Selling to the C-suite can be intimidating for many salespeople.
It doesn’t have to be.
With some strategy and sales skills — and an understanding of what C-level executives want — it can be just as easy as any other sale.
There are two big challenges for any salesperson when it comes to selling to the C-suite.
- They are scared of it.
- Most people don’t start out selling to the C-suite.
The first challenge is obviously psychological — many people just think selling C-level executives is harder and the very concept intimidates them.
While it is more complex, it’s not harder; it’s just different.
But understanding that requires experience with the process.
Which brings us to the second challenge. Most salespeople cut their teeth selling to SMBs.
For these smaller companies, it’s usually not too hard to get ahold of the decision-maker.
With most small businesses, if you just physically walked in, you could probably find the owner or CFO in 5 minutes, right?
But that isn’t going to happen with enterprise clients.
“It’s very rare you can just cold-call the CEO of an enterprise account. That means you need to be more tenacious, organized, and creative to get in the door.”
With enterprise, there’s almost never a single decision-maker.
You will often need conversations with 8 to 10 people before ever even getting close to a sale.
Great salespeople are those who can manage the details of a more complicated — often longer — sales process wherein multiple decision-makers need to all be convinced.
While selling to the C-suite may require you to start lower down the totem pole and work your way up, not everyone you deal with will necessarily be a decision-maker.
However, there are 4 types of decision-makers you will deal with — although not always all at once — and you need to be able to convince every one of them that what you’re selling is worth their time.
“Take the data that you have and try and go to the highest level possible in the decision-making process that you can for the enterprise sale.”
- The economic buyer
This is the only person who can say yes — but even if everyone else wants to choose you, they can still say no.
Say you are selling SaaS software and you convince the rest of this list of its value, the economic buyer is the one who can turn around and decide for everyone that the money is better spent on hardware.
If possible, this is the buyer you should reach out to first.
- The technical buyer
The technical buyer can’t say yes, but they can say no. And they’re the one who really judges criteria for saying no. They understand the ins-and-outs of what is needed from a technical standpoint and weigh in accordingly.
Oftentimes, this is a CFO, a purchasing director, or a purchasing manager.
- The user buyer
This one is probably obvious, but this is the people actually using the products or their managers. Often, it’s really easy to get your foot in the door by contacting user buyers.
But be aware that while getting the appointments may be easy, you typically will want to work your way up from the user buyer.
You’ll also want to make sure the first 2 buyers we’ve talked about are looped in early, or your sales cycle will really elongate.
- The coach
This is someone, usually within the business, who actually wants your decisions to win.
They’re the ones you will need to turn to in order to learn the cycles or find out if you’re speaking with the right people or not. You can think of them as both an advocate and a guide.
What C-level executives look for
Now that you know the challenges and who you need to get on board, let’s take a closer look at how you win over the C-suite.
And that comes down to understanding what they are looking for.
If you are used to selling to SMBs, you already understand enterprise sales are more complex.
The sales cycles are longer, there are more decision-makers, and there’s usually much greater sums of money involved.
But when it comes to the C-suite, they really care about 2 things: minimizing risk and maximizing ROI.
This is easier, right? Smaller businesses will often have muddier priorities, while enterprise clients are savvy and their priorities are simple.
But they want a professional to help them achieve these goals.
“The number one mistake I see with the sales reps is they’re not well organized.”
C-level executives realize that time is their most valuable asset. They’ll hire professionals to take care of everything from childcare to home-cooking in order to maximize it.
If you are disorganized — showing up disheveled, failing to follow up, unprepared for a follow-up call — you’re sending out major red flags.
With the C-suite, the little things matter. After all, if you can’t do them flawlessly, how can they expect you to be trusted with the more important tasks?
Every salesperson should strive to always execute their game flawlessly, which requires meticulous organization.
And in enterprise sales, it’s organization that makes or breaks you.