Part II: Selling to the C-Suite


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Today’s post is Part II of my recent interview with Steve Bistritz, author of the newly-released book, Selling to the C-Suite.

Q. So what should sellers do to gain access to these corporate bigwigs?

There are typically four ways to gain access to senior client executives.

  • The Overt approach is a direct phone call or a phone call preceded by either a letter or an email.
  • Using a Credible Sponsor in the client organization to help you secure access.
  • Using a Referral (someone outside the organization, such as a consultant or business associate) to help you secure access.
  • Treating the Gatekeeper as a Resource to help you get access.

the best way to gain access to them was by using a credible sponsor
within their organization. 84% of the time, executives said that by
using that approach salespeople would obtain a meeting with them!

Q. How can salespeople quickly establish trust and credibility with senior-level decision makers?

we asked senior client executives “How does a salesperson establish
credibility and trust with you?”, they gave the following answers
(listed in their order of importance):

  • Ability to marshal resources
  • Understands my business goals and objectives
  • Responsive to my requests
  • Willingness to be held accountable

What they mean by “Ability to marshal resources” was that when there
was a problem during an installation, for example, they wanted a single
point of contact within the sales organization who has the
responsibility and accountability for the solution.

Even if the
installation involved multiple business partners, they wanted to be
able to go to one person who could “marshal the resources” to solve the

that factors like understanding their business goals and objectives,
being responsive to their requests and willingness to be held
accountable also show up as key factors.  

Credibility is the
intersection of capability – the ability to get things done – and
integrity – the trust factor – and those two factors are the most
important ones when dealing with senior client executives.
Q. If you could give sellers only one piece of advice for selling to the C-suite, what one it be?

advice would to be persistent – but focus on developing relationships
with credible players in the client organization who could help you
obtain access to the executive you are attempting to reach. When that
person helps you gain access to the senior executive, make certain that
you do your homework before that critical first meeting.

expect the executive to educate you – be prepared with questions that
ask for the executives insight (something you typically can’t get from
the Internet). Then, make certain that you are consistently responsive
to the client and demonstrate a willingness to be held accountable. 

the book, we talk about the need to get access to the relevant
executive for the sales opportunity. This executive is often overlooked
– even by the most experienced salespeople.  We make the point in the
book that you may not always need to get to the CEO of the client
organization to sell your solutions.

In fact, in many cases,
salespeople are better served by not getting to that level to try to
close deals involving their solutions.You need to find the executive
with the highest rank and greatest influence for the specific sales

We identify that executive as the relevant
executive – and we also point out that the relevant executive could be
defined as the executive who stands to gain the most or lose the most
as a result of the application or project associated with the sales

If you can align with that executive you will find that
s/he will be able to exert an element of informal power as it relates
to the buying decision.


Steve Bistritz, founder of SellXL, a sales training and consulting company that
helps sales teams gain access, describe their value, and ultimately,
become perceived as trusted advisers, to senior executives in client

He spent more than 27 years at IBM where he managed and led the
instructional design, development and implementation of numerous
national sales training programs. In 1994, he left IBM and led the development of nationally recognized
sales training programs and processes such as Target Account Selling
and Selling to Senior Executives for Target Marketing System. He started SellXL in 2002.

Click here to download an excerpt from his new book, Selling to the C-Suite.

Republished with author's permission from original post.


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