By Sharon Gillenwater
A sale here. A sale there. Yep, that’s that seemingly impenetrable account you just can’t seem to grow. All salespeople have them. What’s the barrier? Well, it could be that the bigger deals elude you because you’re not selling to the people who have a bigger vision – and who hold the purse strings for those multimillion-dollar sales. Getting the C-suite on your side is one way to move the needle with those underpenetrated accounts.
When you develop personal relationships in the C-suite, you’re cultivating action. These relationships open doors and facilitate your ability to close bigger deals faster. Earn their trust and respect and C-suiters can and will:
- Immediately create a budget that includes your product or service
- Greenlight a sale that had been blocked by a lower-level manager
- Open doors to their peers at other organizations – both in their company and beyond – providing you with an invaluable entrée to a very powerful and difficult-to-access group of decision makers.
Sounds great, but the obstacle, of course, is, first how to reach, engage, and nurture long-term relationships with CXOs. Cold calls or even “warm” email referrals are unlikely to get you in the door. Success requires equal parts finesse, chutzpah, and courage – and, even more important, in-depth knowledge of the executive’s background, business, current focus, and key challenges. You need to demonstrate credibility and that you can help solve their problems, which you’ve thoroughly researched and are comfortable discussing.
Three Steps to Attacking Underpenetrated Accounts via the C-Suite
- Target the right person: Do your research. Identify who in the executive suite is most likely to be able to make a decision about your product or service. With good information you can determine which executive owns – or can influence – the area relevant to your product or service, such as marketing analytics, supply chain solutions, or accounting software.
- Really, really know your targets: Corporate bios tell you what the company wants you to know about their executives. If you’re lucky, LinkedIn tells you what the executive wants you to know. But you’ll probably have to dig deeper to uncover potential hooks that will help you get their attention and a return phone call. Our recommendation is to always use their own words when contacting them. Search for interviews they have given with an industry publication, or something they said on a quarterly earnings call. With that in hand, you’ve greatly increased your chances of breaking through the noise.
- Don’t be afraid to challenge them: Don’t take the new pal approach. CXOs aren’t looking for new friends; they need business partners who add value and even speak uncomfortable truths. Give them the facts, but don’t shy away from asking hard questions based on what you’ve learned from other companies in their industry. That kind of honesty adds value, builds trust, and establishes your credibility.
The Three Pillars of a CXO Relationship
If you have in-depth knowledge about your prospect, you can establish a relationship that goes deep and sets you apart from your competition – which may even be their existing vendor. We know from CIGNA Corporation’s CIO Mark Boxer, for example, that, “The companies that do the best with our team are the ones that understand our business, know the competitive landscape, can articulate our strategy, and then orient around those solutions that best help us advance our technology strategy and, more importantly, our business strategy.”
Having in-depth knowledge about your prospect’s industry and business and how your product/service adds value to them – and can even help them innovate – builds the second pillar with your CXO prospect: credibility. Many CXOs can relate to Intuit’s Atticus Tysen, who has said that their big issue is how they can get more efficient and automate with what they already have. They work with vendors “to help us get better while we shift resources over to the new, because I’m definitely not getting more budget!”
Understanding those parameters and speaking honestly about their needs and how you can help them – even putting skin in the game – builds the third pillar: trust.
Keep these pillars – knowledge, credibility, and trust – top of mind as you build relationships with C-level executives and you have a good chance to make the leap to becoming a valued partner within the company. This is what leads to those much larger deals you’ve been aiming to achieve.
Sharon Gillenwater is the founder and editor-in-chief of Boardroom Insiders, which maintains an extensive database of the most in-depth executive profiles on the market, from Fortune 500 companies to independent nonprofits, to help sales and marketing professionals build deeper relationships and close more deals with clients. Gillenwater is a long-time marketing consultant with expertise in marketing strategy, account-based marketing, and CXO engagement programs.
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Source: Selling Power
Are You Building Relationships with Those Who Hold the Purse Strings?