5 Tips for Selling into the C-Suite

November 6, 2023

Today’s C-level executives are more engaged than ever before in creating better business outcomes, and the processes that lead to them. It’s not unusual for the C-Suite to get involved in business decisions at an operational level, so salespeople need to recognize this growing trend and be ready to pitch at the top of an organization if they want to make their sales efforts count.  

Even early in the buying process, CXOs have an influence over how a product will be viewed and received. They have become key decision makers and particularly valuable to have on your side. Here’s five ways you can make sure you’re ready for that opportunity.

Expect Executive Engagement

According to DemandGenReport, executives are twice as likely to be part of a sales call than they were in the past. That includes sales calls they weren’t invited to. The first step to success is knowing this and being ready for it.

Rather than being caught off-guard, welcome executive involvement. They will have challenges and pain points in mind, and this gives you an opportunity to address them directly. Just get CXOs talking. Ask them questions to clarify their involvement and interest in the purchase and respond with information that justifies their presence on the call. If you’re unsure how to approach the conversation, use a framework like MEDDPICC to get a good picture of what matters to them, and speak to that. Recent analysis by Chorus.ai suggests that involving the C-Suite in a buying decision returns 40% higher win rates—so it’s worth the effort.  

Do Your Research

Knowing that you’re likely to be pitching to someone from the C-Suite, make sure you’re prepared. Do your research into the company and get a good understanding of their pain points and current challenges. Understand their business model, target audience, and leading products and services. Look into the executives you’re likely to encounter and get a picture of their responsibilities and particular interests in the organization.

As you’re doing this, look for key buying signals. These are the business behaviors that suggest an interest in buying a product or service and will be a strong identifier of potential needs for the organization. News articles, press releases, and high-level hiring decisions all point to activities that can inform the sales process. Adapt your pitch to recognize those drivers and incorporate them into your solution.

Look beyond the immediate prospect too. Consider the industry as a whole and current trends in its direction. Research like the Fortune/Deloitte CEO Survey give insight into some of the top technology trends and obstacles facing organizations around the world. Use these to inform your pitch and target your offering where the CXO is likely to already be focused.

Prepare a Clear Plan

Support your pitch with good information and make that apparent up front. A clear agenda increases the likelihood of the CXO making an appearance,and focuses their attention when they do. It sets expectations and gives you a strategic advantage to direct the conversation while creating opportunities for the CXO to express their interest in the points you’ve set out. Executives will want to know the details of how your product or service will impact their business, and your agenda can set that up. Clearly indicate where you’re going with your pitch and include a solid business case that addresses their business concerns directly.

Traditional wisdom is to focus on product and technical discussions in early sales calls, but the product compatibility and specifications are table stakes. Value selling is key to high-growth sales organizations and you should ensure you have a strong value proposition up front.  Know what matters to the C-Suite and address it. 46% of CFOs will be looking for a positive ROI on any major technology investment within two years of implementation, so have that data set out for them. Combine the research you’ve done with your product or service’s offering and give the executives a solid understanding of how your solution will provide a relevant benefit to their business.

Remember the Wider Team

While it’s vital to understand and speak to the purchasing power that a CXO may have, they won’t be acting alone. According to research by Forrester, over 60% of buying decisions include four or more people. Those people can represent a variety of roles, from Champions and Influencers to Decision Makers from multiple departments. It’s crucial to understand those relationships and lines of influence to have the best chance of success.  

One person you don’t want to forget is the Champion that made the opportunity possible in the first place. They will be a vital source of support as you pull together your business plan, identifying the key decision criteria, and selling your solution internally. It’s likely that this Champion will be the one to open the door for the CXO’s involvement, so gain alignment about the value of including the C-Suite early-on.  

Keep your Champion updated in ongoing correspondence and make it known to the CXO the support the Champion is providing—this ensures a strong relationship and improved chances of success.  

Keep It Succinct

Finally, C-Suite leaders are busy people. Their time is precious, and you want to make the most of it for them—so be brief, direct, and clear. Keep the conversation succinct and focused to make the maximum impact in the shortest viable timeframe. That means if the call is set down for an hour, you should have communicated your value proposition and product benefits well before that time is in sight. Finish the call early and surprise the executives with the gift of time.

A CXO will appreciate a straight-to-the-point discussion, and they’ll welcome the time you can give back to them. That pause between their scheduled meetings is a space they will be able to discuss and reflect on your proposal in. By respecting their time, you create a positive experience that reflects well on your company and gives them an opportunity to move forward with their decision.

Pulling It All Together

Selling to the C-Suite is a vital strategy for maximizing your sales opportunities. By welcoming and preparing for their involvement in early sales calls, you create a powerful momentum for your proposal. Offering relevant and clear benefits in a framework that addresses executive interests ensures you hold their attention—and working with the broader buying team supporting their decision helps solidify your approach. Keep everything focused and finely honed for CXOs so they have the time they need to recognize the value your product or service is offering. Work these approaches into your sales strategy and see the difference it will make to master the art of selling to the C-Suite.

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