Sales people across industries are often encouraged to “call high” by sales managers who believe it’s easier to be pushed down the corporate decision-making chain than to be moved up.
Suddenly we have hoards of young sellers … many fresh out of school … wrongly assuming they need to be calling at the executive level to have any kind of impact in their career. Frankly it’s not just the newbies. There are many seasoned sellers also climbing to heights they don’t understand.
So time to take aim and shoot a few holes in this misguided advice…
First and foremost we all know that an executive level call requires the seller to possess a high degree of business acumen. And while this can be learned and developed over time it also requires a genuine curiosity about business that is severely underdeveloped in sellers whose singular focus is “to close the next big deal.”
Reality is… If you do not equip yourself to be a credible resource in the eyes of the executive you’ll not only be quickly shown the door, she’ll also change the locks.
Also consider this. When the CIO of a large technology company was asked, “What types of sales messages will generate a response from you?” he replied, “I don’t respond. I trust my team’s judgment and rely on them to put the right people and resources in front of me. I’ll forward e-mails down but I won’t respond. The best thing a seller can do is make the right impression with my management team.”
So if your sales strategy is to call high here are half a dozen insights to assure you deliver an efficient and mutually productive experience for you and the executive.
1. The higher you go the more unforgiving your contact is. Have a compelling reason … and I mean tangible evidence that you’ve got something of high value from their point of view … for being there. Get to the point quickly, and be decisive. If you don’t have a compelling reason from their perspective – do NOT call.
2. Talk about their priorities in their language. Do not presume that the alluring features of your cool new product or your company’s unique service will have the C-level salivating. They’re not interested in you or your new and cool. Do your homework. They’re interested in fresh market data, insightful trends and specifically how your offering will move their strategic priorities forward and positively impact their bottom line.
3. Get introduced by people with high influence and credibility at this level. Other executives who derive great value from you / your offering and / or respected members of this executive’s team. Never underestimate the influence of your greatest ally, the Executive Assistant. He or she knows the boss’ work priorities, interests and schedule better than anyone. Their mandate? Filter out time wasters. Filter in valuable resources.
4. If you have a good meeting you will be moved down and across the organization… That’s a good thing. Provided you ask to keep the door to the executive suite open. Thank the executive and have him agree to take a future call or meeting from you if, through your conversations with his team, you have insights of value and high relevance to him.
5. Leverage your own executive team. Ask them to share examples of sales behaviour that engages them and examples of highly credible meetings with sellers. Adopt a strategy of “like-level selling.” Brief your executive / senior subject matter expert on their role prior to the joint call and let them know the purpose of the meeting, your intended agenda, and the desired outcome for both the client and you.
6. If you don’t feel equipped to call at the executive level … DO NOT CALL!