When I was interviewing with the GM Sales of a US multinational data management company, I asked him what his biggest challenge was. Without blinking he said, “Getting my sales reps to call higher.” If you talk to most heads of sales organisations, they will likely have this in their ‘Top three challenges’ list.
‘C’ level Executives have the most to gain and the most to lose so they of all people want to hear how you can either make them money, save them money or help them avoid losing money.
Having the ‘chutzpah’ to access the executive suite will give you the edge over your competitors, as most account managers are terrified to do this. It is rarefied air at this level.
The benefit of this approach is that:
1) You will come across as more of a businessperson and less as a salesperson 2) It will help you accelerate your sales cycle and succeed faster
Several years ago, when I took over the NSW government territory for a large multinational company, I zeroed in on one quasi-government department with a deal that had been in their pipeline for two years. I asked who our champion was inside the account and I was told, “It’s the data storage admin, and he is a real supporter.” I met with him and quickly worked out that he was actually a huge supporter of our biggest and most threatening competitor! (No surprises where the gent works now.) He was a very nice guy and always took our meetings, but we were kidding ourselves that he was our ‘supporter’ and interested in our solution.
I asked our team, “When was the last time we met with the MD?” and was told “We’ve only been as high as the CIO.”
I started researching the MD and was told by the Sales Manager, “Good luck! No-one else has ever been successful getting to him.” Six weeks later, I was meeting with the MD. Four weeks after that, we delivered a $90k strategic storage roadmap consultancy. Six months later, we sold $1m of storage hardware, $1m of software and $500k of professional services. The team had spent the last two years trying to convince our ‘supporter’ (the data storage admin in this case) why they needed to consolidate and virtualise their storage. Our main contact saw it a) as a threat to his role, and b) preferred our competitor anyway, so he made the previous account team spin their wheels for two years. They would still be spinning if I hadn’t changed their approach.
The point is, if you go to the MD (or CEO, director general, chairman, etc) and tell them that you can save X dollars, they will listen or delegate you to someone who has a vested interest in exactly that.
• If you want to position yourself as more of a businessperson and less of a salesperson to be able to edge out your competitors, then you need to be calling on the executive suite ASAP. You will compress your sales cycle and retire your quota faster. Most people are too scared to try this approach and therefore the competition is virtually non-existent.
• If you are ever told by a well-meaning sales manager, “Why would you ever want to do that? Shouldn’t we have our MD talk to their MD?”, back yourself and do it anyway. Trust me, when the big deals start rolling in, they’ll no longer ask those questions but rather slap you on the back and ask “How did you do that?”
• Do your RESEARCH on the personality of the executive! At this level, they can be very direct and challenging (many Enneagram type eight personalities – see our Know Thyself blog post under tool kits.
If you want to learn HOW to gain creative access to the boardroom see Part 2 of this blog entitled “Cracking the C-Suite code: HOW to creatively access the Boardroom”.