Selling to vice presidents and other C-suite level executives can be a very efficient and effective strategy for expanding your own company’s client base. These are the people we call decision makers. If you’re selling software or any major product, these decision makers will often have the final sign-off since the purchase could affect their hiring plans and overall road map. Cutting through the red tape by targeting your pitch specifically to the C-suite can help you avoid a lengthy sales cycle.
How do you do this? In my 15-plus years of experience in software and sales, I’ve found it all starts with your relationships. The ability to foster real, meaningful connections is a crucial skill that never fades in importance or value. You can then use that currency to sell your product at the most opportune time.
Once you’ve made an initial connection with someone, whether it was in-person or over a video chat, it’s important to spend time and energy nurturing a genuine bond. Make your connections engaging touchpoints. I’ve found face-to-face is the best option, but when that isn’t possible, a phone call is preferable to email. Remember, you are trying to build a relationship — you have to be personal.
Aim to be relatable to your clients and potential customers. For example, I have a friend everyone knows for his ability to recall small details about the people around him. If a client has a favorite sports team and the team wins, he’ll send them a celebratory message. He’ll also send birthday wishes or congratulate someone on an anniversary. These interactions and engagement points can help build trust and care.
These gestures may seem minor, but they can make a world of difference. Staying in touch means clients may be more likely to think of you when a new project or business opportunity arises. From a business standpoint, it’s easier to maintain an existing relationship than to start from scratch with someone new in my experience.
Understand how you add value.
Once you’ve established a relationship, make it a priority to become an expert on that person’s company. Anticipate their needs before they even ask.
The ability to thoroughly explain your product isn’t enough. The trick is to customize sales pitches for each individual client. How will your product make their jobs easier? What will your product or service change within their company to ensure operations run more smoothly?
Keep tabs on these current customers as well as your prospects. Refine your ideal customer profile and keep track of updates from those accounts. Check in with those executives with whom you’ve formed relationships. Read their press releases and other public memos. This is how you find opportunities to upsell and cross-sell.
Use your employees’ existing connections.
I’d argue cold-calling is never actually necessary, even when approaching new customers. Why? Because in my experience, you’ll have better odds with a referral or a warm introduction. There’s a high likelihood that someone within your company already has a connection — so leverage your resources properly.
Many business owners fail to take advantage of their employees’ relationships. No matter how large or small your firm is, every person you hire has a unique background and a list of potential clients. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average person has 12 jobs over the course of their professional career. That type of experience could lead to hundreds if not thousands of potential leads.
And don’t discount your entry-level employees. Since 2013, the number of students who complete internships or other co-op programs during their college years is 60%. Those experiences are prime networking opportunities. Take the time to understand the links your employees may already have with decision makers at other companies you plan to target.
Make the sale when a prospect changes companies.
This all leads to my most valuable piece of advice for selling to C-suite executives: Pay attention when they change jobs. I’ve found this is the most effective sales strategy in business.
The most obvious scenario involves your existing customers. If you’ve already sold to this person in the past, they are probably more likely to implement your product at their new company. You’ve just created a new line of revenue based on an existing relationship.
Targeting executives when they switch firms is also a solid strategy for approaching potential customers. Keep in mind that during a transitory period, a person is more likely to consider fresh ideas. They’re more open to novel solutions they can then present to their new colleagues. This is the perfect time to pitch your product as an available solution.
Building solid relationship foundations with your client roster is the first step in any smart sales strategy. As you grow your relationships in your career, keep tabs on where people move in theirs. Reach out as your clients get promotions and be a part of their career journey — the quicker you can make your product a part of their tech stack, the easier those transitional conversations will be as executives transition companies and roles.