Strategic Selling: How to Sell to Senior Executives


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Hong Kong, Germany, the U.S., and India: these are the four diverse countries in which we beta-tested our new program, Point of View Selling.

We expected to see some differences, by region, in salespeople’s’ reaction to this new method of selling.

Instead, we saw completely uniform responses in two important respects. In all cases, on all continents, the sponsoring executives (senior sales leaders) immediately saw the value of this approach to selling and how it was especially suited to executing their selling strategy. In fact, these executives were quite eager to have Forum “transform” their salespeople with this new method.

In contrast to the sales leaders’ enthusiasm, many of the senior salespeople who participated in Point of View Selling were highly skeptical. In every group on every continent we encountered initial resistance: salespeople said things like, “How can I call on a senior decision maker without a relationship? I certainly can’t provoke or challenge these senior-level customers!” “I don’t have the time it takes to prepare for this level of discussion.” Yada, yada, yada …

What do Senior Buyers Look For in a Supplier?

This resistance, and its underlying fears, come from understandable but erroneous beliefs regarding what senior-level decision makers care about and how they make buying decisions. The resistance also hints at people’s doubts about their ability to master significantly more advanced selling skills., When we recently asked 231 senior-level decision makers around the globe to rank the criteria they use in deciding whether to meet with a supplier, “knows me” came in dead last. “Knows my business” and “knows my industry” topped the list. These findings completely contradict the widespread belief that a salesperson must have a relationship with an executive before she can initiate a provocative business discussion.

Selling in 2012

At the end of our 2-day program in each of the four countries, nearly all participants demonstrated increased skill levels and a shift in beliefs about their customers. The participants “got it,” they knew instinctively that senior-level decision makers expect more from salespeople today. Buyers expect insight about how to achieve their objectives. The executives who invited us to test our new sales program with their teams understand this well—because they are themselves senior-level decision makers. Are your sales teams prepared to call higher in your customers’ organizations?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Jeffrey Baker
Jeffrey Baker, vice president for sales force effectiveness, directs research efforts, new product development, and market positioning for The Forum Corporation. Jeffrey's focus on customer-centric selling comes from a career in selling and leading sales teams, managing customer care operations, and consulting to leaders of commercial sales and marketing organizations.


  1. I’ve provided sales training to teams in India, Israel, Canada, South Africa, and elsewhere. Similarly, I was struck by the consistency in the ‘business drivers’ that B2B salespeople encounter in these countries. All the more remarkable because you could hardly find two countries more different in so many ways than India and Israel.

    What concerns me about the presentation of these findings is that they are single-dimensional, and if nothing else, sales is a multi-dimensional endeavor. An understanding not only of business issues, but the cultural and social nuances that exist among global workers is required for success. In that regard, I find people in different countries, or from different backgrounds remarkably different. Taken by themselves, these findings would leave a salesperson scratching his or her head wondering why our cut-to-the-chase approach doesn’t play well with executives in other cultures who don’t work that way.

    Maybe that’s part of what was behind the pushback the salespeople gave in the “yada, yada, yada,” and it’s worth noting. Facts can be erroneous, but never a person’s beliefs.


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