Dealing successfully with senior executives requires an understanding that the audience is unique and must be treated differently than other prospects.
Research by The Forum Corp., shows that the most successful selling strategies address five critical areas:
- Strategic priorities: Confirming the prospects’ strategic priorities and critical success factors enables salespeople to verify the accuracy of their assumptions and demonstrates that they have done their homework.
- Time-bounded goals: The salesperson who asks targeted questions about the senior-level customer’s goals for a specific time horizon demonstrates knowledge of the customer’s focus areas.
- Opportunities and problems: Asking questions about opportunities and problems the customer faces may provide insight to pressing issues and possible solutions.
- Benefits and insights: Successful salespeople avoid discussing product features and functions and instead offer new ideas that will help them become business partners.
- Criteria for a business relationship: By establishing themselves as credible and insightful, salespeople drive the conversation toward central questions: What does the customer look for in good business partnerships? What will it take for us to work with you this year?
Three essential skills
Research shows that salespeople who succeed in establishing relationships with senior-level prospects do three things exceptionally well:
- They treat their initial conversations with the senior-level customer as if they were an interview for the job of business partner.
- They prepare a questioning strategy tailored to the organization and customer.
- They offer information and insights oriented toward the future.
A deep understanding
Salespeople must develop a deep understanding of the customer’s company, its products, services and markets and its organizational strategy, mission and structure.
They must learn the industry issues and trends affecting the company, as well as the profile of the customer’s competitors.
They must also learn the major problems and issues facing the customer today and in the immediate future.
Know the audience
Here are 10 questions a salesperson should try to answer before meeting with a senior-level prospect for the first time:
- What products or services does the organization offer?
- What are its major markets and customers?
- What are the most important issues or trends in its industry?
- Who are its major competitors?
- How is it organized? Who are its top managers?
- What strategies are key to its long-term success? What capabilities are strategically important to it?
- What is its mission or vision?
- What important initiatives are implemented now?
- What problems or hot spots is it faced with?
- What has been the organization’s performance in the past 1 to 2 years? How does it measure success?