If time is a precious commodity, the most valuable is that of a company executive. That’s why C-level decision-makers can be so downright stingy with it, to the dismay of those of us in sales. All we want is to squeeze ten measly minutes out of their day but the fact is that unfortunately most executives don’t even have this much time available to give. It doesn’t help that their inboxes are constantly being bombarded with outreach from other sales reps with whom we have to compete for attention.
So just how can we get C-suite members to notice us and engage them in conversation? There happen to be several tried and true approaches to communicating with executives to ultimately close that C-level sale.
Always begin with the groundwork
You may have begun to notice a sales trend: the best way to start a task is to start it knowledgeably. There’s no exception when it comes to executive level selling. Adequate research will help you figure out who to get in touch with – and what to say.
The more you know about a company and its affairs the closer you are to a captivating opening. Start with its website, the content it posts, its press releases. Find its 10-K and quarterly earning reports. Check for news about not only the company but your respective industries.
Such information can provide a strategic angle for your pitch. Perhaps the company is upsizing and will have more of a need for your product, or perhaps after looking at their financial activities you’ve calculated that they need to save x amount of money — and you can help. Plus, being able to apply relevant facts demonstrates that you are an informed professional, so a C-level executive will be more likely to want to hear what you have to say.
It’s also important to consider precisely whom in the company you want to reach. Prospecting C-level executives is extremely challenging, so you may want to identify an intermediary to connect you first. In other words:
Establish a warm introduction
This takes a decent bit of research, too, but it’s worth it in C-level sales. C-suite managers can get hundreds of cold emails and cold calls per day. It’s no small wonder that they aren’t going to respond to every stranger who contacts them. If you can identify someone the executive already trusts, you can approach that person first and see if they’ll make an introduction.
Easier said than done of course! Make sure to understand the nature of their relationship with the C-level buyer, and prepare just as diligently for your opener with the potential intermediary. A stranger likely won’t agree to make an introduction right off the bat. Exert as much effort on this connection as you would with a C-level decision-maker.
An excellent tool for finding an intermediary is LinkedIn. Compared with other social media it’s unique in that it is first and foremost oriented for professional activities, so it won’t feel like crossing a personal boundary such as, say, a direct message on Instagram might. With 61 million users that are senior level influencers and 40 million in decision-making positions, there’s a high chance the person you want to reach is using Linkedin. The platform allows users to view individuals’ professional connections and even shows connections you may have in common.
Don’t forget to also sift through your own contacts and clients, both online and offline, to help identify an ideal candidate. A warm introduction improves the C-level selling experience not only for you but ultimately for the intended executive as well by setting the stage for a comfortable interaction.
That’s not to say that LinkedIn is the only platform for prospecting C-level executives! Prime communication methods in C-level sales vary based on the industry, size of the company, and even the personal qualities of the person you want to contact (such as age, personal preference for social media, and so on). A good sales rep will optimize their chances by using a multi-channel approach — without spamming, of course.
Email is always a sure option, and even though cold calling may appear low-yield for executive level selling, sales calls can still be effective. Timing can mean everything. Send your email in the morning so it’s the first one the recipient sees; morning is the most responsive time of the day. Make multiple calls at varying off peak times on different days. If you opt to leave a voicemail, make it concise, confident, and spark curiosity.
To try something different, go old school! Snail mail can be effective for selling to C-level decision-makers even in 2020. C-level buyers have reported responding positively to the experience of receiving and physically holding direct mail. Spam advertisements are common in the mail so a personalized letter really stands out on a buyer’s desk.
Diversify contacts, too
It’s just as beneficial to diversify the contacts within the company you’re trying to sell to. C-suite execs are not unilateral decision-makers; there are always going to be others involved in the buying process. To really speed up the C-level selling experience, get in touch with multiple parties in the organization.
Again, you can use LinkedIn to help you with this. Look through company employees to map out decision-makers at all levels. Comment on their posts, introduce yourself, and nurture multiple relationships. Another good resource for finding stakeholders is the website of the business you are trying to sell to; names and titles can be found across the About Us, Contact, and blog pages.
If more people know your name and are convinced of what you’re offering, you’ll be able to drive them through your sales pipeline that much faster.
Keep your message short, sweet, and to the point
We’ve established that C-level executives don’t have too much free time. They’re also desensitized to the endless amount of outreach they’re bombarded with. When selling to C-level decision-makers it’s hard enough to get them to read or listen to a message and a long, convoluted pitch will cause them to quickly lose interest. Here are a few guidelines to follow when drafting outreach:
1. Have a straightforward subject line rather than a witty one
2. Introduce yourself, referencing an intermediary if applicable
3. Describe what your company/product does in one or two sentences
4. Briefly explain why it’s relevant to the buyer and why they should care in just a few sentences
5. Request an action for further discussion
With executive level selling it’s critical to tailor each message. Don’t use a script — that’ll be obvious to this weathered buyer. Show them you did your homework but keep it succinct. Executives don’t have 10-15 minutes to give to every single vendor rushing their inbox. This message should establish value and insight into your product in just a few sentences.
And you’re on the way to becoming a trusted advisor
Obtaining a response from a C-level executive sometimes seems impossible. C-level sales are the most challenging of all but they’re incredibly rewarding once you become one of an exec’s trusted contacts. If you secure an introduction and set the right narrative for a conversation, you can carve a much shorter path to a sale by going through someone in the C-suite.
If you’re still having trouble prospecting C-level executives, use these tips in combination with Revenue Grid’s engagement tool, Revenue Engage, to amplify interaction with buyers. Revenue Engage intelligently automates lead engagement while still allowing for the personalization necessary to snag a C-level buyer. Once a healthy discourse is on track, guided selling with Revenue Guide will help you manage the C-level sales process all the way through to closing.