6 Powerful Tips to Sell to the C-Suite

Posted by:
Anis Bennaceur

The C-Suite is made up of the people who make decisions for a company. They are usually high-ranking executives and board members, but sometimes they include other staff that have been given the power to work on specific projects or manage certain aspects of the business. Selling directly to executives is one of the most intimidating experiences in sales.

Many salespeople are great at dealing with lower or mid-level prospects, but flounder when it comes to the upper echelons of the corporate ladder. However, knowing how to successfully sell to the coveted C-Suite is also one of the highest ROI abilities you or your team can possess. And while these situations can be more high-stakes and stressful, the same basic sales abilities are still in play, with a few important adjustments. Read on to learn how to ace your next meeting with corporate executives.

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1. Confidence

One of the keys to communicating with executives and selling to them is to show you are confident and comfortable around them. You have to feel that you belong in the room, and relate to them as easily as you would any other prospect. This is easier said than done, but there are several simple tricks that can help you feel more confident and relaxed, including practicing a quick round of power poses before your meeting or call, doing some breathing exercises, or just taking the time to arrive early and get comfortable and relaxed in your new surroundings if you are attending a meeting in their territory. Try to feel as if you are in your own living room. 

Preparation is also crucial to achieving confidence. You should rehearse your pitch many times over, while also remembering to stay flexible and adjust it to the situation.  The key is to balance this confidence and self-assuredness with a polite, respectful attitude. This also means being considerate and respectful of their time, as people in the C-Suite are almost invariably busy and pressed for time. Keep your pitches brief and to the point.

2. Listen Carefully

When it comes to executives, it is extremely important to ask effective discovery questions and be an active and engaged listener. The more you can get your prospects to share about their specific pain points and the vision they have for their company, the more you will be able to deliver what they are looking for. You can also demonstrate that you are attentive to their needs and listening closely rather than just trying to push your product, which your executives usually appreciate.

3. Get Recommended Internally

Cold calls or emails rarely work on the C Suite. Executives are usually very busy and often on the receiving end of requests and people clamoring for their time. In order to stand out from the crowds, you often need some kind of “in,” a recommendation or introduction from someone they trust. A great way to achieve this is by building a relationship with someone else in the organization, who has influence and access to the executives. If you can get them to put in a good word for you and arrange an introduction with executives at their company, you will get a far more favorable reception than if you made the initial contact yourself.

4. Demonstrate Knowledge

When it comes to dealing with the C-Suite, you need to demonstrate a very high level of knowledge about their business. There is no real way to fake this, and it involves thorough research about your prospect’s industry. Generally, people in the C-Suite are focused on the big picture, the broader concepts, and trends in the industry, and they tend to delegate the details and minutiae of day-to-day operations. So unlike with mid-level prospects, when dealing with executives you don’t want to get too detailed or specific. You definitely don’t want to get caught up in listing your product’s features and minor advantages, which is usually a bad approach anyways. 

Instead, you want to demonstrate a high-level conceptual understanding of major trends and problems, both in your prospect’s business and in the industry. One way to impress your C Suite prospects is to discuss major external pressures and changes on the horizon, such as new disruptive technologies or economic shifts. If you can teach your executive prospects about issues that will affect their business and that they were unaware of, trust me, you will have their attention.

With most prospects, you want to demonstrate a specific knowledge about the details of their operations, and a solution that addresses these. When dealing with executives, however, you should zoom out and show that you understand the larger forces at play, the things they spend most of their time thinking about.  

5. Value Focused

As always in sales, your central focus should be on the value your product and service can provide. Since executives work with big-picture conceptual issues, you should focus on a few core problems and a creative way that you can solve them. C Suite types are often drawn to innovative or creative solutions, rather than the nitty-gritty functions of your product. If you are in a competitive situation, it can also help to address your competition directly and position your product as presenting a radically new and different solution that addresses your prospect’s pain point specifically. Learn more about how to deal with competitive sales situations here.

6. Tell a Story

One of the most powerful tactics in sales is also probably the oldest- telling a story to create an emotional connection. You should create a narrative with your prospect and their company at the center, as the protagonists of a journey that leads to their problem being solved. Many executives are vision-driven rather than detail-oriented, so this type of pitch is often especially effective with C-Suite prospects.

To sell to the C-Suite, you need to demonstrate real confidence, credibility, and extensive knowledge about your prospect’s industry. But don’t be intimidated, because the same fundamental skills you use with other customers still apply here, and you’ll find that once you master these basic steps, selling to executives is not necessarily any more difficult. Let us know if you or your team has any other strategies that help them sell to the C-Suite!

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