As sales professionals, we often find ourselves talking to upper management about our product or service rather than the people who will actually be using them. This dynamic can definitely change your approach — the way that you build rapport and make a sale to an executive can often be very different than the way you would approach someone on the ground level.
Jason Wilkinson has been in sales for over 20 years, and for the past decade has been training his team on the finer points of executive sales at Forrester Research. When I say executive, I mean it — his clients have an average annual revenue of over $5 billion. These are no small fry.
Jason was kind enough to talk us through his top three tips for success when selling upper management.
Learn How To Engage In The C Suite
Jason mentions that it’s important to learn why executives agree to meet in the first place. By keeping this information in mind, you’ll have a better chance of continuing to stay in front of them. It’s often tough to get time with high level leadership — you must never let them forget how you can help them achieve their goals.
By understanding the goals of management, you can better understand the underlying initiatives and strategies that are driving towards these goals. Jason figures that if you can articulate how you can help management meet these initiatives, budget will be much less of an issue.
Tell Them A Great Story
So once you understand what upper management’s goals are, how do you properly articulate your value add? You need to prepare a good story. And we don’t mean putting on The Princess Bride, even though that is a GREAT story.
Jason constantly role plays with his team to make sure they know exactly how to articulate Forrester’s value to executive leadership. To help the story, Jason recommends building rapport and getting to know the individual you are dealing with and understanding their personal goals. Remember they’re people too! Connecting your value to their individual goals will increase engagement.
The goals of these stories are often financial, but not always. One story in particular stuck out in Jason’s mind — an executive at a large company said what fueled him was the thought that after he helped his organization meet his targets, he would be able to take some time and finally watch his son play a little league game. Cue single tear.
Referrals Are Valuable, So Treat Them Right!
What’s the best way to get that coveted first meeting with someone in upper management? According to Jason, it’s knowing someone that they know. Executives are much more likely to accept a meeting if they are vetted through their network. However, before combing through your LinkedIn, you should make sure you know your stuff.
A referral is a stamp of approval from the individual who gave it, and you always need to be conscious of that. You already have a leg up in this regard, but too many people think of referrals as “easy business.” You still need to come to your meetings prepared, understanding how you can help the referee (not the flag waving kind) meet their goals. All parties will walk away from that meeting that much richer for it.
While you talk to your clients in upper management, why not try a little humor? And once you land those meetings, remember to turn them into selling moments. While doing so, remember to avoid bad sales habits.