Sunday, August 21, 2016

How to Establish Credibility When Selling to Executives

an org chart combined with a game plan

To sell effectively at the executive level you need to become as knowledgeable as you can about your C-suite prospects…what they care about, where they fit in the company, who they listen to, etc. This is the only way you can put together an executive selling game plan that can work.

The great advantage of selling direct to executives is that you have reached the decision maker and are likely to close the sale faster than having to make your way through the ranks. But the great challenge for most salespeople is that they have not learned that, in order to be successful, they need to adopt a different selling strategy from the one they use with lower level customers. Executive selling training helps you understand how to capture executives’ attention, establish credibility, and ultimately move them toward a sale.
  1. Ensure Your Brand and Content is at the Right Level
    Make sure that your company has a professional-looking web site that conveys executive-level solutions to executive-level problems.  That includes all the social media channels like LinkedIn and Facebook for both you and your company.  According to, 64% of executives use LinkedIn and 55% use Facebook to keep connected and informed.  If your personal brand or corporate messaging does not resonate with the C-Suite, your chances of changing an executive’s online impression of you and your firm are low.
  2. Learn all you can.
    Once your personal and professional brands are in alignment with your executive buyers, then do research on your target companies. Learn as much as you can about the industry, the marketplace, the organization, and their challenges. Use every investigative tool at your disposal…the internet, financial records, annual reports, letter from the CEO, and, of course, your network. You need to develop a working knowledge of the challenges at the company and a compelling plan for how you can help them succeed. If you have contacts there, get the scoop from insiders. And certainly, if you have internal supporters, ask for a referral. A warm introduction from the right person can give you almost instant credibility. 
  3. Be ready to make your case.
    Gather the right data. Most executives are impressed by meaningful insights and compelling data. They want to know what your solution can bring them in terms of measurable business results compared to the alternatives at their disposal.  And most executives during the sales process like to know the actual numbers behind how you have helped other companies in similar situations.
  4. Prepare and practice your pitch.
    Design your executive sales presentation to begin at the end. Use your punch line up front. Executives don’t want to waste time in a “warm-up.” They want the bottom line first. Then if they are interested, answer their questions with more detail. And make sure you focus on the value of your solution with regard to what matters most to them and their business…how it will spur growth, or save money, or open new markets. Then practice your spiel so you can present with confidence and as concisely as possible.
When you are fortunate enough to sit across from an executive, be smart about planning an approach that works.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

5 Difference-Making Tips When Selling to Executives

An arrow on the brick wall points to the CEO's office

You learned in your executive sales training program that it is critical to be fully prepared when you are selling to executives.  You need to know their business inside and out.  You need to bring value in the way of expertise and insight to each meeting. You need to help them succeed.  But here are a few additional tips that can make the difference between success and failure in selling at the C-level.

  1. Continue to qualify the opportunity and the value.Certainly you asked the pertinent questions at the beginning of the sales process to determine if the opportunity was worth pursuing. But don’t stop there. Keep on asking the right and hard questions to make sure that you can help your executive buyer to succeed. Change occurs often and fast. Be sure the opportunity is still worth your while, that you can still effectively compete, and that you still have a reasonable chance of winning.

  2. Make sure you have enough executive support.The trick here is to be sure you have more than a nod but that you have real commitment to your proposal at the highest level. Too many deals have been lost simply because an executive overrode the recommendations of lower-level managers and made their own choice. The other trick is to be sure you have the support of the relevant executive. Often the key stakeholder is not the CEO but a senior manager who has the most to lose or gain with the decision to buy from you.

  3. Make your value visible.As you develop relationships throughout the client organization, make sure that the value you bring is visible and appreciated at all the right levels. Unless you show and communicate your value, executives may be entirely unaware of “what you do and know” that can help their business to succeed compared to the competition. This is how you can differentiate yourself and your organization.

  4. Mitigate the risks to your executive customer.Executives always balance risks and rewards in any decision they make. It is up to you to understand their perspective and do what you can to demonstrate how investing in your specific solution presents less risk than the risk of not buying and implementing it.

  5. Link your solution directly to a business result the executive cares most about.This is your value proposition. How will your solution affect a business outcome that greatly matters to your customer? First you must understand the goals and objectives of your client. Only then can you define the business value of your solution in the client’s terms. 

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Monday, May 23, 2016

Executive Selling – Empathy Helps Understand Their Point of View

+A close-up photo of a man's eye

Does the idea of empathy in a business setting make you queasy? Is it a bit too soft-sounding for you to think it has a place in your hard-driving sales organization?

