Calling on Executives
Sales Tips: Calling on Executives
By John Holland, CustomerCentric Selling® Chief Content Officer
A survey done by Sales Benchmark Index showed within technology companies, 13% of sellers generate 87% of the revenue. This highlights the wide disparity of performance between “A” vs. “B” and “C” Players. All sellers receive the same product training from their companies but I believe one of the major differences is what happens from there.
The danger with “B” and “C” Players is their thought that selling means trying to educate people. With this as their goal, much of their selling efforts are rehashing features and functions about their offerings to buyers. They view offerings as being nouns and their selling revolves around talking about “it.” While lower levels may tolerate this (some are interested in understanding the capabilities that are offered), leading with product is deadly with executive buyers. They lack the time, inclination and interest to be educated about offerings.
“A” Players seem to understand that executives want to learn what business outcomes can be achieved through the use of a given offering. This requires sellers to translate noun-based training into verb-based descriptions of offerings. In starting calls, “A” Players understand it should be more about the buyer and their initial attempt is to uncover a business outcome the buyer wants to achieve. The next step is doing a diagnosis of the current environment and the underlying reasons better results can’t be achieved. These sellers focus on uncovering reasons that are addressed by features or capabilities within the offering they are discussing. Buyer responses to the diagnosis lead the seller to only offer relevant features, but to relate them in terms of usage.
If a high level buyer realizes there is value in evaluating an offering, it should be fairly easy to gain access to lower levels, understanding that discussions will be far more granular. This top-down approach will likely result in shorter buying cycles. In contrast, bottom-up approaches mean sellers are talking with buyers that can’t say yes, but can say no. The worst scenario is that months into a sales cycle, the decision maker (either to the seller or to a member of his or her staff), says they don’t have or won’t spend the money needed for the offering.
Initial sales calls should be more about the buyer and less about offerings. Prior to making calls at executive levels, companies should consider creating menus of business outcomes for each executive title that can be achieved through the use of an offering. Whether “A”, “B” or “C” Player, the initial objective is to get the buyer to share a goal and then discuss the shortcomings of their current environment. This delays any discussion of product and allows sellers to limit product discussions to only relevant features.