Selling to the C-Suite

September 17, 2020

Sara Howshar

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Have you noticed that there are more C-level titles showing up on your sales calls? You’re not alone. On this week’s Weekly Briefing, Jim Benton and Joel Rackham discussed how they’re energizing and preparing their teams to sell to the C-Suite.

Joel Rackham, the SVP and Global Head of Direct Sales at MarketStar, shared that his massive team is doing what everyone else is doing right now: adapting to the current environment.

Diving into the data, Jim wanted to know what experience Joel has had selling to the C-Suite.

“What was your first ‘A-ha!’ moment when selling to the C-Suite?” Jim asked.

Joel laughed, “My first time selling to an executive? Well, if he’s listening in on this right now, he’ll get a chuckle.”

“I was so excited to get this deal. From 6 to midnight I sent no less than six emails and four retractions. But back then, I didn’t realize that it didn’t retract the email. It just sent them a notice that you were trying to retract the email.”

But, he got the deal. “I’m not going to say that that was why, but I’m sure he got a laugh out of it.”

Kitchen tables no longer held dinners, they held screens and laptops.

C-Level Executives are More Involved in the Buying Process #

It’s clear that executives are showing up to support, clarify, or scrutinize deals. But it’s the degree to which they’re showing up that is making revenue orgs adapt their processes.

Chorus conversation intelligence data shows that buying-side C-Suite participation is up an average of 80% when compared to January and February.

“We all had to change quickly,” said Joel. “There’s more scrutiny and tighter budgets. So it’s not surprising.”

It’s that quick overnight change that made executives lean in on deals they would have normally delegated.

“We were in this space where we had 900 employees that were in offices with tight security. But when you think about February shifting into March, we went two weeks not knowing what was going to happen. But by week three, everyone moved into their homes.

Kitchen tables no longer held dinners, they held screens and laptops.”

The Weekly Briefing Powered by Chorus September 17 2020

Get CXOs Talking with Engaging Questions.

Economic Executives and Decision Makers Are More Constant Attendees #

In Q2 a large portion of the C-Suite participation was made up of Economic Decision Makers, rather than technical and tactical executives.

Jim asked Joel how his team was able to pivot and prepare to sell to economic executives such as CEOs and CFOs.

“There used to be a lot of tribal knowledge exchanged listening to your calls because they were happening right next to you. So now where you’re able to listen to calls that are recorded and able to share wins,” Joel said. “There’s a heightened focus on that.”

It’s about keeping your teams connected so that they can learn and sell and improve together.

“Creating communities where chat and banter can happen organically is key to keeping your teams connected right now,” said Joel.

There has been a significant increase of CEOs joining calls. Making these interactions click is essential to getting the deal over the line. To do that, you have to know that person, but also that role.

“It’s important to understand what’s important to that individual, but also that level,” said Joel. “As you approach them, it’s important to identify what’s relevant to these levels. It’s important not to get into the tactical aspect.”

To make sure their entire org is adapting together, Joel shared what new sales training they’re introducing to their team.

“We’re training people to ask the right questions to understand what is important to the CEO, but once they’re on the call, it’s important to get them talking. They don’t need to be told what is important to them. They need to be heard.”

And this is exactly what we’re seeing in the data.

When Executives Talk, You Win #

CXOs talk 8.5% more in Closed Won deals. Deals that progress to the next stage include 5 engaging questions asked by the rep to a CXO during the meeting.

How to get them talking? Simple: Do your research.

“Ask the questions, but the right questions. This is in the pre-call work,” said Joel. “It’s important to have a point of view, but be open to what they have to say and ask them the right questions. Resist the urge to talk about things you haven’t asked them a question about.”

But how do you ramp for salespeople in this environment?

“There’s the typical training that you have: Call shadowing. In the past,” said Joel, “you’d sit them next to somebody. But now you’re making sure they have scheduled time to meet with that person. You send them a certain amount of calls every day for them to listen to.

With a tool like Chorus, you should be going in as a manager to identify the calls to review and identify the specific skills to work on. This is a way to use tools like Chorus, but we haven’t used it to the extent we are now.”

Utilizing tools like conversation intelligence or call recording helps make the most out of every interaction, and can help improve your entire team.

Citing our recent coaching data, Jim shared that “we’re seeing better coaching now than we did before.”

The Weekly Briefing Powered by Chorus September 17 2020 1

Tailor Your Conversation to the Audience.

You send them a certain amount of calls every day for them to listen to. With a tool like Chorus, you should be going in as a manager to identify the calls to review and identify the specific skills to work on.

Win Rates improve with C-Suite Involvement #

It’s clear: win more with executive involvement. Win rates increase by more than 15 points or 38% when the C-Suite is involved in the buying process.

But, should we include the C-Level executives in every deal?

“It depends,” said Joel. “A more interesting question is once that person is involved, how does that extend the sales cycle? If you get too many parties involved, you could miss the ‘harvest time’.”

If you’re going to sell to the C-Suite, revenue teams need to know how to bring the economic buyer and executives into the process early.

“You have to reframe,” said Joel. “Are you trying to sell that person? Or are you trying to give that person a solution to make their life better? If you’re able to position yourself as a partner and ease a burden for them, it’s more clear.”

“Partnering with your economic buyer is a different motion,” said Jim, “and not everyone has that.”

Joel agreed.

“View yourself as a consultant. Ask, listen, listen, listen. Clarify, listen, ask. Build a solution off of what you heard rather than what you want to sell. That’s how you become successful. The process by which you get there is as important as the person who’s selling.”

Delivering Value Through Demos #

Demos are driving the conversations. Some decks, but mostly well-orchestrated and customized demos.

On average, CEOs and CFOs spend 42% more time seeing demos than Technical CXOs. And since CEOs and CFOs are the ones showing up more than the other C-Level executives, your best bet is to come prepared with a knock-out demo.

“If you do your research, you can recommend and demonstrate how your solution will make their lives easier,” said Joel. “The danger of the deck is it’s mostly oriented around what you want to sell rather than the solution that they need to make their lives easier.”

When Are We Going Back to the Office? #

Jim ended by asking Joel when he and his team - and the world at large - is going back to the office.

“It’s not going to be the same whenever we go back,” said Joel, “but I would guess next year.”

Active runner and cycler respectively, Jim and Joel are anxious for other areas of life to open up as well.

“Solo rides are just not as much fun,” said Joel. “So I hope we get back soon.”

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