Salespeople can lose deals for many reasons, starting with tripping all over themselves on social media trying to short-cut the sales process by blasting out sales pitches, but today, I want to talk about three more, which are:
- No access to C-Suite executives
- Pitching versus problem solving mentality
- Sales messaging lacks relevance
Let’s explore each in a little more depth.
No Access to C-Suite Executives
By now you’ve heard the stats that tell us that buyers are doing early stage research on products, services, companies and people. For that reason, salespeople do need to have brand presence on LinkedIn and other platforms, and their story should clearly communicate how a buyer benefits from working with them.
C-Suite decision makers; however, are not necessarily exploring options, setting vendor criteria or examining the alternatives that exist themselves. They have team members handling that aspect of the process. Many CEO’s will tell you that they are not going to undermine their team members by getting involved at this stage.
So, yes, you need online presence, and you need to consistently be sharing content that demonstrates capability and credibility, but if the focus of that content is simply talking about what your product or solution does, you won’t be capturing an executive’s attention.
To get the attention of the C-Suite “Bring the right issues,” advises Wayne Pisano, CEO of biotech company, Vaxinnate. “Don’t waste my time. Be direct and concise. Generally, people who deliver and behave that way have unlimited access.”
Sales Messaging Lacks Relevance
“According to sales management, the salesperson’s ability or inability to communicate value messages is the biggest inhibitor keeping salespeople from achieving quota.”—SiriusDecisions
This just further cements the need to take a step back and really think about what a C-Suite executive cares about. Within seconds your message has to demonstrate that you’ve done your homework and understand the company, its challenges and what is happening in their industry. Your focus should be on the business issues the executive faces, but absolutely NEVER on the features of your product. How you are going to impact the bottom line in a positive way is what they care about most.
Stop broadcasting vendor centric sales pitches. Executives don’t care about your pitch. If you want them to give you a second thought, focus on how you can help them during the stages of the decision making process they involve themselves in:
Front-end: Understanding current issues, establishing objectives and setting strategy.
Back-end: Planning implementation and measuring results.
The question you want to ask yourself in both instances is how you can be a resource in these areas. Demonstrating this to a C-Suite executive will set you apart from competitors.
In the research the authors of Selling to the C-Suite conducted, the stages I just noted is where executives get involved. The problem is that a lot of sales messaging is focused on the middle space of exploring options, setting vendor criteria or examining alternatives. In other words, pitching your product and trying to prove your company is worthy of consideration. As noted earlier, C-Suite executives have team members focused on this part of the decision making equation.
Remember that you have one shot at making a good first impression throughout every stage of the sales process. This is especially true with an executive. Make it count!
Pitching versus Problem Solving
I’m not sure why this continues to be such a monumental problem, but it is. Feature dumps don’t cut it, and if you really think that a C-Suite executive wants a demo of your product in that first meeting, then you might want to rethink a career in sales.
Let’s assume you got a yes to the meeting. When you get there, get to it. Brevity matters here, and many executives will expect you to net it out in two slides or less with just a few bullet points. That’s right. Two slides not a 50 deck tome that starts with 10 of those slides bragging all about your corporate history! Many C-Suite executives would rather you skip the PowerPoint altogether and talk to them.
Why focus on understanding the problem and speak to that?
Harvard Business Review reported last year that 72% of the executives they surveyed, said that a salesperson’s ability to help them solve business problems they can’t solve internally plays a big role in their decision making process.
Before you jump on any sales call or walk into that executive meeting – DO YOUR HOMEWORK. Don’t expect a busy C-Suite executive to educate you about their business. With all the tools available to us today, not having a cursory understanding of the executives business before you meet with them is simply unacceptable.
Focus on the problem you solve, not your sales pitch! Says Adrian Davis, author of Human to Human Selling “C-suite executives meet with salespeople all the time. Very few of these salespeople, however, get a second meeting. Those who do, get one because they did their homework and were able to have a focused and value-driven conversation with the executive.”
Salespeople are often their own worst enemy when it comes to being successful in sales. I realize that often the pressure they are feeling from management to close, close, close makes it easy to justify taking short-cuts. However, short-cuts lead to a lack of leads in the pipeline and deals going south in that first meeting. Times have truly changed. Your sales approach needs to change too. And, by the way, you are already way behind!