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Selling to Top Execs: 10 Easy Rules

Sales professionals want to "call high", but often they're confused about what to do or say when they finally get a meeting with a bigwig. Fortunately, it's not all that complicated, if you follow the these ten easy rules:

  • RULE #1: Do your homework. Prior to the meeting, research the exec's "business agenda" and try to ascertain his or her "personal agenda" as well. You'll want to address both during your first meeting.
  • RULE #2: Don't assume context. While the meeting is a huge deal to you, it's probably not for the exec. Don't assume he knows why you're there. Introduce yourself. Explain the meeting's purpose.
  • RULE #3: Get to business. Executives are busy folk. Don't try to schmooze or talk about sports unless the exec initiates the conversation.
  • RULE #4: Prove your value. Within the first few minutes, demonstrate you have done your homework and understand the company, its challenges and its place in the industry.
  • RULE #5: Focus on business issues. Make the conversation about how you can help the exec achieve the two agendas (see Rule #1). Do not attempt to wow an exec with "bells and whistles." It won't work.
  • RULE #6: Ask intelligent questions. Frame everything according to the drivers that affect the business and the metrics that the leader uses to evaluate activities.
  • RULE #7: Listen more than you talk. Hear what the executive has to say about the situation before proposing any steps of your own. Also, execs like the sound of their voices.
  • RULE #8: Propose creative approaches. Bring value to the conversation by introducing novel business perspectives and concepts.
  • RULE #9: Propose a next step. Involve the executive directly in planning subsequent action and plan to connect to follow up.
  • RULE #10: Deepen the relationship. Suggest that next time you could bring an expert along to move the conversation to the next level.
The above is based on a conversation with Dr. Steve Bistritz and Nicholas A.C. Read, authors of the bestselling book Selling to the C-Suite. They interviewed several hundred executives and figured out what they wanted from the sales professionals who call on them.

UPDATE: Dr. Steve Bistritz made a response to the first comment to this post. Thanks!

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