There are a few things we know about C-level executives: They are under pressure, they have competing demands on their time, and they are being bombarded by sales people like you every day. It’s understandable that they’ve become numb to the onslaught of offers placed in front of them – but that means you need to double down on your approach to prove the value you can bring.
So, how can you get in front of the C-suite and add value to their already hectic workload? Better yet, how can you prove yourself to be the answer to their challenges and free them up to be more strategic in their growth strategy?
The following are a few tips we use here at MarketLauncher that help us engage with the top dogs of our target industries.
1. Do your research
Hate to break it to you, but in the first few seconds that you’re engaging with a decision maker, they don’t trust you. From their perspective, you are simply trying to sell and don’t have enough visibility into their everyday to possibly know the challenges they face. So how do you prove them wrong? By being prepared, very prepared.
Here’s what you should know before picking up the phone or sending them an email:
- The company’s needs, background, and unique challenges
- Their strategic goals and how they perform and track against them
- What drives business and how many moving pieces you may have the power to impact
- The challenges their competitors face and how they overcome them
- What it’s like to be their customer
In any relationship, you can only relate to what you are willing to understand. When you already have a general idea of your prospect’s KPIs, you’ve taken time to walk in the shoes of their customers, and you know what their competitors are doing, you can present new ideas for achieving success. Once you’ve established that credibility, you can confidently come to the table with statistics, case studies, content, and strategies that support your idea.
The first thing I do when calling a prospect is I look for something to reference. I'll research any newsworthy topics to mention, such as a merger, acquisition, or layoffs. If I find something, I can warm up my call with “I was reading online…and I thought the timing might be perfect to discuss…”
2. Provide dollar-based and people-based impact
Remember that C-level decision makers aren’t focused on day-to-day efficiencies or project-based solutions. They’re looking at corporate strategic goals, revenue growth, innovation, and driving the vision of their company. Any statistics you provide should be based on potential growth in dollars – not in productivity, cost savings, or brand lift.
Big players are forward thinking, and so your message should focus on future projections rather than past reports. If you’re presenting new opportunities – whether that be geographies, verticals, or products – give them a hypothesis of value and create a narrative driven by numbers. But, before you go presenting a graph of statistics, be respectful of your prospect’s time. They’re thinking “what’s the bottom line?” so give it to them fast.
Whatever message I am delivering, I make sure that it’s backed up with relevant information that applies to the prospect’s unique challenges. Once I establish that I understand their needs, I can share how the product or service can fill any gaps and provide a solution.
-Terri-Lynne Anderson, Sales Leader / Talent Manager
3. Start with the gatekeeper
Like we mentioned at the outset, executive buyers are numb to all of the outreach being projected at them. Therefore, they often rely on a trusted source -- like a peer, assistant, or colleague – to determine what makes it to their inbox. On the flip side, if you reach the C-suite first and they need buy-in from other decision makers, you’re much more likely to close the deal now that you’re backed by a leader of the organization. That’s why referrals in either direction are the fastest way in the door, and why brand nurturing is essential to piquing the interest of the right person. Here are a couple situations in which you can target the gatekeeper to make it to the top.
Scenario 1: A marketing manager spends every morning sifting through blogs, webinars, news articles, and more. Since they are a qualified prospect, you are regularly targeting them with practical thought leadership content that helps them navigate their challenges. When their executive brings a larger problem to the table, the marketing manager downloads a resource you created that addresses the specific need and they pass it off to the corporate level. Now that your content is in the hands of the right decision maker, they see that you understand what makes them tick and that there’s more where that came from. You’re already a credible source before you even make the first sales call.
Scenario 2: You conduct outreach via phone and email to the office manager of a mid-sized organization. The first time you reach them, they seem interested, but they need to confirm with multiple decision makers before booking a meeting. Do you wait until they get back to you? Of course not. You reach out a week or two later, recall the challenge that you discussed in the last conversation, and bring a solution to the table now that you’ve had time to research. Not only have you given the office manager time to digest and delegate, but you’ve provided new ideas that they can bring up in the next conversation with their higher up.
Scenario 3: During your initial qualification call with a prospective company, you reach a specialist and, rather than pitching your idea, you ask two important questions: “Are you the right person to talk to about XYZ? If not, then who would be?” The specialist recommends you talk to the VP of Strategy, and you ask more questions to dig for information about that person’s position and focus. You’ve now become a trusted referral and you know just what to research before you contact the VP.
I look at my database on the company level and see if I’ve had any conversations with someone there so I can mention a name. Even if it's not a referral, I might name drop and say “I spoke with so-and-so and then realized I should reach out to you directly.”
4. Become a trusted advisor
It’s great to be a reliable vendor or partner, but it’s something else to be a trusted advisor – someone who your client can come to in times of stress and hack solutions together; someone who continuously proves that they care about the success of the business, not just their own. Executives are focused on innovation and organizational change, and they can always use a fresh perspective. As a subject-matter expert, you can propose ideas they may not have thought of yet – ideas that go beyond your product or service and provide value across the organization.
How do you establish yourself as a trusted advisor from the outset? By proving that you own the outcome of your efforts and that you will do whatever it takes to help them achieve their goal. It starts by confidently setting action steps at the very beginning – from a booked meeting to a signed contract to a kick off call and beyond. Once you have the okay to move forward, don’t wait around for your new client to plan the next steps. Take the initiative in every interaction and always look for ways to bring an extra boost of value.
Here at MarketLauncher, engaging with the C-suite has been part of our DNA since before we began, when I spent five years helping Inc. Magazine launch a nationwide peer group program for CEOs of fast-growth companies. Once I had perfected the model and booked hundreds of meetings for pre-qualified CEOs, I started MarketLauncher to bring these tactics to a wider audience. Our team of Market Research and Sales Development Specialists have decades of experience engaging with high-level decision makers across a variety of industries. If you’d like to learn more about our process or share your own tips for engaging the C-suite, I’d love to hear your thoughts.