, more experienced reps to get their advice on how to approach the sale. You could even ask if they want to come along to the presentation or sit in on the phone call to support you while you’re learning and maximize your chance of landing a client.
On top of reaching out to other reps, look into whether any high-level developers or managers could answer questions about the product or service in a meeting. You want to impress the executive and give them the best information possible, and bringing another expert from your company will accomplish both goals.
With these tips and information, you should be ready to meet with senior management and wow them.
Take Your Sales to the Next Level
Following these tips will increase your chance of meeting and getting approval from C-level executives to use your products/services.
With more contacts, sales steps, and meetings at hand, you’ll need a supportive sales CRM that can host all the approaches and conversations history you’ve made in one place. Our award-winning CRM software—Pipeline CRM—offers customization to your contacts and deals stages, allowing you to always bring your A-game to every meeting with the C-suite executives.
Book a 30-minute demo now, and we’ll show you how Pipeline CRM can improve your sales processes.