“Sell high or die.” This phrase should be a mantra to all B2B salespeople. And when I say “sell high” I’m not talking about stocks. I mean that you need to take that figurative—or literal—elevator the C-Suite.
Are the products you offer the best-in-class? Are your services superlative? Good. But that doesn’t matter at all unless you can prove it, and not just prove it to anyone. You need to be able to prove it to someone who has the unlimited power to act upon such knowledge. You need to find that person who can—and with the right pitch — say, “That sounds great. I’ll take 10,000 of them.” And guess what? That person is probably sitting at the top floor in a large office with a closed door, and she doesn’t like being disturbed. But you’re going to disturb her anyway. Because it’s your responsibility to show her how your products or services are going to benefit her bottom line. And when you’re through, she’ll have nothing left to do but thank you and sign a lucrative contract.
Not only should you focus on reaching key decision makers in the C-Suite, but you should do so early in the sales process. B2B sales cycles tend to be long. A recent article in Harvard Business Review (HBR) rightly stated, “Salespeople must reach C-level executive decision makers early in the sales process because the default for organizations today is to maintain the status quo and delay every major purchase.” And while these purchases are being delayed, be assured that your prospective organization is researching and being approached by your competitors. But by cultivating the right relationships, you can close large deals faster than you ever thought possible.
Getting Past the Gate Keeper
When I worked in sales, there were few things more frustrating than having long, pointless conversations with the wrong contact at a company. However, the fact remains that a cold call to the CEO is a one way bullet train to Voicemail City–and that’s if you’re lucky.
Gatekeepers are a reality. And cultivating relationships with the right gatekeepers can have its perks. As such, bouncers at exclusive clubs tend to be popular fellows.
But selling high doesn’t mean that a call to the CEO should be the first call you make. On the contrary, a study conducted by Nicholas A.C. Read and Dr. Stephen J. Bistritz and published in their highly recommended book Selling to the C-Suite shows that 84% of executives would grant a meeting if recommended by a credible source internally. The same study shows that cold calls to the executive (even following an email) only worked 20% of the time.
So when you’re researching a prospect, it’s imperative to identify the right gatekeeper, that individual who has the respect of top executives while being easily accessible. Essentially, you need to convert this gatekeeper into a member of your sales team. Understand that a gatekeeper isn’t going to waste a CEOs time unless recommending your product will make him look good. You simply must sell the gatekeeper on the fact that setting up a meeting with a top executive is in everyone’s best interest.
Preparing for the Big Meeting
“Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.” -Alexander Graham Bell
So you’ve made it past the gatekeeper and you’ve scheduled the big meeting. Time to celebrate? Not a chance. If you don’t have a crystal clear understanding of your client executive’s organization, industry, chief pain points, and success metrics, don’t even bother. Executives prefer talking to sales associates who speak their language. So learn it.
One great way to find out what’s important to a client executive is to carefully monitor her social media feeds for talking points. You can often accrue a wealth of information by simply viewing the exec’s Twitter account.
RingDNA Mobile can assist you with your prep time by instantly delivering contextual data from Twitter before or during sales calls.
The Moment of Truth
Realistically, you only get one chance. Get it right and you’ll establish a lasting relationship with an individual who has the power to make your company (not to mention you, so long as you’re working on commission) richer. Get it wrong and it’s back to the drawing board while your competitor that does close the deal takes her husband out for a lobster dinner.
Whether your meeting with the C-Level executive is over the phone or in person, your goal should never be to simply “show up and throw up.” An executive can easily find out basic information about your products or services from a Google search, and believe me, she probably already has. The client executive wants to hear articulate solutions to known pain points. Heck, the best salespeople often offer solutions to problems that client executives aren’t even aware of.
Aim Above the Rim
Like anything, selling high takes patience, preparation and, most likely, repetition. Just like Michael Jordan didn’t dunk a ball on his first try, you might not close a deal with an enterprise-level CEO on your first attempt. But by continuously refining your strategic process, you can acquire the skills you need to burn up the boardroom.
But start now. Because in the world of B2B Sales, if you haven’t master the executive call, you will lose valuable opportunities to others who have. So repeat after me: sell high or die.
Jesse WestDirector of Lifecycle MarketingringDNA
Jesse Davis West is Director of Lifecycle Marketing at ringDNA, focusing on improving the experience and maximizing the lifetime value for customers across their entire journey. Drawing on 9 years of B2B marketing experience, Jesse is passionate about communication, branding and strategic marketing. He also plays a mean lead guitar and can throw down at karaoke.