How to Sell to Top Executives and Decision-Makers
Landing a meeting or presentation with top executives and decision-makers don’t happen by luck. It’s the result of blood, sweat and often tears. However, once you’ve scheduled the meeting, your battle has only just begun.
The stakes are high. Your time is limited. All eyes are on you.
In this post, we’re going to cover how you can nail your presentation with those important executives and decision-makers. We’ll cover things you can do before, during and after the meeting to win the deal.
Preparing For Your Presentation
Professional athletes spend hours practicing, watching game film and mentally preparing for a big game. As a professional seller, you must do the same. And, just as athletes don’t win on their own, make sure that you leverage your ABM team to help you know and understand their business better than the back of your hand. Everyone on your ABM team involved with the presentation should be briefed and prepared. Here’s how.
Determine your target account’s business objectives and market challenges
ITSMA studies show 75% of executives will read unsolicited marketing materials if they’re relevant to their business, and 92% will pay attention to these materials even from providers they’ve not done business with before.
Having and maintaining a solid account plan is where you must start. An account plan is a living, breathing document that guides you on how to close the account. It’s comprised of valuable information about the target account that everyone on your sales team needs to know. It’s a selling tool that helps you get crucial insights, build relationships and better position yourself to close the deal.
Think of an account plan as an encyclopedia of your target account.
Discover the goals and interests of the individual stakeholders
You must see the play develop from all angles. Each stakeholder within the buying unit most likely has his own agenda, so you have to figure that out, then translate the value for each individual. In other words, you must make it personal. Connect the dots for them. Show the path to value for everyone sitting at the table.
Have a firm grasp of industry trends
To gain respect from the decision-makers in the room, you must prove you’re an expert, and you can add value. This doesn’t mean you need to know more about the industry than the exec, but you should have a grasp on what’s going on and be able to share novel insights.
Thanks to technology, it doesn’t take long to research market trends. If you can speak about issues that are important to the executive, you’ll reveal both an interest in his success and present yourself in a way that shows you are capable of helping him achieve his goals.
Map your objectives and key milestones in the presentation
Presentations must be more than just slides to click through and bullet points to check off. Presentations are journeys. They must tell a story and take your prospects on a ride. While you should have a clear starting and ending point, along with a few must-visit destinations along the way, be sure to include plenty of room during the conversation to allow for pit stops or detours that come up as the presentation progresses. It’s crucial to know what questions, topics, and interesting facts to use to launch into key points of your presentation.
Run the Presentation Like a Pro
Now that you’re adequately prepared, it’s time to present like a pro!
Begin on a personal note
Having the gift of gab turns out to be important. Most people don’t love small talk, but studies have shown there’s great social value of engaging in “small talk.” However, don’t let it go on for too long. Know when to take control and turn the topic to business. After all, that’s why you’re there.
Set the stage.
Most executives have a full schedule. Don’t blame them if they forget why a specific meeting is on their calendar. You can’t count on them to read all your pre-material. You can’t assume that they have been fully briefed by their teams.Begin with getting them up to speed by reminding the decision-makers who you are, how you were introduced, and why you’re meeting.
Establish your credibility.
There are a few key points to display. Make the most of the research you and your team have done to hit all four of these points.
- Come across as an expert.
- Build the relationship.
- Stroke their ego a little.
- Discover their agenda.
“Emily, I was struck by one of your comments in the Q3 analyst update. When you talked about your firm’s expansion into emerging markets, it seems you were very successful at capturing market share in Asia-Pacific. Our own research has shown that the real challenge is often not just capturing market share, but maintaining it over time. I wonder: what are your thoughts on that?”
This makes it easy to move the conversation forward effectively.
Ask intelligent questions
This is where your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) development comes into play. The key is to be prepared to ask your prospects profound, thought-provoking questions. Ask the prospect something about their business that they really should know about, but come to find out, they don’t. It forces them to pause and think. This helps break the script and will set you apart from other sellers. The real beauty is that just by asking those types of questions, it displays a deep understanding of the problem and implies that you may be able to help. Otherwise, why would you be asking?
Prepare to be tested
Frequently, decision-makers and executives like to ask hard questions that test or intimidate. If this happens, it’s critical for you to maintain control. Often, the executive is more interested in how you respond than your actual response. As long as you can stay calm, cool, and collected during the conversation, you’ll be able to provide authentic responses to anything the executive throws your way.
Provide value and prove it
Don’t dive into a scripted pitch. Senior people see right through this and have an immediate adverse reaction. Only after you’ve been able to further understand their business and connect your product to a problem they’re facing, you can then begin to build a meaningful business case.
Set clear next steps
Never leave a presentation without mutually deciding on next steps. Make it clear to everyone involved. I recommend letting the highest ranking member of their team set the next steps, but make sure they are concrete. Don’t let them off the hook with a vague vision for what’s next. You may even need to suggest 2-3 potential future commitments, if they don’t commit. When you do this effectively, you will have more credibility and clout for any further conversations as you can reference the executive’s request.
Follow up, follow up, follow up
Though the hard part is done, it’s still not over. Follow up is essential, especially with executives and decision-makers. Here are some tips for effective follow up.
Deliver on your commitments and action immediately
If you promised to provide detailed numbers for an executive to share with the CFO, send that over right away. There’s no excuse to wait. Studies show that the sooner you send the follow-up, the more trust you build and the chances of getting a deal done are higher. When you respond promptly, you’re displaying your ability to deliver results quickly. After all, just as much as they are buying your product, they are buying you and your ability to deliver on your promise.
Make sure they know who they can go to for which questions
In complex B2B deals, there are many people involved on both sides, and it’s not always apparent to your prospect as to which questions should be directed to whom. However, as the orchestrator of the deal, it’s your job to make sure the right questions are going to the right people. You are essentially a project manager. Communicate this to your prospects so they know, no matter what, that you’ll take care of their questions. You must make the experience as smooth as possible.
Remain flexible and adjust to their needs
It has become all too common for people to reschedule meetings these days. However, you may only get one change with executives and decision-makers. Never suggest that your calendar as more important than theirs. Keeping the promises you make now, signal the level of trust they will have with you post-sale. Position yourself as a valuable partner who invests in the success of their organization, which will ultimately result in you landing their businesses.
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As you can see, there’s a lot that goes into presentations with executives and decision-makers. By investing the appropriate amount of time in preparing for the meeting, delivering the presentation and following up after, you can ensure that your presentation flows smoothly, resulting in a long, healthy partnership.