Selling to C-Level Execs – Part 2: How to Gain Access
Presumably you’ve read Part 1 – When is the best time to reach the C-Level Executive (CLE). In this second installment we’re going to address HOW to gain an audience with CLEs. There are two really good ways to get a B2B sales meeting with a CLE:
- Let your marketing work its magic and let the executive call you for a meeting. The chances of this happening of course are pretty small, but it does happen. This kind of outreach usually signifies a deepening issue that the prospect needs solved. Be prepared to field this call professionally and effectively.
- Gain access through a trusted advisor/influencer of the CLE. This is more realistic and effective than waiting for the phone to ring. Does cold calling work? Sometimes, but the yield is pretty low, so it’s best to get in through another member of the CLE’s staff.
Sales research suggests that, in strategic sales, it’s more advantageous to meet with the direct reports BEFORE gaining access to the CLE. Why? We’re not talking Manager-level here. We’re talking about powerful directors and VPs who have a ton of information you need to get prior to meeting with the CLE anyways – information about their challenges, the impact, and potential solutions.
You should do your homework initially before attempting to penetrate an account to see if it’s even a possibility that your solution would help. From there, any entry strategy should be one of the following:
- Find someone who will listen to you.
- Find someone with a challenge that you might help solve.
- Find someone who has final decision-making authority.
If your entry strategy is #2, where the prospect may be dissatisfied with some product or service, determine where in the buying cycle the prospect is. At this point, talk about their issues and not your product. Ask who would be involved in the decision and the process to change? Only then do you talk about money. Until then, you haven’t earned the right to talk dollars.
At this point you can delve deeper towards the CLE with a statement like, “It’s been my experience that CEOs are usually not involved in the details of a project like this, but they usually are involved in the final selection. Is that true here at your organization?” Once you confirm that s/he will be involved, you can make the request for time.
In order to successfully get an audience with that CLE, the influencer must see strategic value in allowing access to the CLE’s guarded schedule. You must also clearly state the value and potential outcomes of that meeting. Your chances go up significantly of landing the meeting when you are bridged by a trusted direct report. To be sure, CLEs calendar entries are by appointment only.
Stay tuned for the final installment on what to do when you've finally gotten the meeting - the big show.