7 Steps to Selling to Top Executives

Open your browser and Google “close sale with executives.” What you will find are lengthy and involved instructional articles, and maybe even something along the lines of “62 Sales Tips…” But, I assure you it does not take 62 tips to make the tough sale. It takes 7, and here they are:

  1. Adjust your attitude. You must relate to senior executives as peers and not as vendors/supplicants. CEOs want to deal with people who are their equals. You should view a sales meeting as an opportunity to bond with that executive and form a comradery. You’re interested in solving problems; and, not only is she also interested in the same, but she has one you can help solve. So, if you approach the situation as a networking opportunity rather than a sales pitch, you’re far more likely to experience success.

  2. Talk; don’t present. You will likely need to adjust your sales pitch right along with your attitude. Because, I will tell you that carrying your laptop into a meeting with a CEO so you can run through your PowerPoint presentation is a great way to get yourself uninvited. Instead, your goal should be establishing connections and building trust through conversation. And, in so doing, the solution to her problem can naturally arise, more thoughtfully and honestly than any presentation will allow.

  3. Focus on results. When the opportunity presents itself, the conversation should be controlled. You need to ask questions that will allow you to understand exactly what she needs, and then give relevant examples of how you’ve helped other clients solve similar problems. Do not stray into content or process discussions. Stay focused instead on results. That’s how you prove your capabilities and value.

  4. Be rehearsed. Even though you aren’t giving a presentation, you need to be well rehearsed when it comes to talking about your company, services, products, solutions, and benefits. Being able to speak to current events and other topics, not just business or sports, is also very important. If you’re able to talk specifically to a CEO’s interests or passions, even better. You’ll be surprised at how far you will get into the graces of a decision maker when you’re able to speak his or her language.

  5. Anticipate the objections. Understanding your offering and knowing how to fluently speak to it, means also understanding the possible objections a prospective customer/client might make. The conversation will be much more productive and fluid if you’re able to predict those arguments, and have proven, well-rehearsed responses at the ready. Simply acknowledge the concern, don’t over-defend or make a big deal out of them, and then provide your thoughtful response. There is no excuse for being unprepared for predictable objections.

  6. Track your time. Be mindful of the time you allotted or requested for the meeting. If things are going really well, it’s likely your conversational approach will result in a lengthy conversation. But, when the time runs out, it’s important not to try and cram everything into the last few minutes (or go over). Instead, simply acknowledge the time with the assumption that he or she will want to continue the conversation later since there is more to discuss. Ask for a follow up meeting and get it in the calendar before you leave the office. If you’ve followed the tips thus far, they will want to see how you can help them. Remember: the slower the sale, the better the sale.

  7. Debrief. After every conversation with a prospect, you need to take the time to debrief yourself. This includes writing down the details of what occurred, including talking points, questions, objections, curve balls, and any personal details you uncovered. Then, take a minute to create new talking points and responses based on your experience, and practice these responses until you know them well.

Be forewarned. Knowing these tips isn’t the golden egg. You must take them to heart, adopt them fully as best practice, rehearse them consistently and regularly, and subject yourself to the review and criticism of trusted colleagues with whom you can practice.