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Picture it: your sellers are working on an opportunity selling to the C-suite that you deeply want to win. Your solution best meets the client’s needs, and you’re trending ahead of your competition. But you lose the deal over an objection from an executive.
What went wrong?
The needs of the C-suite when it comes to buying influence often differ markedly from those of other stakeholders. That means your sellers need to tailor messages to them accordingly. For example, these executives focus more on achieving the long-term vision of the company than on day-to-day tasks. So, when selling to the C-suite, your sellers’ solution needs to address long-term goals.
Effectively selling to the C-suite requires a deeper understanding of how to decipher executives’ decision-making style, how they disseminate information, and how to provide materials tailored to their unique style. An effective sales strategy presentation involves much more than how your sellers build their slide deck. Instead, it’s how your sellers tailor messaging to resonate with C-level buying influence, the order in which they deliver the content, and the types of content that they share.
In 2020, companies reported that 32 percent of forecasted opportunities resulted in competitive losses, with another 20 percent resulting in no decision, according to our 2020 Sales Performance Report. While many factors contribute to less than perfect win rates, selling to the C-suite doesn’t have to be one of them.
Here are four techniques that your sellers should master before selling to C-suite executives.
According to our research, all C-level executives fall into one of five decision-making styles. Your sellers need to classify the executive they’re selling to into one of these five categories. Then your sellers should tailor their messaging and selling strategy to resonate with this behavior type.
The five decision-making styles are:
To effectively prepare a sales presentation for a C-level executive, your sellers must understand what makes the executive tick. The key is to research their decision-making style (as opposed to personality traits, such as Myers-Briggs types) when developing a sales strategy.
Your sellers need to understand how an executive handles decisions that have consequential, real-world impact by asking questions such as these:
Of course, your sellers won’t be able to ask the executive these questions directly. Instead, they should use the resources available to them, such as financial reports, press releases, and thought leadership they’ve published or posts on social networks like LinkedIn. Your sellers should also speak with people who have worked with the executive buying influence or interacted with them professionally.
This is another perfect opportunity for your sellers to leverage their internal coach, who can share how the executive has made important decisions in the past.
Our research shows that about 80% of sales presentations are geared toward the Skeptic and Controller decision-making styles. This finding drives home the importance of tailoring your message to the style of the executive. It illustrates how sellers often provide information the way that they’d like to receive it.
The problem is that the C-level executive may not have the same style as your seller. The Skeptic and Controller styles represent just 30% of all executives. Your sellers need to tailor all communication to the way the executive buyer makes decisions, not the way they do.
It’s easy to misread any buyer’s level of commitment to close a deal. This is especially true with C-level executives who can tell a seller exactly what they want to hear while they’re in the room and then go radio silent as soon as the seller leaves.
To overcome this, your sellers should prepare a specific call to action that requires the executive to move the opportunity forward. If the executive wants to move forward, they’ll complete the task.
On the other hand, if the executive doesn’t finish this action promptly, it becomes a justification for your seller’s follow-up emails and phone calls. Then, if an executive continues to remain silent, it may be time to move on to the next opportunity.
The most important part of selling to C-level executives is customizing your sales communications to their decision-making preference. The odds of winning a deal go up when your sellers classify the executive that they’re selling to into one of the five decision-making styles, tailor their messaging to meet the needs of the executive’s vision, and develop a call to action for assessing how committed the executive is to closing the deal.
Convinced that you need to improve your sellers’ engagement with C-level executives to increase your win rate? We offer an intensive Executive Impact ℠ training program geared toward understanding how C-level executives make decisions.
Contact us to learn more about how we can help you design a sales strategy that targets selling to the C-suite.