How to Sell to the C-Suite

Thu Jun 15, 2017

Kathy Crosett

There’s nothing quite like getting an appointment to present to the CEO of a company. It’s easy to freak bossout about the idea of sitting in front of the polished walnut desk that belongs to the top brass. Instead of letting the power title and upscale furniture rattle you, focus on what you need to do to win the business.

In a recent column, Jim Ninivaggi summarizes what can go wrong, and how you as a sales rep, can change your approach to make things go right. Your success will be directly connected to your level of preparation.

If you’re accustomed to meeting with lower-level decision makers, you probably spend time exploring their pain points. Asking lots of questions usually gets your prospect to open up and discuss what’s frustrating them. Those discussions then allow you to segue into the details about how your product will help them solve their problems. This process might take weeks or months.

By the time you get to the c-suite, you should know plenty about the organization and the CEO. That won’t be enough. You need to dig deeper. Take time to study the company’s website and LinkedIn page. Check out the CEO’s biography. Conduct online searches to find out what’s happening in the industry and with the competition. You may not include the information you collect in your presentation or conversations, but the knowledge you accumulate will make you more confident.

If there’s one thing CEOs have in common, it’s a lack of time. They won’t show patience for a poorly put together or obviously canned presentation. If you’re serious about scoring a contract, customize your presentation and practice in front of an honest critic. Be positive and upbeat in the CEO’s office and try to engage her in a conversation. Once you get her talking, you’ll be more relaxed, and you’ll get a glimpse into what interests her and be able to steer the discussion in the right direction.

This tactic can be easier if you research her preferences ahead of time. If you’ve already established a relationship with a lower-level person in the organization, ask him what he knows about the CEO. Does she prefer video in a presentation? Is there a competitor she’s particularly worried about?

Your success rates in these critical encounters will directly relate to the time and energy you spend researching and preparing.

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About Kathy Crosett

Kathy is the Research Director for SalesFuel. She holds a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Vermont and oversees a staff of researchers, writers and content providers for SalesFuel.

View all posts by Kathy Crosett