February 9, 2010 by Ken Dooley
Posted in: communication, New Research, sales management, Sales meeting ideas, Special Report - Sales & Marketing, training, Value
Companies are still buying, but many of the buying decisions are being made higher up the executive ladder. And selling at the executive level requires a different set of skills and strategies.
The sales approach that works with lower and middle managers may not work with top executives. Middle managers may think short-term and often focus on price, service or quality when making purchases.
A larger business perspective
CEOs, CFOs, and other C-level executives are more demanding and see things from a larger business perspective. To succeed, salespeople must re-orient themselves to understand the mindset of top executives.
Recent research into how executives buy and how they define value has provided insight salespeople can use to sell more at the highest level.
Executives are clear in what they want: Understand what drives my business and how you, your products and services can impact my bottom-line.
The first meeting with a top manager is no time to begin searching for answers to fundamental questions. Executives expect salespeople to know the basics of their business prior to the meeting.
Answer these 9 essential questions
Top salespeople know the answers to these questions before entering any meeting:
- What products or services does the prospect’s company market?
- What are the most important issues or trends in the industry?
- Who are its major competitors?
- How is it organized? Who are its top managers?
- What strategies are key to its long-term success?
- What is its mission or vision?
- What important initiative is it implementing now?
- What problems is it facing?
- How has it been performing during the downturn?
It’s no longer enough to tell executives about better service or quality. They want to hear specifics about why you’re better in these four categories:
- Unique qualities. What can you offer that nobody else can? Try to put an actual dollar value on whatever it is.
- Advantages. What do you do better than your competition? Give executives whatever they need to understand the unique qualities of your product or service.
- Parity. If there’s no big difference between you and your competition, look for the smallest differences that may add up to a competitive advantage for you.
- Disadvantages. If there’s an area where a competitor has the edge, explain which qualities your company has that’ll offset that disadvantage.
3 critical skills
Salespeople who succeed in establishing relationships with senior-level executives usually do three things exceptionally well:
- They treat their initial meeting with senior executives as if it were an interview for the job of “business partner.”
- They prepare questions tailored around the organization and executive.
- They offer information and insights oriented toward the future of the relationship.
Adapted from “Selling to the C-Suite,” by Nicholas Read and Stephen Bistritz