Selling to Executives

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It's tempting for B2B salespeople to get around the long, drawn-out corporate buying process by jumping straight to the top of the heap. Selling to the corporate suite is a possibility, but it requires a rather different approach than selling to a purchasing agent or department head.

Be Prepared

Most corporate execs have too much to do and not enough time to do it in. They appreciate people who don't waste their time.

So before you march into that penthouse office, make sure you have everything in order. Your presentation should be polished and ready to go. If you need audiovisual equipment such as a projector, organize it with the executive's assistant and be very clear about what you need. This kind of preparation is always important before a sales appointment, but it's ten times as important before an executive-level presentation.

Ask Questions

When you're meeting with lower-level employees, you can skimp a bit on your research. In fact, asking for information about the employee's company can actually boost your rapport-building efforts, since you're making it clear that you consider them a knowledgeable source. With C-level executives, don't waste their time asking them basic background questions. Top executives already know they are important, so asking those questions will be seen as incompetence on your part.

If you want a specific bit of information and can't find it in the prospect company's published material, ask the executive's assistant well before your big appointment takes place.

Keep is Short

A C-level presentation should be short and sweet. High-level executives don't usually enjoy spending their time entertaining sales reps, and they're definitely not going to want to blow an hour watching your 50-slide presentation and listening to you talk about how great your product is.

Keep your presentation to no more than 20 minutes at the most – 15 minutes is better. If you bring slides, they should be brief and laser-focused to the prospect's needs. Don't even think about reusing slides from another presentation.

The Presentation

The first part of your presentation should focus on your prospect's company: a quick summary of their current position in the industry, the challenges they are facing and their strategy to date in overcoming those challenges. You can usually get this information from the company's website, press releases and investor prospectus. If you're using slides, include the company's logo or (better yet) a snapshot of their building. After presenting this information, it's a good idea to pause and ask the executive if your understanding of his company's business strategy and goals is accurate. This shows your respect for the exec's knowledge without wasting his time with a series of basic questions.

The second part of your presentation should focus on your own company and its offerings. This should be the shortest part of the presentation – just a few sentences and one slide is plenty. Bring more specific information with you, such as brochures and more detailed slides, but don't share them unless the executive specifically asks for more details.

The third part of your presentation brings the first two sections together. Here is where you present your case for why your company is the best possible business partner for the executive's company. Obviously, parts one and two should be slanted to make part three work well. For example, your list of the prospect's business challenges should include ones that your product can resolve perfectly. If your prospect offered any corrections or additional information after the first part of your presentation, be sure to touch on those items here by relating them to your product. For example, if the exec mentioned that expanding globally is a high priority, explain that your widgets can easily convert to use 220v electrical power, and thus can function just as well in Europe as in the USA.