Top Line Tips by Lisa Magnuson
None of us want epic failures, especially when it comes to one of the most important sales activities – executive engagement. However, the road to executive selling is littered with tons of potholes that you might encounter on your journey to develop and maintain positive relationships with the key executives in your accounts. Below is a summary and brief description of common roadblocks or issues that sellers may encounter and how to avoid them:
- No referral – Having a referral into an executive can increase your chance of success by 50% or more. Referrals, especially a referral from within the executive’s organization are essential. Develop those internal champions and referral sources!
- Lack of confidence – In my experience, the lack of confidence in sales stems from a lack of knowledge and/or preparation. Plan to spend a lot of time preparing. Think executive dossier, account based team strategy work and extensive pre-call planning.
- Asking for too much or too little time – Asking for 15 minutes (unless it is a quick question) leaves the executive nervous that you will go over the time allocation. Asking for more than 60 minutes without a rock-solid agenda and purpose will be met with skepticism as it relates to their time ROI. Most executive meetings should generally fall within 30-60 minutes. Plan your agenda to end early.
- Once and done approach to executive cultivation –Too often over the past thirty plus years in sales, sales management, executive sales leadership, and as an independent sales consultant, I have observed sellers expend tremendous amounts of effort to gain access to a senior leader only to fail on follow through. They don’t gain commitment for future access, and they don’t do the necessary planning and execution to cultivate that executive in an appropriate way. What is the end result when they feel it would be helpful to call on that same executive in the future? The executive doesn’t remember them personally or details from the prior meeting. They have to start the long process all over again. The great news is that you, the reader, will not have to suffer from these terrible consequences.
- Subservient approach – Executives want to spend time with other decision makers and people of power. Be respectful but not subservient.
- Not listening – Not listening is always a show stopper in sales and even more so with executives. They are accustomed to being heard, so make sure you give them the floor and let them talk.
- Underestimating power and authority of executive assistant – The executive assistant has tremendous power and authority when it comes to scheduling and access. Treat this person will the utmost respect, and don’t skip the sales fundamentals of developing rapport, good questions, and focusing on why vs. what.
- Claiming generic ability to impact their organization (i.e. dollars or percentages associated with cost savings or profit improvements) – I always cringe when I see promises for specific dollar amounts for savings or improvements in emails to executives. Unless you can back up your numbers, don’t throw them out there or you stand to lose credibility.
- Not anticipating risk associated with meeting – An example of a common risk is offending your other contacts within the executive’s organization if they haven’t been included in the prep. Another example of risk is asking for a meeting during an inappropriate time for the executive. The account based selling team should discuss timing and risk and develop your approach accordingly.
There are many appropriate ways to establish relationships with executives. Choose carefully and avoid all common pitfalls.
When done correctly, you will enjoy ongoing access to key executives which will enrich your career and contribute to your sales success in an exponential way.
Your reward will be to ring the bell more frequently with big, TOP Line Account™ ‘wins.
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