When salespeople are tasked with selling to senior executives, it can cause a failure in their central nervous system. Considering how they should sell to CEOs or chief-level executives, it’s sometimes hard for them to start by remembering that these actually are human beings. Advanced level models, obviously, but still subject to the same types of feelings as the mere mortals amongst us who strive to gain their approval – or at least agree to a sale.
Now, such high-level operators make decisions all the time or empower others to do so. Therefore, question one when selling to a CEO is this: Is this the right person for you to sell to – at least initially? Perhaps there is a manager at a level below who has earned their respect and whose decision they will usually endorse. Getting them on board might be a smarter move.
Second question, tied to the first: Is there a chain of command that should be followed to reach the final decision maker, with all other bases already covered? Speaking to those further down the line might not gain a final decision, but can certainly help with a better understanding of the organization and provide vital information for that final CEO sales push.
When it’s just the CEO to conquer
Gird your loins, as they used to tell chivalrous knights as they prepared for battle. When you present to senior executives, in many cases the devil is not in the detail. They might simply want a big picture pitch rather than to be drowned in information. Of course, you should know all that you have to, and be able to introduce more detail as and when asked.
The key is to make it both obvious and easy to say yes. Busy people they are, as Yoda might wisely say, so a presentation should be snappy and to the point. Often an excellent strategy is to help the CEO to take ownership of the idea, benefits and outcomes.
That final thrust
Many senior executives, in unguarded moments, have let slip an interesting truth. Because of their perceived seniority, many very experienced people who want to sell them things, and do present their case very well, are wary of actually asking a precise, closing question. As more than one has observed: ‘What you don’t ask for you never get’. So – ask clearly.