9 Minute Read

Selling to the C-Suite

By Maren Hogan:

Understanding how to build your brand within the C-Suite is a specialized skill that is basically the reason I have a job. Your strategy needs to be different than that of every other vendor. Everyone pretty much thinks they need to come up with a slightly more sophisticated drip or nurturing campaign than that of the manager or director level.

But that’s actually not the case. If you are planning on building an account-based marketing campaign for c-level execs, you need to know the following things:

Ain’t Nobody Got Time for That

The C-level doesn’t have time to eff with you. Sorry but that is the damn truth. The C-Suite spends less than 2% of their time with vendors. That’s less than one hour a week.

So make it count. They have loads of vendors. What they don’t have is confidants. Doing that might be easier said than done, but the first step is recognizing they are power-rich and time-poor. Meaning they can make the decision to use your software or service, but you need to be really fast about getting to the point.

Go sdrawkcaB

Yeah, go backward. Outline the benefits of your tech. Show the features of your solution. Illustrate your value to the end user. Give case studies and qualify the deal. Right? Doesn’t this sound like the right way to market? Straight down the funnel.

WRONG. That’s not what the C-Suite cares about. They’re NOT gonna use the product. They’re NOT gonna be taking demos. They’re NOT going to give you all their info to become a qualified lead.

Selling to the #CSuite doesn’t have to be difficult. Here's what you need to know: Click To Tweet

If you want to be their lover, you gotta get with their friends…or at least earn their trust. You have to show you understand their issues. Their issues are more than price, implementation time and features and benefits. Their issues are business models, scalability, change management and trends that could make them obsolete. These areas are where you can build trust.

Before you send an email to a C-level stakeholder, ensure you are sending them something that will be informative, alert them to a new situation or educate them on a trend. Basically, ask yourself…is it useful?

Tell a Story…a Good One

Look stories run the world. Not listicles, not product snapshots, and not snazzy GIFs in emails, stories. Stories are the centerpiece of every great book, fantastic movie, compelling play, impressive speech…you get it. So it boggles the mind that marketers en masse refuse to use stories to attract and sell.

Even a busy CEO has time for a compelling story, especially if it can solve a pressing need. If you’ve done your research on the company and its needs, you’ll know how to weave a story to wrap around it.

Help Me, Help You

If you only remember one thing from this article, let it be this. SOLVE. THEIR. PROBLEM. They don’t care about product tours and features matrices. The CxO cares about bottom line impact, thinks on a long-term scale and focuses on pressing issues. They’re also considering how the board will view the problem. Will the board blame them? Did they make an incorrect decision? Is this out of their control but still they need to take the heat? Whatever their issue is, state it, then solve it.

Walk a Mile in Their Loafers (Or Manolos)

If you want to solve a C-Suite problem, you have to know the root cause. Hopefully, if you are selling at this level, you understand the industry, vertical, and unique environment. From that, you can easily deduce the challenges. Say you are targeting payroll companies for an integration platform. You might mention the recent trends in Big Data and AI occurring in the world of work and HRTech and also mention how their clients are not able to keep up with all the new data, and it’s creating more work than opportunity.

The C-level doesn’t have time to eff with you. Sorry 'bout it. @MarenHogan drops some knowledge on how to strategically sell to the #CSuite. Check it out: Click To Tweet

But Wait..There’s Something Wrong!

You need to introduce a complication now. The complication could be a market event, a workforce trend or in the case of our payroll company, they’re lagging behind a large payroll company that recently rolled out a data and analytics layer that adds significant ROI and value to the competitor’s platform.

Ask The Obvious

Your next step should be to ask a question the CEO is probably already thinking.

How can I quickly close the gap on this competitive advantage?

Lemme Tell You What I’m Gonna Do

You probably know what to do next. Answer that question with YOUR solution. In this case, a data layer that makes sense of piles of data from all different HR and Payroll systems would be perfect for a C-level executive worried his product will quickly become obsolete based on the competitive advantage this gives the other company.

Do You Work Late? Your CEO Probably Does

The job of a CEO is almost 24/7. If you’re selling to the enterprise, it’s likely post-7 pm that their day even slows down. What you really want is a face-to-face conversation to gain their trust. But in lieu of that, or if you have a very large sales territory. Send your emails later in the day when they’re more likely to have gone through their important emails. Another idea? Invite a group of executives to an exclusive dinner rather than a lunch and learn.

Avoid the Handoff

Sometimes it’s tempting to hand off the big sale to someone more experienced or to switch sales when service comes into play. DON’T. Remember before when I said C-Level folk want to be able to trust you? This makes them NOT trust you. Try to keep the contact person consistent.

Be Able to Granularly State Your Value (or the value of your product)

You can say your product or platform saves money…but how much? Your marketing materials might state you provide more value that 2 or 3 other tools, but how do you prove it? A C-Level executive has been around the block a time or two (usually) and will eventually ask for these numbers. If you don’t have them, be prepared to kiss that sale goodbye.

Selling to the C-Suite doesn’t have to be difficult. Simply establish trust, start with the situation, and work from the top down instead of the bottom up.