Mar 20, 2023 • Podcast

How do I sell to high-level decision makers?

Paul tackles the issues that many salespeople have with the idea of selling to that ultimate decision maker.

Show Notes

You should be calling on high-level decision makers from the start! Tune in to find out why (and how).

When you’re interacting with a high-level decision maker, you have to provide meaningful insight. Tell them something they don’t know already.

Fewer than 10% of salespeople call on the ultimate decision maker.

When meeting with the high-level decision maker, emphasize how your solution will help them generate brand loyalty or retain customers.

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How do I sell to high-level decision makers?

(Transcribed from podcast)

On today’s episode, we’re going to answer a very important question, and that question is, “How do I sell to high-level decision makers?” This is a hot topic in many of my training seminars, and it’s going to continue to be a hot topic because it represents one of the biggest challenges salespeople face. They struggle to get in front of that ultimate decision maker and they don’t know how to sell at this level. So we’re going to address this on today’s episode.

Now, I will say, this is going to become an even greater challenge as we enter what could be a tough market. I guess it’s a challenge or an opportunity, however you decide to view it. Here’s what we know. During tough times, approval levels will change, meaning a decision maker who could usually pull the trigger on a $10,000 purchase, let’s say their spending authority has been reduced to $5,000. Or maybe they’re going to reach out to some of their higher ups just to get them on board with the decision.

This is a natural response to tough times. And, also, we dive much deeper into this whole concept in Selling Through Tough Times. So, make sure you pick up your copy of Selling Through Tough Times. It’s available wherever you get your books. In the book, we focus on the Critical Selling Activity of pursuit: how do you pursue your targets? And in this section of the book, I detail how to get in front of high-level decision makers. So, check it out. It’s available wherever you get your books.

Let’s get back to that question: “How do I sell to high-level decision makers?” Well, there’s a few reasons why you should be calling on them to begin with. And I’m going to explain that. Number one, our research shows that high-level decision makers are the least price sensitive of all decision makers. When we conducted our buyer’s study a few years ago, high-level decision makers—so those individuals that are falling into an executive category, business owner, they have profit and loss responsibility—when we analyzed what criteria they use to make their decisions, price ranked towards the bottom. So this group is less price sensitive.

Also, high-level decision makers have told us they are willing to meet with salespeople who can solve problems. And so, if you’re trying to break into a high-level decision maker, understand what problems they’re experiencing in their industry and their business, and referencing that will open up more doors.

We also know that high-level decision makers want meaningful insight early in the decision making process. As a salesperson, this means, when you’re interacting with a customer, when you’re interacting with a high-level decision maker, you have to tell them something they don’t know already. Something that’s going to help them make the right type of decision. Another reason to call on high-level decision makers, fewer than 10% of your peers call at this level.

So again, we want to call on high-level decision makers because they’re the least price sensitive. You want to acknowledge problems that they’re facing. That’s a way to get in there. Also, you want to provide meaningful insight. And finally, one last reason why we should work with them and meet with them, fewer than 10% of salespeople actually call at this level. So there is an opportunity here.

So let’s talk about high-level decision makers and their style. Now, high-level decision makers tend to be decisive. They’re willing to take risks. They are also visionary in how they make their decisions. These are high-level strategic thinkers that want to achieve business outcomes—business outcomes like profitability. They want to know how your solution’s going to enhance profitability, reduce overall cost, how it’s going to help them compete more effectively in the marketplace, how it’s going to help them deploy their resources more efficiently. Those are the main KPIs that high-level decision makers are focusing on. So we must be able to detail how our solution helps them achieve or impacts those KPIs. That’s part of the basics when it comes to high-level decision makers.

A few other nuances to keep in mind— Number one: high-level decision makers are more comfortable making abstract type of decisions. People lower level within an organization tend to make concrete, black and white type of decisions. High-level folks are comfortable making decisions that are a little more abstract, a little more conceptual. They’re comfortable in that regard. Be aware of that.

