Selling to the C-Suite (a book review)

“I talk to salespeople to get ideas.”

Executives want to talk to salespeople because salespeople are the informal information transfer system of the marketplace. Active salespeople are constantly meeting with the executive’s suppliers, potential partners, and competitors. They propose ideas and make connections that stimulate business for their clients. Executives want to hear what other companies are doing that’s new and interesting. Executives want novel thinking and different perspectives so they can generate their own ideas. And, they want salespeople who generate ideas on their behalf, for their organization.

Selling to the C-Suite is the product of interviews with 500 senior level executives, who were asked what they wanted from a salesperson. Nicholas A.C. Read and Stephen J.Bistritz provide insight from direct interviews on why contact with salespeople is useful to C-suite level executives. The data generated from the source interviews is clearly presented, and creates a solid backbone for the book’s content. The authors offer methods and advice so salespeople can make contact at the C-suite level without screwing it up. The authors provide examples of their suggestions, and stories to illustrate the points. Selling to the C-Suite has a no-nonsense style and is tightly written. It covers only its main points and does it thoroughly.

I culled five powerful takeaways from Selling to the C-Suite. The first is outlined above in the opening paragraph. Here are the rest.

2. Executives want salespeople who can link their product to drivers, and be informed envoys for their organizations. Selling to the C-Suite suggests you present your product or service solution to meet a need that occurs from a major external driver, or a driver from within your client company’s strategy. To do this you need to understand their industry and business model. A smart client wants you to understand their business, its drivers, and its problems, thoroughly, so you can craft ways to solve them. A smart salesperson wants the same thing. Executives seek envoys in the marketplace, not product pushers in their offices. Salespeople who truly understand their client’s organization, culture and business model, can fully understand their needs and be looking for ways to fill them, acting as a set of eyes and ears for opportunities in the marketplace for that client.

3. Executives want salespeople who listen first. In order to be the person who can do the first two, the salesperson must listen before prescribing. If you don’t take time to understand your client’s business, strategy and needs, you can’t find and prescribe relevant ideas or solutions. Listen first to understand.

4. Executives want to talk to salespeople who represent a product or service that impacts their job. Contact at the highest level of an organization is a good thing, but the basic premise here is to go as high up in the client’s hierarchy as influence suggests you need to. Sometimes this means the C-suite and sometimes it doesn’t. The authors don’t restrict their focus to just the C-Suite. Is the CEO going to use the product or service directly? Does it impact or influence an external driver or a key strategic initiative for which the executive is accountable? If you can say yes to one of these questions, that executive has a reason to talk to you. If you can’t say yes to this for the CEO, find the executive who will answer yes to one of these questions. That’s the person you want to meet with. (For a longer list of criteria on when to call on the C-suite click here.)

5. Executives want salespeople who are accountable, who will do what they say they’ll do, on whom they can rely. For salespeople the takeaway is, make promises to your clients, many and often, because the only way to keep a promise is to make one.

Selling to the C-Suite is a great sales book; up there with SPIN Selling. And even more than SPIN Selling, it’s a book you’d want your clients to read.

2 Responses to “Selling to the C-Suite (a book review)”

  1. Marina says:

    Very interesting review, thanks! Could you help me understand the last sentence? Add of and? sorry, or. ;)

  2. Tim says:

    Marina. Yes a typo! Thanks. And not add. Many salebooks you wouldn’t want your clients to read. Selling to the C-Suite is one a salesperon would even encourage his client to read.

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