Selling Higher: Your Essential ‘C Level’ Glossary


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The reality is that today’s more business focused senior buyers talk quite a different language to the junior, often more technical buyer. That poses a challenge for sellers that have dealt almost exclusively with the technical buyer in the past. Adding some new words to the sales vocabulary is required.

Are You Speaking The Right Language?

Sales glossary‘You say ‘tomato’, I say ‘tomatoe’… let’s call the whole thing off!’ So go the words of the song. For salespeople determined to sell higher – that is at C Level – the experience can be something similar.

The salesperson who wants to sell higher must speak the same language as the C Level executive – that is the language of the CEO, CFO, COO and so on. Even if you are not quite selling to C-Level, that is still the language that you need to use.

Regardless of the level at which you are selling, this is the language that gets projects and purchases approved within large organizations.

The New C Level Vocabulary

Having eves-dropped on 100s of C Level conversations we put together a glossary of some of the language that salespeople who want to sell higher need to use. So to boost your success you need to pack your presentations, conversations and proposals with these terms:

Talking about direction…






Business Drivers

Strategic Priorities

Strategic Agenda

Strategic Direction

Strategic Fit

Strategic Alternatives

Strategic Options

Talking about their industry…

Growth Rates

Market Share

Market Trends

Market Opportunities and Threats

Must Win Battles


Visibility (Measurability) & Control

Cost Cutting

Improved Efficiency

Down-sizing /right-sizing

Doing More With Less

Out-sourcing and In-sourcing

Specialisation and Core competence

Talking about what matters…

Key Success Factors







Competitive Advantage




Talking about results….



Business Case


Profit and Loss

Balance Sheet



Metrics / KPIs

Cost-Benefit Analysis


Total Cost of Ownership

Full Lifecycle Costs

Total Project Costs

Talking about buying…



Business Case



Stakeholders Politics


Buying Team




Making it happen…

Change (change management)



Project planning / management


Value Management

Having scanned the above table, how many of these terms did you use in your last sales pitch, presentation, or proposal? Are you having conversations with buyers on these subjects? If you are not then there are opportunities to improve your conversations with senior buyers.

New Conversations

Having read the list you will have figured out that it is not just a matter of doing a ‘FIND AND REPLACE’ in your Word documents and Power Point slides. That is because the words don’t mean a whole lot in and of themselves.

It is not just about a new words, but new topics of conversation between buyer and seller. Take for example, ‘strategic fit’ – that is how any new project, purchase or proposal – fits with the web of organisational decisions, strategies and goals. It sounds like just another buzz-word, but start a conversation on the subject of ‘strategy’ or ‘strategic fit’ and it is likely to bring many important issues to the fore:

  • Why this project / purchase should receive funding over other projects?
  • What projects are competing for the same resources?
  • How the project supports the achievement of key business objectives?
  • The key market and business drivers which underpin the project?
  • How the project fits with past decisions?
  • How the project /purchase fits with company culture, processes and systems? Etc.

Are You Ready To Sell Higher?

The air gets thinner the higher you climb in an organization, so too does the span of attention of the executives, the drive for results and, of course, the difficulty of climbing (by that we mean accessibility, including getting past the PA to talk to the executive in the first place).

To get attention at C Level you need to engage in a new type of conversation – about how your solution can help achieve higher levels of performance in some key area of concern to the organization.

Ready to Sell to The Top? – Take The Test:

  • Will you be invited to sit at the board table?
  • Can you talk strategy? Can you add value?
  • Will you be treated as a peer?
  • Can you speak the language of the CFO, the COO, etc.?
  • Do you understand the company and the industry it operates in?
  • Can you help to build the business case?
  • Do you know the manager’s priorities, metrics and goals?
  • Can you become a trusted adviser?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Ray Collis
Ray Collis is a Business to Business sales coach, sales trainer, Director and Buyer Research Practice Lead of The ASG Group - recognized among the Top 5 sales training organizations worldwide in terms of overcoming the challenges in B2B selling to procurement, or the sophisticated buying organization (ES Research Group). Ray is co-author of several books, including The B2B Sales Revolution and QuickWin B2B Sales, and also of the sales blog Buyer Insights.


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