They want to partner with good businesspeople as well. When they’re making a decision, part of their style is assessing the people, the people that are part of the process. So, this high-level executive could look at a few different options. And they’re going to look at the salespeople representing the solution and they’re going to ask themselves, “Okay, is this a good businessperson? Is my business, generally speaking, going to be better because I’m working with this salesperson or that salesperson?” They will look at that. They want to have a good business conversation, but they also want to work with good, intelligent business salespeople. So keep that in mind. That’s a little bit about their decision making style.

Generally speaking, they tend to be a little more direct, so don’t be shocked by that. But, also, there’s a misconception though, that because they’re too direct and they’re very business-like in their approach, that they care less about building relationships. And that’s not true either. And, in fact, relationships are important to high-level decision makers as well. Okay, so that’s just a little bit about high-level decision makers and how we can influence them—how that should affect our presentation.

I do want to spend a little bit of time here today focusing on how we can decrease the high-level decision maker’s price sensitivity. I’m going to highlight several factors that decrease the high-level decision maker’s price sensitivity. Okay. First and foremost, if you are providing a solution that will help improve satisfaction to their customers, a solution that will help generate brand loyalty for their products or services, or even a solution that helps them retain customers, I’m going to share a few factors that will help decrease the high-level decision maker’s price sensitivity. One example of this— If your solution can help them better satisfy their customers, generate more loyalty or retain their customers, price is going to be less of an issue. So what we’re trying to do here is, if you do enter a discussion and price comes up with these high-level decision makers, you want to be able to detail how your solution helps better satisfy their customers or create more loyalty. That’s important to note.

Also, if the high-level decision maker views this decision as critical, price becomes less of an issue. And that goes for all decision makers, by the way. The more critical the decision, the less important price becomes. Think about it, when’s the last time somebody price shopped for a heart surgeon? It doesn’t happen. Okay. What we need to do is emphasize the critical nature of the decision. So, you may talk to a high-level decision maker and say, “You know what, Mr. Customer? I know this is a critical decision for your business. Making the right decision here is going to put you on track to achieve your three- and five-year goals.” That is the way we frame it. We highlight the critical nature of the decision. That is going to remind the HLDM that it’s not all about price.

Now, if you’re pursuing a high-value target, a high-level decision maker that is a differentiator in their industry, meaning they’ve got a unique value proposition, there are elements of their solution that are proprietary. If you’re dealing with a market leader who is differentiated, you can call attention to that and help take the focus off of price. In fact, you can also invoke a little empathy and say, “Hey, much like your company, we’re different in the marketplace. We offer unique value to our customers, much like you. And we’re not the cheapest as a result of that, just like you’re not in the marketplace.” You’re invoking a little empathy there.

High-level decision makers that are strong advocates for continuous improvement are less price sensitive. And oftentimes, you need to draw a parallel to that and remind them. If you’re working with a group that is looking for ways to improve processes, you can help sell the value of your solution by drawing a parallel. And you could say to that customer, “You know, Mr. Customer, it’s clear that you are a strong advocate for continuous improvement. Look at all the ways you’ve improved your business. Now, surely, when you made those decisions, you had to sacrifice something upfront that led to a longer term gain? Well, what we’re asking you to do is apply that same logic to this decision. Yes, our solution may be a slightly bigger investment upfront, but it’s going to continue to pay dividends well into the future, just like these other continuous improvement ideas.” So, keep that in mind. If that high-level decision maker is a strong advocate for continuous improvement, price becomes less of an issue.

And one last piece, and this is very similar to what I just mentioned, but if you’re selling to a value-added organization, and this high-level decision maker is really a value-added advocate, price becomes less of an issue. And the reason why is simple. This individual knows that to compete in their marketplace, they need to partner with the best. They also know that when they offer their best solution to their customers, they’re not the cheapest either. Value-added organizations like to align with other value-added organizations. So, for this high-level decision maker, consider showcasing all the ways you are in common with them from how you create value, to add value throughout the experience. Showcase what you have in common with.

So guys, that was just really a— gosh, we covered a lot of info here. Basically, a hodgepodge of how high-level decision makers think, why you should call on them, and what decreases their price sensitivity. This one is worth repeating and listening a couple times.

Make it a big day.

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