3 Secrets to Setting Sales Meetings with the C-Suite

Mike Schultz, President, RAIN Group

Breaking through and setting sales meetings with C-suite buyers is tough. They’re off-the-charts busy, bombarded with sales messages, and gatekeepers keep them well insulated.
Yet, many sellers are successful in breaking through and setting initial sales meetings with the C-suite. In a recent RAIN Group Center for Sales Research report, we asked buyers how they prefer to be contacted by sellers and what influences their decision to connect with some sellers and not others.

Here are three secrets, including areas that stood out regarding how the C-suite differs in their preferences.

Do Your Research and Customize Your Offer

When we asked the 488 buyers what influences their decision to connect with a seller, C-suite buyers were much more likely to say: “Content 100 percent customized to their specific situation.” Seventy-five percent of C-level and VP level buyers are influenced by customized offers.

C-level buyers want to know that you’ve done your research. Read what you can about their company and priorities. Read their annual report. Review a presentation they gave at a recent industry conference. Read a white paper they wrote. Find a quote in an industry magazine. Get through to others in their company and get information that will allow you to customize.

However you do it, find a key topic they care about, customize your outreach, and provide a specific reason to meet. For example:

“I was struck by one of the comments in the Q3 analyst update. When you mentioned your company’s expansion into emerging markets, it seems you were very successful in capturing market share in Asia-Pacific. Our own research has shown that the real challenge is often not just capturing market share, but also maintaining it once core competitors 2 and 3 enter the market, which happens 78 percent of the time within 18 months. I wonder, would you be interested in seeing some of our research and discussing how we’ve helped others maintain market share? We could start with a quick 20-minute discussion and see where it goes.”

This is clearly not a blanket offering you’re making to every executive and company out there. Show that you’ve done your research and you’re offering something of specific value to the buyer. 

Make a Strong ROI Case

C-suite buyers care about how your offering is going to impact their bottom line. They want to know how you’re going to help them: grow revenue or reduce costs. You need to make a strong case outlining exactly how you’ll help them do that and you need to connect the dots for your buyers between your products or services and the revenue growth or cost reduction.

Indeed, 75 percent of C-level and VP level buyers are influenced by financial justification with strong ROI cases.

The projected revenue growth or reductions in cost need to be worth their time. A friend once told me he was certain he was about to win a new engagement that would save his client $10 million. Then, he lost the deal. When we asked the buyer why he didn’t buy, the buyer said:

“I get that I could do this and save $10 million, but I’m working on $50-million problems right now.”

The buyer saw the savings and believed the seller could achieve it, but it wasn’t worth his time.

Pick up the Phone

More than any other level, the C-suite prefers sellers to reach out to them by phone. Fifty-seven percent of C-suite and VP buyers prefer to connect by phone.

The phone is also a terrific way to get past the gatekeepers. Business leaders don’t work the typical nine-to-five day. Gatekeepers are a different story. Pick up the phone and reach out early in the morning, late in the evening, or during lunch. You may just find that the C-level executive you’ve been trying to reach picks up the other line.

Caution: Don’t use the phone to the exclusion of other methods.

Another important finding is that it most often takes between five to 10 outreaches to connect with a buyer. Just because the C-suite prefers the phone doesn’t mean that all of your touches should be over the phone. While it does need to be an integral part of your attraction campaign, you must us multiple media.

The phone paired with emails and snail mail works great. A prospect might delete a voicemail and then open an email you send or vice versa. They may even delete the first six emails you send and four voicemails you leave and throw two letters from you in the trash and then respond on touch 13.

You never know when a prospect’s elusive time of need will arise and when they’ll be ready for a conversation with you. Only by reaching out often in diverse ways, including the phone, will you give yourself the best shot of getting through.

Do your research and customize your offer, make a clear ROI case, and be sure the phone is an integral part of your outreach campaign. If you want to break through and sell to the C-suite keep these three secrets in mind.

Mike Schultz is a bestselling author of Rainmaking Conversations and Insight Selling, Director of the RAIN Group Center for Sales Research, and President of RAIN Group, a global sales training and performance improvement company. Follow Mike on Twitter or connect with him on LinkedIn.