Marketeers and sales leaders both strive for engagement in the ‘C-suite’ in order to win deals. Are they right?
For many opportunities senior level engagement is not necessary or appropriate and for others it is out of reach! Understanding the specific buying process is essential if you are to decide on the level of appropriate contact. If your deal has no impact on the issues in the CxO offices then steer well clear. Stick to the decision makers and budget holders who have both an interest and authority to spend. Going above their heads can be counter productive if you have nothing to say and can often create tensions with the lower level managers whith whom you are engaged already.
How to plan your approach.
For the CEO to speak with you requires that you have a clear value proposition. You know about their business and how your solution provides them with benefit. The CEO will be interested in the macro economic factors associated with the market in which they work and the general environment. The competitive pressures here will provide the CONTEXT of their world and you need to understand this. Issues such as the economy, market pressures, regulation, reputation and supply chain issues will often be front of mind here.
How these external factors impact the organisation will be the basis of the “WHY BUY?” stage of the buying process . Understanding areas that are either 1) causing pain or 2) offer opportunity? and which departments are impacted will help you to quantify how they are this effected? If you don’t understand the key issues in this areas then we suggest you steer clear of the CxO until you have researched and can discuss sensibly how you can help them here.
Having understood the why buy, the buying process then turns to the “Solution?”. How will the executives resolve the issue? First start with their planned response to the environmental issues they face. Where they invest their time, effort budgets and resources will provide a clear indication of their prioritised NEEDS. Spending time here is valuable to have a clear understanding of objectives, goals and projects that will receive most attention (and investment!).
With a clear view of needs, the application of your SOLUTION becomes more straightforward. You are able to articulate the business impact of your offer relative to the challenges at varying levels across the client organisation. In short, you can demonstrate clearly how you are able to help. Helping the client to evaluate the various options at this stage will help you to build understanding and forus the solution you offer specifically on the right problems.It is worth testing your messages on your own executives first, this will help you to focus the conversation with the CxO contact.
The final stage of the buying process addresses the issues associated with ”WHY YOU?“. This is where you offer your credentials, your key points of difference based on your value proposition to the market. You are able to provide the EVIDENCE necessary to de-risk the project decision in your favour.
This approach we call Discussions and this approach offers a common CENSE, easily applied,methodology for planning strategic conversations. These discussions are based on outside in thinking and can help you provide a clear structure to your key messages when dealing with senior level clients. Of course, not all of your people will have the skills and confidence to make this happen. But it would be a good start and form the basis of interesting role plays!