Many sales professionals confide in me that they don’t know the answers to these questions. They do recognize the negative consequences of being irrelevant to customer executives and far from the radar screen.
Not knowing if you are relevant to your customer executives can create a precarious situation, especially in a post-financial crisis economy. Executive relevance isn’t a static concept; either you are moving into their line of sight or you are drifting away.
As you plan your engagement strategies for 2011, here are five suggestions from my perspective as a former buy-side executive on how to improve your executive relevance and establish credibility with your top customers and prospects.
1. Priorities not Problems
Reorient your mindset from solving problems to helping your customer executives achieve their business priorities and accelerate financial outcomes. Executives focus on implementing initiatives and achieving performance metric targets. Problem resolution is usually delegated, so don’t dwell on pain when engaging at the executive level.
What You Should Do: List the top 5 business initiatives and key performance metrics for your customer and validate your research with them. Demonstrate your interest in helping them accelerate their business outcomes by aligning your solution with the critical success factors.
2. Balance Sheet not just Income Statement
Retool your value proposition to articulate impact on assets and liabilities not just revenues and expenses. Financial value can be created by reallocating net asset positions to higher return investment opportunities. In a low revenue growth environment, align your solutions to balance sheet transformation initiatives.
What You Should Do: Map your solution attributes to the customer’s balance sheet initiatives. Provide evidence of financial value by documenting ranges of percentage improvement to specific balance sheet key performance indicators (KPIs).
3. Customer Value not Customer Volume
Your customer executives focus on helping their customers create and sustain value over the long-term. They know this is the best way to retain revenue and optimize customer lifetime value.
What You Should Do: Build credibility with your customer executives by demonstrating that you understand the world of their customers. Describe how your solution penetrates their customer value chain.
4. Employee Engagement not just Employment
Opportunities abound in 2011 for companies to create incremental value by purposefully building an environment that fosters employee engagement and mutual alignment. Most executives I know willingly acknowledge that their most important assets walk out the door every day. Your business relevance to these executives will take on new meaning in 2011 if your solutions elevate employee engagement.
What You Should Do: Take a “voice of the employee” approach to messaging your solutions. Provide specific examples of how other organizations achieve higher level of employee contribution and engagement by aligning with your company. Better yet, demonstrate how the employees in your company “drink your own champagne” to improve innovation and collaboration.
5. Investing not just Buying
In a post-financial crisis economy, your customer executives are not just buying products and services. They’re investing for a projected financial return. With cash on the balance sheet reaching record levels, companies are struggling to find compelling financial reasons to open their wallets and invest money.
What You Should Do: Penetrate the investment decision-making process by demonstrating how others have achieved specific financial benefits by implementing your solutions. Work with your internal finance associates to convert soft benefit attributes of your solution into hard benefit examples. Expand ROI benefits beyond traditional cost reduction examples to include cost avoidance, revenue creation and balance sheet optimization.
Commit to Improve Your Executive Relevancy in 2011
Make a commitment to improve your executive relevancy during 2011. Start by expanding your business insights of your customer and their customers. Perhaps augment this knowledge by taking steps to improve your overall business and financial acumen. Buy-side executives find sale professionals who possess well-rounded business skills most relevant.