Successful meetings with senior executives

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How to do it …

How to do it

Much has been written about behaviour when selling to
top managers. Some of it is useful.

Here is my distillation of what works based on reading, observing others sell and personal experience.

Most of these are not absolute rules but useful guidelines. There will always be exceptions.

More in: Business , Career
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  • 1. www.mercuri.net For more information contact: Richard Higham Tel: +44 1932 844855 or Richard-higham@mercuri.co.uk SELLING TO THE TOP OF THE ORGANISATION SALES MEETINGS WITH SENIOR EXECUTIVES A Mercuri International White Paper How to do it Much has been written about behaviour when selling to top managers. Some of it is useful. Here is my distillation of what works based on reading, observing others sell and personal experience. Most of these are not absolute rules but useful guidelines. There will always be exceptions. 1. Give a compelling reason for meeting. 2. Work with the executive’s assistant not against them. They need to be a friend not an enemy. 3. Often you will get the chance to agree a meeting with the executive through informal contact – at a social event, a conference etc. Get agreement in principle quickly that it would good to meet, agree to call their office, and then move on. Offer your card and encourage them to give you theirs but don’t be surprised if they don’t have one! 4. Follow up these opportunities fast (24 hours). 5. Take extra care on your appearance but don’t overdo it! You need to look and feel like someone who is used to being with top people. 6. Arrive in good time for your meeting. It sometimes takes a lot of time to be ushered into the inner sanctum! 7. Be ready to wait patiently. Not all timings go to plan in the C Suite. Don’t show frustration. 8. Do your research beforehand and on the day of the visit. For example: a. What’s happening to their stock price? b. Was there anything in the media about them? c. Any recent corporate announcements? d. Check out the investor pages on their website. e. Look up profiles of the management team in case you bump into senior colleagues while you are in there. f. Google their names, but try a couple of twists: i. Google their name alongside the company name. ii. Google their name with the extra word “says” to pick up on recent speeches and presentations. g. Is there anyone in your organization or network who knows them (as boss, as client etc.)? Get a quick briefing but don’t be over influenced. 9. Inform your regular contact you are having this meeting so they don’t feel you are going behind their back. Reassure them that you will not be “reporting back” on them. If appropriate ask for their advice. 10. Decide what you want from the meeting. Realistic objectives could include: a. Understand their strategic priorities better. b. Position your project or your business.
  • 2. Winning growing and keeping clients Page 2 (3) Sales meetings with senior executives. CONT. www.mercuri.net For more information contact: Richard Higham Tel: +44 1932 844855 richard-higham@mercuri.co.uk c. Gain her support in helping the project past critical points. d. Open the door for a high level review. e. Open the door for contact from your execs. f. Create an escalation route should it be required. g. Position yourself as part of their “relevant set”. h. Gain introductions to other parts of the business. 11. Expect short meetings. Time has a greater intensity at this level and many in the C Suite will work in 10 or 15 minutes chunks. Do not look for more than 15 minutes for a first meeting. 12. Be ready to overrun if needed. If the executive is particularly interested and wants the meeting to continue, you need to be able to stay in the meeting so don’t plan your next visit too soon after this one. 13. Don’t be surprised if someone else joins for the meeting – an aide, an intern, a senior colleague. 14. Position yourself realistically. Neither submissive nor arrogant. Avoid master-slave or slave-master. Respect them and be respected. 15. Recognize they may have other things on their mind when you arrive. Don’t be surprised if it takes them a short time to tune into you. 16. Plan your small talk, but keep it short (usually) and plan how you will move from social to business. 17. If you have common connections in your network use them (but wisely). If your CEO/senior exec knows them then say “Nicole sends her greetings”. 18. Be clear about the reason and background for the meeting. 19. Include as a key reason for the meeting “I wanted to hear how you see things … your perspective … your view of how what we are doing fits within your overall strategy”. 20. Check if they have anything on their agenda. 21. Take the opportunity to speak positively about your normal points of contact. This is not about flattery, it is about trust. The word will soon get back that you speak well of your contacts when you are with their boss and they will relax about these meetings. If the CEO says “I hear the programme is going well” I tend to reply “Yes it is but we couldn’t achieve what we are without the hard work/commitment/innovative approach from Suzanne”. 22. Focus on the “why” rather than the “how” and certainly not on the “what”. Concentrate on the rationale for the project and its potential strategic implications. If they want to know how it works or what exactly it is they will ask you. 23. However be ready with answer to the questions “So remind me exactly what it is you are doing for us” or “Can you give me a quick overview of the project?” 24. Be ready to move from a very short-term focus (impact on this quarter’s result) to a long-term focus (strategic positioning) and back again. Think ahead of time about the long and short- term impact of your work on their business. 25. Use clear, robust, positive language (e.g. “I am confident” not “I hope”). 26. Behave with confidence – think about the signals you give off such as eye contact, posture and energy. 27. Most execs expect (rightly) that each meeting will result in action. Explain your next steps clearly and ask for any action you want them to take. Be clear about what style/level of communication they want from you – direct, short quarterly updates or do they want to be kept informed by their own people? 28. Get explicit agreement that you can come back to him or her if you need to. 29. Follow up promptly and succinctly. 30. Summarise your meeting to key stakeholders in your and their business without breaking any confidences (this helps your profile and keeps them informed). Conclusions Selling to very senior executives is an important skill for anyone who wants to sell strategically. The fundamentals of effective selling all need to be used effectively in this setting. But it also needs some specific skills and raised levels of awareness and confidence. These 30 tips will make selling to the top easier, more enjoyable and more effective.
  • 3. Winning growing and keeping clients Page 3 (3) Sales meetings with senior executives. CONT. www.mercuri.net For more information contact: Richard Higham Tel: +44 1932 844855 richard-higham@mercuri.co.uk Richard Higham Global Practice Leader Financial & Professional Services Mercuri International To keep up to date with trends and practical ideas in the financial sector please follow http://selling-financial-services.com