B2B sales reps have all heard the refrain from their managers: You’re not calling high enough. Companies usually cite examples where executive relationships generated huge contracts, so they encourage salespeople to aim high in their enterprise selling efforts. But getting a bigshot on the phone is not enough to guarantee success. In fact, you can damage your chances if your interaction with an executive falls flat.
How do you engage executives successfully? Prepare, understand, anticipate. Students who study well do better on tests because they know what to expect before they walk into the classroom. If you think about your executive conversations the same way and follow the six steps described below, you’ll do better too.
Executive Calling Conversation Strategy
1. Conduct research
Executives don’t want to teach you about their company or industry. Before reaching out, identify their highest priorities, such as regulatory issues, competitive pressures, financials, or new product releases. Learn about their go-to-market strategies, how they do business, and their biggest challenges so that you can engage in consultative selling that’s worth their time.
2. Reach out to others
If you have the choice between calling your executive target or starting with someone lower in the company hierarchy, we recommend the latter. It may seem counterintuitive, but the more insight they can share about the executive—how that person thinks and communicates, their hot-button issues, current projects in motion, or topics to avoid, the better off you’ll be in future conversations.
3. Be ready to share value
You don’t have a second chance to make a first impression. A consultative selling approach requires you to share valuable insights that your executive wants to know, including:
- A point of view on industry trends, operational improvements, strategic planning, and other topics that can stimulate business-level (rather than product-level) conversations
- Customer stories that demonstrate how working with your company can be a profitable endeavor, or cautionary tales that show how inertia led to negative business outcomes
- Insights from trusted sources (i.e. analysts, thought leaders, executive peers from other companies) about new business ideas that will get the executive to pay attention
4. Know where you are in the executive’s journey
Developing a rapport with any buyer, particularly a senior executive, requires you to provide information that aligns with where they are in their journey. What is the executive trying to accomplish organizationally and where are they in that journey? Before contacting an executive, know if they’re actively considering your type of solution, are aware of it, or know nothing at all. Getting them to consider a business approach that’s not on their radar requires a vastly different conversation than speaking to them when they’ve done some research and are already considering alternatives.
5. Don’t talk about your product
Remember that proper consultative selling techniques with executives do not include unsolicited product pitches. Executives respond much more favorably to conversational sales approaches that focus on their business outcomes, not your products. Connect to the business outcomes they will achieve by working with you, not what your product does, and they’ll see you as a resource instead of just another salesperson.
6. Plan your outcome
Simply getting to know a high-level executive is not a viable objective. Instead, use a consultative selling approach based on objectives that will advance your cause. These may include:
- Putting your company on their radar for evaluation
- Receiving a sponsored introduction to key stakeholders
- Gaining a better understanding of business issues facing the organization
- Plotting a roadmap of the buying process and next steps
- Overcoming an obstacle that has stalled a sales cycle
- Assigning realistic timelines to your efforts
For more insight about planning a successful revenue blueprint to differentiate yourself from the competition, click here.