Jul 22, 2021 • Podcast

How do I sell to the corporate executive?

Paul continues his series with another high-level decision maker: the corporate executive.

Show Notes

Corporate executives make decisions based on career advancement. They want to make the right decision, but also the popular one.

With these decision makers, “highlight the prestige your solution can help them achieve.”

Present your solution as one that fits within the system they already have in place.

Corporate executives want reliable, respected partners that will be accepted by the team.

The corporate executive will not make higher risk decisions than they have to.

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How do I sell to the corporate executive?

(Transcribed from podcast)

On today’s episode, we are going to continue, once again, focusing on decision makers. How do I sell to the corporate executive? That is the type of decision maker that we’re going to focus on today.

So just to draw a little contrast, you might be wondering, “Okay, Paul. What’s the difference between a financial executive and then a corporate executive?” When we say corporate executive, we’re referring to a C-level executive, CEO of major organizations, major organizations, large Fortune 100/Fortune 500 organizations. So, there is a difference between the CFO at a small-to-medium, family-sized business than a large corporate-America type of company. So that’s the main distinction there. So that’s what we’re going to focus on today—corporate managers/corporate executives.

Before we do that though, a quick shout-out to our sponsor, Andrea, over at The Creative Impostor Studios. Doing a wonderful job. You know, she really helps keep the podcast going. She provides suggestions, ideas, insights. It’s great. You know, I always get an email, every couple of weeks from Andrea just saying, “Hey, Paul. Here’s some new ideas. Try this” or “Here’s what’s new in podcasting.” [She] really does a great job of keeping me up on what’s happening out there. So, if you need some help, reach out to The Creative Impostor Studios. We’re going to have a link over to her website on this episode’s webpage.

Also, I mentioned, in our previous [podcast], I have a public seminar coming up. We are going to have a live training seminar in October at our training center here in St. Louis. We’re going to have a link to that information on this episode’s webpage as well. So, check that out. When you do attend, you get your complimentary copy of Value-Added Selling, so sweet. I might even give you guys a copy of my new book, Selling Through Tough Times if you come to the training. So even more of an incentive.

Let’s kick it off with a little background information on corporate type managers. When you think about large corporations, there’s a lot of people involved; there’s a lot of layers of management. There’s some bureaucracy, there’s politics that go into it. So, when you think about corporate managers, corporate executives, you’ve got to remember, the decisions they’re making are all made in the backdrop of all the political stuff going on in their company. Decisions they make are happening as their organizations are changing, is shuffling around. There’s always people moving up and down and laterally within organizations.

So, for a corporate type of executive, in making decisions, one of the main things on their mind is their career. They want to know where they’re headed to next, where they’re moving to, how their career path looks within the organization. Now, because of that, a lot of the decisions they make are fairly visible. So they like to moderate. They want to make sure that they’re making safe decisions. They’re in a tough situation though, because they’ve got to make tough, highly visible decisions. And making too many of the wrong decisions, they’re going to get a lot of scrutiny for it. Okay. So, corporate executives, they have to play the game. They have to follow the processes. They have to have a system to make their decisions. And, keep in mind that a lot of the reason they’re doing this is just to ensure that they’re making the right decision, but also that they’re doing whatever is going to help them get to that next level. And we all would want that. You’d be kidding yourself if you said, “Okay, if I’m the VP of this division, the next thing I would like to be is the regional president or this or that.” We want to get those positions. We want to advance. So keep in mind, that is how they’re thinking.

When it comes to business needs and their areas of interest, obviously they’re going to be interested in industry trends, competitive issues, company growth, certainly, in performance. They’re going to be concerned about cashflow, cultural issues, meaning the emplyee culture, the culture of their organization. They’re concerned about that. And also, profitability is obviously going to be one of the main factors. They want to make sure they have good, solid partnerships with the companies they choose to work with and get supplies from, and all that.

They want to handle customer issues and they want to know what’s going on. They want to get the pulse of the customer, although sometimes, given the responsibilities, they don’t have a chance to do that. And they want to deploy resources effectively. When it comes to what they personally want right now, not just what they need, but what they want, they want to stay mainstream. They want to enhance their career. They want a solution that is going to contribute to the bottom line. They themselves want to be a big contributor to the bottom line. So, when you think about that and how you’re presenting your solution, it’s important to highlight the prestige of what your solution could help them do, help them achieve.

They are concerned about getting everyone on board. They want to make the right decision, but if that decision can also be a popular one, that’s all the better for them. So they want that teamwork, that team consensus, and get people on board.

Now, one thing they don’t want, they don’t want too much accountability. I think Kennedy, John F. Kennedy said that success has many parents, but failure is an orphan, and nothing could be truer for corporate decision-making. When people make decisions and it’s the right decision, boy, everyone wants a piece of that action. But if they make the wrong one, it’s like, “Well, that was so-and-so” or “They were the ones who made the recommendation.” The finger pointing begins. Because nobody wants to own that.

They don’t want to stand out too much or be too revolutionary or shake things up. Again, they want to do things that will help enhance that career. I’ll give you solid example of this. I was working with a very large organization, one that you would certainly recognize if I mentioned their name, which I won’t. I’m speaking with a high-level decision maker who has the authority to spend money as he or she sees fit. We’re working on a large training contract where I was going to train all of their salespeople in this division. And the high-level decision maker, who is a corporate executive, he liked the idea. Everything lined up with exactly what he was hoping to accomplish. The program fit beautifully into their overall strategic plan. All in all, it was a win. But he said, “You know what I’m going to do? Before we move forward, and again, we’re going to move forward on this. I’m going to run a couple of ideas past our internal training department to see if we can help them become part of this process.” And the reason that he did that was because he was making a decision, a decision to bring in an outside company that is a specialist, right. We’re specialists in value-added selling, so what we did was very specialized compared to the challenges they were having—we were certainly going to help them. But he wanted to make the training department part of it, their internal team as well. And the reason why is because he didn’t want it to turn into a competitive scenario where the internal team felt like he was going against them.

Now, this decision maker has a high degree of emotional intelligence to have that on his radar. Because, by doing that, it really helped make for a smooth transition, and transition into our company going in and helping their company. It worked out great. And a lot of it is due to that executive’s insight and idea—foresight, I should say—and being able to navigate that. So, that’s an example of what they need.

So when you are selling to this high-level decision maker, in their solution, they want things that fit within the system they already have in place. They want something that’s going to be safe. The old motto, No one ever got fired for buying an IBM, that could easily apply to their decision-making model. They want to make decisions that are safe. They want something that’s going to perform. Because, again, they want to achieve their goals. They want to contribute to the bottom line. So be able to demonstrate how your solution helps them make more money.

And what they’re looking for from you, they want a partner that’s reliable, committed to partnering, that’s respected, that’s acceptable to everyone. Again, they want to make sure that this solution will be accepted by everyone. So, your company must be perceived as that solution that is easily justifiable: it’s a good decision that everybody would readily accept. That’s going to be important when you’re selling to those corporate type of executives.

And one thing I haven’t mentioned, but you’ve picked up on it by now, they’re going to try to mitigate risk as well. They’re not going to make higher risk decisions than they have to. So keep that in mind.

Well folks that is almost it for this five-part series. Now it’s going to become a six-part series, because next time we get together, we’re going to talk about entrepreneurs and how they are different. And it’s going to be a really interesting, interesting conversation. So I’m looking forward to that.

Make it a big day.

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