Don’t forget to ‘CEO Proof’ your sales proposition
Every body knows that buying decisions are increasingly being made at higher levels. And it is not just a matter of senior executives rubber stamping decisions made by their lower level managers. In times of increased risk and uncertainty, senior managers are steering all significant purchase decisions.
But is selling to a CEO, or a CTO, different to selling to a mid-level manager? It sure is. Just as the view from the top floor of the company’s offices is different to that at ground level, the agenda of the C level executive is different to that of more junior management.
- They are focused on the strategic impact of any purchase on the performance of the organization. In particular they tend to take a broader strategic view, focusing more clearly on issues of business performance, key business benefits and, of course; the business case.
- They are likely to be less interested in the detail – the features and functions, for example, but more concerned with business impact, levels of risk, return on investment, supplier credibility, etc.
- They may even use a different language – the language of strategy, business drivers, key performance indicators, return on investment, total cost of ownership, etc. They quickly bin traditional brochureware looking instead for quantifiable
- All these distinctions add further impetus to the move from selling products, technologies and features to selling solutions, their benefits and their business impact. We refer to it as ‘CEO Proofing’ the sales message, proposition, or proposal.
- The air gets thinner the higher you climb in an organization, so too does the span of attention of the executives, the drive for results and, of course, the difficulty of climbing (by that I mean accessibility, including getting past the PA to talk to the executive in the first place).
- To get attention at C Level you need to be able to quickly communicate in a compelling way how your solution can help achieve higher levels of performance in some key area of concern. You are going to need to back up that statement by citing other companies you have helped, telling stories of success and quantifying the benefits.
With these factors in mind here are 5 ways in which you can CEO proof your proposition (message, or proposal):
1. Tie it to the CEOs key business drivers – that is his/her strategy and goals
2. Quantify it – using the metrics that most interest the CEO
3. Back it up with 3rd party validation
4. Tailor it to his industry, or vertical
5. Address what it means for his, or her personally and professionally