There was a time not so very long ago that many business leaders did not recognize the value of emotional intelligence. They focused on the hard, more technical skills and did not appreciate how skills like good communication, social intelligence, dependability and, yes, empathy could contribute to the success of their teams and their organization. 

Today, however, business leaders understand that a person’s emotional IQ is a critical factor in building relationships both internally and externally. Especially for customer-facing employees in sales and service, the higher their emotional intelligence, the more effective they can be at helping their customers to succeed. Empathy can help you succeed in sales…especially at the executive level.

Think about it. If you could see things clearly through an executive’s eyes (that’s what empathy is all about), imagine how much insight and compassion you would have into your customer’s perception of you and your offering, their buying style and decision making, and, ultimately, whether or not they are likely to sign the deal. Empathy can serve your business goal of increasing sales revenue and helping your customers to succeed. With empathy, you do more than sympathize with your customers. You can use your understanding of them and their situation to make smart decisions about the way you interact, the way you present your solution, the way you follow up, and the way you add measurable value to the executives you sell to.

How can you develop empathy? Executive sales training experts say you need to stop and think deeply about the other person’s perspective to understand their needs, their wants, and their motives. This is, by the way, what successful sales negotiations rely upon…having a complete understanding of the other side’s point of view.

To better sell to executives, you need to learn how to:

  • Listen truly…with your ears and with your eyes for non-verbal cues.
  • Be fully present.
  • Be encouraging and smile to show you welcome customers’ thoughts and feelings.
  • Be genuinely interested in what makes people tick.

As you build your capacity for empathy, you will find you are better able to persuade and help executive-level buyers. Fundamentally, empathy does have a place in executive sales because it helps build relationships that are trusting, long lasting and mutually beneficial. Isn’t that what you look for in your executive-level client relationships?

Learn more at:

Saturday, April 30, 2016

How to Score a Meeting with an Executive Using LinkedIn

2 people are meeting with an executive

There are so many reasons why it is smart as a salesperson to meet as soon as possible with executives.  Executives:  

are likely to be the decision makers
wield power and influence over lower level contacts
control the budget and 
link directly to the strategy that drives their business

Yet, there are also many reasons why it is difficult to score a meeting with these high level folks.  Most executive team members:

are super busy and 
often find sessions with traditional sales people a waste of their time

From your executive sales training, you feel confident that you can handle the pressure of a coveted appointment in the C-Suite. You know the company and have done the necessary research. You understand what problems the company is facing. You have pulled together a persuasive list of potential solutions for their most pressing problem and have crafted a brief but compelling pitch with the client at the center.

First, however,  you have to get the meeting on your calendar. The most effective way to get an appointment with an executive is via a warm referral. This is where LinkedIn can help. Here are the steps to follow to use LinkedIn for warm referrals:

1. Identify your top target clients…the ones you love to work with, who appreciate your solutions the best and where you should win at least 75% of the time.

2. Ask if they would be willing to have you reach out to their connections. If they have been truly delighted with you and how you have helped them grow their business, they are likely to say “yes”…especially because it’s easy and quick to do so on LinkedIn. Make your request short and sweet so it takes little time for them to read it. And be sure to make it clear that you will use only a few of their contacts and only those with problems you feel qualified to solve.

3. With your top clients’ permission, use the “Advanced Search” option to sift through connections that are most likely to bear fruit. For the step-by-step process, see

4. Send an invitation to the selected executive connection citing your common contact. Suggest a time for an introductory meeting based upon a compelling idea or insight that makes sense for their unique situation and your referring contact.

Using technology to filter through contact lists for executives most likely to need your services is the smart way to get those referrals that win you a seat in the executive board room. Now go for it!

Learn more at:

Monday, March 14, 2016

A Secret to Selling Success to Executives

A man walks on stilts high above all the others

If you really want to sell at the executive level, you need to understand the executive mindset. 

Most executives are all about results. They do not want all the details about how your offering works…that’s for their senior management to track and figure out. Executives want to know the positive and measurable impact your solutions will have on their bottom line. How can you solve an important challenge that they face, boost current revenues, or prepare their organization for success in the future? In other words, how can you help them achieve success, personally, professionally and organizationally? 

What drives most executives centers around success. So the secret that is rarely highlighted in standard executive sales training is that you should accentuate the positive. Executives are well aware of the negative. Let others probe for the “points of pain.” Distinguish yourself and your solutions by providing positive and future-oriented business outcomes.

First you need to know their most important strategic goals. What are your executive buyer’s priorities for the organization? And how will they measure progress toward that goal? The more you can focus on their business priorities, the more you will be seen as a business partner who deserves their time, attention and respect. 

