An increasing number of our clients are coming to us and telling us they can’t sell to C-suite because it’s too difficult. And that’s simply not true.
While it has never been easy to sell to the C-level, there are several tricks you can use to make it easier. And the potential rewards make it more than worth the extra trouble.
The difficulty lies with the fact that salespeople forget the true value of a C-suite sale. They fail to remember why they’re trying to do this in the first place.
Selling to C-suite executives allows you to:
- Accelerate your Sales Cycle
- Increase your Average Deal Value
- Make even more business wins down the line
If you want to double your sales and progress to bigger deals, then you should engage with the C-suite.
Let me show you how.
Accelerate Your Sales Cycle by Selling Into C-Suite
It can be argued (and it’s often true) that getting into contact with C-level personas is a much longer process compared to getting in touch with mid-level managers.
Many people think C-level executives are simply too busy to listen to what you have to say, regardless of the benefits you could provide. Whereas, managers are much more receptive to what your solution can offer.
This is where the problem lies.
The problem isn’t that C-level executives are too busy to listen, but that you need to be saying something they care about.
Using the wrong language with C-level contacts can be disastrous. C-suite doesn’t care about features and the technical details of your solution. They care about the business value you bring to their company from a board-level perspective.
If you want to sell to the C-level, you need to adapt your message and have a solid understanding of every challenge their business is facing and how your solution can help to solve them.
By articulating your message from a high-level business perspective, C-level execs will gladly listen to what you have to say. It doesn’t matter how you are solving their issues, as long as you can prove the value you bring with a measurable, tailored, business case study.
For example, what benefit does your solution bring?
- X times more productivity?
- X% of gain in performance?
- X% in cost savings?
Before engaging with any C-level persona, you need to know the answers to these questions like the back of your hand. And ideally, you need to back them up with referenceable customer stories.
We have seen this ‘validation’ step be very successful with many clients. It’s extremely useful in convincing the more cynical C-Level Execs to agree to the next step of the sales process.
The Reason Why
More often than not, C-level execs are the ones signing off on the budget. However, they usually aren’t involved in the research process and will trust their mid-level manager to make the right decision. After all, a good manager is someone who understands the importance of delegating.
So, why should you bother making the effort to engage with C-suite if they are so distant from the decision-making process?
There are two big reasons why going directly to C-suite is important.
1. Taking control of your sale cycle
Selling to someone lower on the org chart not only creates a chain of second-hand information, but it creates delays. This negatively impacts your sale. It takes time, consuming game, and leaving you with the false hope that the right message will reach the top without being garbled along the way.
Eventually, a mid-level manager (the decision taker or maker), will go to receive a budget from the C -level. If you started at mid-level, you’ve now lost control. The sale is no longer in your hands. Instead, you rely on the mid-level manager to become your salesperson.
If you take the initiative to build a relationship with the C-suite, you can leverage these contacts when you feel your sale is getting stuck.
By learning how to communicate and work directly with the executive team, you give yourself the ability to be the source of all information and facts. You can deliver these directly to the C-level (making sure that everything is translated into ‘Board level language’).
After all, these are the individuals that sign off on the budget. The information they receive should be 100% accurate — which is why it should come from a direct source (you).
2. The ‘gravity’ effect
Imagine a stone rolling down a hill. A bigger stone will take more effort to get moving and gain momentum. But once it’s moving, it will roll faster than a smaller stone.
Now imagine your sales cycle. If you start engaging the top personas (the bigger stone), The initial effort may be considerable compared to if you started with a mid-level manager (the smaller stone). But your sales cycle is likely to speed up and gain a nearly unstoppable momentum.
Imagine you are a mid-level manager. Your boss forwards you an email from a company offering their solution and asks you to look into it. You were previously targeted by the same company and ignored them. But now that your boss forwarded you the message and asked you to look into it, you’ll, of course, do as you’re told.
Increase Average Deal Value By Selling to C-Suite
Now that we’ve identified the ways to accelerate a sale — involving C-level executives throughout the sales cycle (or at least parts of it) — let’s look at how they impact the size of your deals.
Go straight to the source
C-level decision makers always have a clearer picture of their company’s overall vision and challenges than a mid-level manager.
You could speak to a mid-level manager and win a regional/ business unit deal, but if you aim higher, you may be able to win a global contract, much bigger than the original regional deal.
This is even more true if you’re selling a disruptive and innovative solution that doesn’t fit any category. If so, stay away from mid-managers. More often than not, they’re scared to back up new ideas and won’t see the potential in your solution — simply to protect their jobs.
It’s easy to be blinded by the fact you’ve won a new deal and miss the fact that it could have been much bigger if you went straight to the source.
Play the long game
Your C-level contacts not only influence the size of any initial deals, but they also play a vital role when it comes to expanding and renewing contracts.
Once a new deal is signed, you need to nurture that relationship with the C-level execs. Keep them informed about the value your company has been providing to theirs. Once they understand the value, they can again use their influence and authority to help your company expand into other regions or business units within their organization.
Leverage your relationship with the individual so you can dip into their network. C-level execs will be connected to other C-level execs. So, use the power of their network to get into other companies that your solution can add value to.
Win More Business
All the reasons above should have already convinced you to aim high and start the sales cycle at the top, but there is still one more major benefit. By accelerating your sales cycle and increasing your average deal value, you will ultimately win more business.
We are often told that C-level contacts, “Don’t care about our message, so we should not waste time trying to engage them,” or that, “Our sales team may not be equipped to tackle conversations with C-level exec.” And while it’s true that there is no silver bullet to close the deal, and you may not be equipped to tackle this conversation yet, you should never be afraid to aim high.
C-level executives are usually targeted less than mid-level managers. This is because of the exact reasons we’ve mentioned above — people are scared of targeting them. That means, if you use the right message, they will listen to you.
But don’t just take our word for it. We’ve worked with many technology vendors over the past decade, and seen the results firsthand.
These are the typical stats that we see when companies engage directly with C-Level decision-makers and executive buyers in their target accounts/markets.
Let’s say the average deal value is $100,000. By engaging with C-suite, they’ll usually:
- Increase the average sale value from $100,000 to $150,000
- improve the close-ratio from 20% to 25%
Here is the math behind it (based on 20 sales opportunities):
Let’s say that within a year, you initially sell 4 deals of $100k. That’s $400K in 1 year.
By engaging with the C-level, you will now close 5 deals of $ 150k, which means $ 750K in 1 year. That represents almost a 100% increase.
It’s Time to Take Control
If you are concerned your sales cycle is getting stuck, and your mid-level contacts are not keeping you well informed of the progress within your deal, reach out to higher decision makers. You may be surprised to find they are more receptive than you think.
It’s very possible the C-level haven’t been involved in the decision making process at all, even if you were told they were from other sources.
Take control of your sale. Go to the top, and most importantly… don’t wait.