When Selling to Executives, Being Prepared Can Boost Confidence

BY Jessica Helinski
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Selling to executives can be thrilling, and intimidating, for reps. Getting an audience with the C‑suite is a great opportunity. But sellers may not be prepared to pitch this type of client. 

Often when salespeople try to pitch to executives, they get nervous and treat them differently…” writes LinkedIn’s Paul Petrone.

Why Can Selling to Executives Pay Off Big?

Pitching buyers at the C‑suite level can have a much bigger impact on revenue. According to SRG, major benefits of these meetings include:

  • A position as a strategic partner instead of a vendor
  • Higher margin deals
  • A shorter decision-​making process
  • Insulation against the competition
  • Additional long-​term business opportunities

Keep Calm and Start With Small Talk

One way for sellers to calm nerves before meeting with executives is to be fully prepared. Petrone shares suggestions for ensuring you’re ready to meet with these high-​powered buyers. With his tips, you’ll find you’re more comfortable and able to focus on making the sale.

He first recommends starting things off with small talk. While the value of small talk is sometimes debated, Petrone believes it’s a great way to start these meetings. Just make sure you’ve done research that includes topics outside of just business. 

You should do some research into the person to find a common interest, and mention that – a good way to make the executive instinctively like you,” Petrone writes. 

But he urges sellers to not spend too much time on this part of the meeting. Break the ice by keeping it casual and going long enough to set a comfortable mood. If you feel unsure about your small-​talk skills, check out these tips

State Your Objective

Selling to executives requires an approach that is more direct. Once you’ve engaged in small talk, it’s time to take control of the conversation. This is a great way to show that you are confident and prepared. 

You want to be the person who moves the meeting from small talk to getting into the meat of the meeting,” Petrone explains. “And that means clearly stating what the objective of the meeting is first.”

And when it comes to deciding the objective, RAIN Group’s Ago Cluyten, makes a smart suggestions to readers. Focus on a goal or accomplishment that you’d like to achieve. 

Rather than drafting a bullet-​point outline of topics for the meeting, think about what you'd like to accomplish,” he writes. “Plan it out like you would a trip or journey. What's your destination? Where do you want to stop over on the way? What are the ‘must sees’ (must dos) while you're on the road? Which points do you want to hit?”

Use those questions to help determine the best objective. Then tie that goal into how it can bring value to the buyer. Be thoughtful about how you can deliver this objective to make it enticing and encourage further dialogue.

Cluyton recommends considering the following: 

  • Their afflictions (also known as pain points)
  • Aspirations (where they want to be)
  • Risks 

Be Conversational Yet Inquiring

When selling to executives, sellers need to strike a balance between a confident advisor and an inquiring partner. With the executive’s buyer profile in mind, guide the conversation to align with their preferences. 

Also, be mindful of how much talking you do. Asking questions is the most powerful way to gain knowledge and show you care. It’s also a sign of respect. For insights into how to improve your active listening skills, consider these suggestions

Close With A Call to Action

Don’t walk away from a c‑suite meeting without a call to action or clear next step. As Petrone notes, “The key here is having a very clear ask from the executive, which makes it easy for them to say yes.”

And Cluyten suggests having two or three asks, which gives the buyer options. This can include suggestions for a next step and even asking the executive what they would like to happen next. Make sure you don't leave the meeting without asking for further action.

With these tips, you can make sure that you’re prepared and confident when selling to executives. And for even more advice, listen to this episode of the Manage Smarter podcast.

Photo by Sora Shimazaki