Buyers are busy. They don’t always have the time or perspective to get the big picture on trends—but as a seller, you do. You have the opportunity to gain your customers’ confidence by researching their market and telling them something they don’t already know.
Telling the buyer something they don’t know could include firsthand knowledge you’ve gained through real-world deployments, such as the common pitfalls that caused delays. Without divulging confidential information or giving away secrets, you can still provide companies with insights they wouldn’t otherwise have access to about competitors’ operations, project risk, or financial performance.
In sales, you’re working with many different customers, which gives you a broader perspective than your buyer may have—start leveraging it to your advantage.
What Executives Want to Hear
The truth is that executives don’t care about your product knowledge. They have reports that can give them all the nitty-gritty around product details. Executives want information about the future of the industry and how to achieve their strategic goals. They want to hear something they don’t already know.
Your discussion should not be about product features but rather how you provide a solution that helps them compete within their industry while supporting their expected business outcomes. Keep in mind that there are three factors that drive financial performance: How fast are we growing? How profitable is the business? How well did we manage our assets?
Executives want solutions that drive business outcomes in these areas. A company’s goals and strategies, and the individual lines of business’s initiatives flow from the answers to these questions.
What executives really want are solutions that align with those goals, strategies, and initiatives. Regardless of their department, those questions drive the conversation, and if you’re not improving one of those three metrics in some tangible way, there’s not going to be much interest in a solution because it won’t be relevant.
Lead the Conversation Toward Outcomes
Executives want your solutions to deliver business outcomes such as enhancing the customer and employee experience, improving time to market, mitigating risk, and improving agility and resiliency. These operational benefits lead to financial benefits. However, it’s up to you to lead the conversation toward outcomes, otherwise the discussion won’t resonate with your buyer.
To lead the conversation, you might say, for example, “I understand your goal is to increase profitability by improving manufacturing processes. Here’s how our solutions have helped others in your industry improve their profitability by automating key manufacturing processes, specifically in the areas of labor and materials.”
If you don’t open the aperture to take a higher-level look at growth, profitability, and asset management, you’re just going to get into a price war. It’s going to be all about price, price, price. Regardless of what you’re selling, you need to take a bigger-picture view than price and explain how working with you will deliver expected business outcomes.
Use Your Time with Executives Wisely
Above all, respect executives’ time and attention. What you don’t want is to become part of the burden for your executive buyers. That’s the fastest way to be passed down to an underling. Executives need someone they can trust to cut through the chaos and help them stand out from competitors.
Executives aren’t interested in hearing something they already know, so make sure you’re providing valuable new information. Remember, they’re very busy. You have to be strategic about how you use your time with them. Just because you’re interested in something doesn’t mean they are; you have to make your conversations relevant and explain what’s in it for them.
As Nathan Dane, the CFO of Intent Solutions, said, “As anyone leading a company or division might attest, whether you’re in finance or otherwise, our full-time jobs are packed with both planned and unplanned responsibilities. At times, it can be a stressful game of triage. Even though I like to keep an open mind, it’s difficult and unappealing to prioritize a sales call from even the nicest person, so I may only give it a sliver of my time and headspace.”
If you focus on product features or price, you’ll lose an executive’s patience. Instead, give your customers industry insights and persuade them of your ability to make their life easier, and you’ll keep their attention.
Use Your Perspective to Your Advantage
As a seller who talks to dozens of customers every year, you have a distinct advantage over your buyers, who don’t have that same opportunity. You know what other companies are doing and can identify current risks and trends. You also know how other companies are mitigating risks and capitalizing on trends because you are helping them do just that.
This insight is your unique advantage. It establishes you as a credible source of information and guidance because you can tell a customer something they don’t already know that most applies to their business too, based on your research and real-world experience.
Use this insight to guide the conversation toward outcomes while respecting your buyer’s time, and you have all the ingredients you need for a successful executive sales meeting.
For more advice on succeeding in sales, you can find Insight-Led Selling on Amazon.
Dr. Stephen G. Timme is President and Founder of FinListics Solutions, a company that helps B2B professionals develop greater customer insights and better demonstrate the value of their solutions. Before founding FinListics, Stephen was a professor of finance at Emory University and Georgia State University, an adjunct professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology, and a consultant for numerous Fortune 500 companies.
Melody Astley is FinListics’ Chief Revenue Officer. With a background that includes leadership and senior sales roles at Gartner and IBM, Melody is responsible for strategic business growth and FinListics’ sales and marketing engines. She leads workshops and presents at global conferences, such as Strategic Account Management Association (SAMA) and the RevGen Digital Summit.