A few more hints:

1. Don’t ask too many questions.
If you’ve done your research thoroughly, you should be prepared with compelling thoughts and insights to share. If you question too much without offering value that links to their most pressing issues, the executive is apt to bounce you down the ladder to a lower level where you may well belong.

2. Make it short and sweet.
When it comes time in the discussion to describe your solution, be succinct. Let the executive probe for more details according to their level of interest and need to know. If slides are involved, keep them to an absolute minimum and pull them out only if they help to illustrate a critical point. 

3. Have relevant case studies and testimonials at the ready.
Similar stories of success in similar situations and industries can be very powerful in moving an executive toward the buy decision. Use them as appropriate and when they illustrate a success that the executive can identify with and find of value.

When you have landed an appointment in the C-Suite, remember to keep focused on the business. That is how you can impress executives, sell more effectively and earn the envied position of trusted advisor. 

Learn more at:

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

3 Paths to Help Your Client Earn a Seat at THE Table

an executive is sitting alone at the head of the board room table

When you are a “student” of executive sales training, you learn all about how to talk to executives effectively and what they care most about. You learn that they do not typically want to hear about tactics; their focus is on strategy. They typically do not want to hear all the details about implementation; they only care about business results. They need you to bring compelling value and insight to each and every conversation. Executives have no time for stock presentations of what your product or service can do; they only care about what your product or service can do for them and their shareholders.

All well and good if you are actually talking to the ultimate executive decision maker. But often, your primary contact is only on the way to the C-Suite. Just imagine how much more successful you would be if you could effectively coach your customer in all that you know about how executives think and buy. If you could help your new (or aspiring) executive-level buyer to achieve trusted status at THE executive table, you would both benefit enormously…your client from the newfound status and respect and you from the loyalty earned and potential business.

Help your primary contact achieve executive status by coaching along these three paths:

1. Achievement and accountability
Make sure your contact can achieve the desired goals. This could be part of the solution you sell. Coach them so they present the solution in a compelling way that highlights measurable business impact. But, if there’s a bump in the road, coach them to own up and be accountable. There is nothing to be gained, and a lot to lose, by passing the buck.

2. Risk management
Executives understand risks; they face them with every decision they make. Be sure your contact is able to outline any risks and implications so there will be no unhappy surprises along the way. Being fore-warned is being fore-armed.

3. Political savvy
Help your contact understand the executive-level politics. Advise that they meet this new “team” on level ground as they figure out where the power lies. It is best to not make any fast alliances until the personalities, motives and success metrics are well understood.

Learn more at:

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Executive Sales Success – Coaching Can Make the Difference

a coach's whistle is pictured on the turf

Meetings at the top with executive decision makers are the often most angst-ridden situations for salespeople. They know how much rides on their ability to connect on a personal level, to impress on a professional level, and to bring value to the discussion. Their stress is high and yet they need to project confidence and a sense that they belong in the room and at the executive table. This is what executive sales training is all about…preparing sales reps for what they need to know and how they need to behave for success in the C-suite.

But sales training is just the beginning. Program participants become aware of the challenges and how, at least in theory, to overcome them. But learning is an ongoing experience. It comes a little at a time and as the learner is in real-world settings. One lesson here, another lesson there. In the meantime, though, opportunities may have been lost. 

We know that coaching and on-the-job reinforcement can make the difference. Our research shows that it makes a 4-to-1 difference.  Learners receive feedback from successful sales reps on what they could do better next time.  As sales manager, you owe your learners the support and development they need to succeed.

If you have enough sales coaches to accompany newer folks on all their calls, great. However, this is probably not the best use of your top talent’s time. Your best sales folks are not always available or willing to give up their own opportunities to mentor another. The result is that your newbies are “practicing” in real time. Do you even know how many opportunities have been lost due to their inexperience and the painful lessons learned while right in front of the customer?

There is an answer. Use videos. This can work in two ways. Re-enact actual selling situations…first to show how it should be done and next to get feedback.

1. Your top talent can show learners how it is done.
Re-create the conversations between your experienced sales rep and customer executives. Throw in obstacles and challenges to the sale. Learners have a chance to observe how such problems are addressed. They can learn the language and attitudes that work. They will see how well prepared they must be, that executives are interested in business results rather than technical details, and that they should come armed with something of value like a fresh insight or special subject matter expertise.

2. Video your learners in real-world scenarios for coaches to observe and critique.
Give learners a chance to practice, review their performance and reflect upon feedback from coaches who can watch the videos when convenient for them. Learners can practice again and again in a safe setting. 

Soon your executive sales trainees, with the video help of your top talent, will be ready for the big time.

Learn more at: