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selling at c level

Enough prospects but not enough sales

Many sellers are very busy with prospects, but hardly get in touch with executives at C level, the people on the customer side who decide on large purchases. Managers expect their sales professionals to reach these decision makers at the customers, but they often overestimate the attitude, knowledge and skills of their employees. They work hard, but with little result. Not a nice message, but we can tackle it.

We list the biggest pitfalls:

  1. Marketing works against
  2. Bad prospects
  3. Ignorance to reach C executives

Marketing and Sales work against each other

The Sales department looks great on paper: experienced salesmen and plenty of energy to achieve results. Yet it is not enough to get to the decision makers' table, so many efforts and proposals are not followed up.

How did that happen? The (marketing) communication and value proposition work against. Let's see how this works in practice. New employees receive an on-boarding program - if there is already such a program. The most important thing they learn is how 'We from company X' work. Our products, our solutions, our markets and our value proposition.

We help customers to ...

We are the best in / most effective / fastest / cheapest in ...

We are market leader in ...

(potential) Customers think this is terrible, so stop this ge-we! Your company and the sellers are not the heroes. These are the customers who are looking for an expert. So tell about their trends and challenges. How do other companies deal with this and how has your company contributed to this?

Here it gets tricky: most sales professionals have never had the job of the person to whom they want to sell. They don't understand well what exactly a CEO or Managing Director does, what drives them or why this decision maker makes a purchase.

With a product folder, customer profile and loud marketing you will not even cross the threshold at the boardroom.

You expect experienced sales professionals to come in at C level, but can they really do that? Very few sales leaders ask that question about their senior employees. They assume that these skills are present, but the results often point to the contrary.

And the junior sellers? Training on the job and learning in the workplace? Especially dream further.

Customer oriented communication

When prospecting, it is important that sellers empathize with customers. And the customer is often not the contact person in middle management but the highest boss of the company. Which topics are important for CEO and other members of the Executive Board? What do they do in a day? What are their challenges and where do they miss opportunities?

With these insights as a basis, sellers are much better able to tell what your products can contribute to their success. Next, sales professionals must learn to get this message into the limelight at the customer's top, both in writing and face-to-face. Here, most companies fall seriously short. And that's why the sales cycles last so long and opportunities are lost.

Bad prospects

Many sellers waste a lot of time paying attention to mid-level managers, who defend the status quo. For sales people that may feel less frightening and more like contact with someone on an equal level, but it doesn't work. It is effective to send sellers with real customer insight and appropriate communication to the actual decision makers.

Because the biggest threat to your business is not the competition.

It is the status quo.

It is internal resistance at the customer to change. Do your salespeople talk to the people who make the decisions? Who can really set things in motion internally and have a budget? Most mid-level managers cannot say yes, but no.

The graph below shows the core motivation of executives at different levels in the organization.

sell at c level

Emotionally, many sellers will recognize this image. They realize that they have spent their time wrongly on the middle managers (in the picture above vice-presidents and directors of business units, but this can of course differ per company in terms of names and organizational form), who concentrate on implementation and operational processes. Real change and decisions to make major purchases is the terrain of the people at the top.

Why do so many sales professionals still focus their attention on mid-management? They are so busy; many phone calls and appointments to impress. It doesn't deliver much.

C-level contacts make the difference. There people have the power to initiate real changes to grow organizations with appropriate budgets. Sales toppers follow this top-down approach.

C-level contact

How many sales people can start a sales cycle at C level? Write an email or Inmail on LinkedIn that leads to a conversation with the company top? Make a phone call with a direct appointment? Has anyone ever learned that?

Most sellers have to figure this out for themselves. That is why they do not have the right attitude or sufficient self-confidence to start high in the tree. Where the big decisions are made.

With effective communication, sales professionals do get agreements with the right people at decision-maker level with key prospects. Faster more chances for better results. That is a profit for all parties.