The Ultimate Guide To Selling To The C-Suite

If you’ve ever tried to get a meeting or presentation in with a c-level executive, then you know how hard it is to connect with these key decision-makers. Not only are the needs and motivators of the C-Suite far more complex than selling to other stakeholders, but they also have a laser focus on achieving long-term goals. Which, as you already know, can make getting the go-ahead from them to purchase your big-ticket items difficult. That’s why we’ve created the ultimate guide to selling to the c-suite; read on below to start successfully selling to c-level executives.

Also read:

Who is the C-Suite?

So who exactly is this tricky group of exclusive people? A C-Suite refers to the executive-level managers within a business, their titles often starting with a ‘C’. They help to keep the company’s strategies and operations aligned with their goals and policies; thus, they have the most considerable decision-making power within any organisation. Let’s delve into the specifics of each role for clarity:

What is a CEO?

chief executive officer (CEO) is the highest-ranking executive in any company. They act as the face of the company and will make all of the major decisions.

What is a CMO?

A Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) is the most senior marketing position and is in charge of developing the organisation’s strategy for corporate advertising and branding, alongside focusing on customer outreach.

What is a CIO?

A chief information officer (CIO) is responsible for managing, implementing, and evaluating computer technologies in an organisation.

What is a CFO?

A Chief Financial Officer (CFO) is responsible for the organisation’s overall financial activities. This responsibility includes past and present financial situation, financial reportage, and determining the company’s capital structure.

What is a CDO?

A chief data officer (CDO) is a C-level executive responsible for all organisations’ data use and data governance. Overall, they focus on guiding the organisation to obtain maximum value from the data available to them. 

Challenges of selling to C-level

Selling to the C-Suite isn’t an easy process – often because C-level decision makers are top-ranking executives who are always busy. What’s more, sales reps are constantly trying to get their attention to reel them into their big-ticket product or service. So the problem is ultimately twofold: c-level executives are well guarded by gatekeepers who are specifically told to hold you at arm’s length. This only makes the situation worse when you’re trying to desperately differentiate from other salespeople who are also eagerly trying to connect with them. So how do you get over these hurdles to sell to c-level executives? Read on below!

How to sell to the C-Suite

Here are several actionable best practices you can apply right away to begin engaging c-level buyers:

1. Research your buyer

Before reaching out to your prospective c-level executive, one of the best ways to learn about their current challenges is also one of the easiest – listen to them on social media like LinkedIn. All salespeople should be doing this regardless of the prospect because customer feedback is the holy grail of unique insights about your service and enables you to measure customer satisfaction. In turn, you learn about customer behaviour changes and identify areas that need immediate improvement – giving you an edge on the competition.

2. Understand C-Suite communication styles

C-Suite prospects often have a unique way that they like to communicate based on their communication style. They typically fall into one of four communication styles based on two factors. Those two factors are their level of sociability and their level of dominance. “SOCO” is a quadrant model and an acronym for the four communication styles – Supportive, Open, Closed, and Organized:

Supportive

Supportive C-Level communicators like a lot of information. They like to take their time to make decisions and absorb information. These are the people that often request detailed summaries or more often, the whole report. 

Open

Possibly the most ideal C-Level communicator is the Open communication style that has both a high level of sociability and a high level of dominance. Open communicators tend to be expressive and excitable, often seeming restless. They’re open (obviously), honest, and friendly; You know where you stand with them. Like Supportive communicators, they’re very friendly and sociable, and they like to form relationships quickly, like a business friendship, so they’re speedy to build relationships with you.

Closed

The Closed communication style has a high level of dominance and a low level of sociability. Meaning that Closed C-Level communicators tend to be demanding, aggressive, determined, and often frank. They like to get down to business quickly, so they’re not seeking to be your friend. They don’t care about your weekend. They don’t care about any personal aspects of your life.

Organized

Organized C-Level communications don’t like chit chat, they don’t want to get too personal, and definitely don’t want to find out about your personal relationships. They’re not interested in forming any friendship per se; they’d rather get down to business and keep things at a professional level.

4 C-Suite communication styles

3. Understand executives’ decision-making style

Once you’ve fully identified your prospective c-level executive’s communication style, you can move on to understanding their decision-making style. How do you do this? Ask yourself, and the prospective executive these questions:

Questions to ask yourself

Ask yourself these questions when preparing to approach a prospective c-level buyer:

“Can they easily envision working with my team?”

You may have superior products or services to your competitors, but remember that people only do business with people they know, like, and trust.

“Do I have proof of the strategic value of my offering?”

You need to quickly demonstrate value to C-Level executives by focusing on the benefits. You aren’t selling a product or a service, you’re selling an outcome – a solution to their problem. Nowadays every good sales rep is selling solutions so how is your solution better than the others? Value. Demonstrate it to them. Show them that you provide more than just a solution but a companion – someone that will show them the way. 

“Have I positioned myself as an authority?”

When customers think of your business, what exactly are they thinking? If they’re not feeling anything, you are in big trouble. If they’re thinking something other than what you want them to be thinking, you’ve got some work to do. When working out how to stand apart from the competition -it all comes down to positioning.

Questions to ask C-Level executives

We all know those good salespeople ask probing questions to uncover their customer’s needs, but it’s a little different when selling to the c-suite. It would be best if you asked straightforward, concise questions that only c-level executives can answer. Check them out below:

  • How much risk are they willing to take?
  • How much input do they seek from others?
  • How much responsibility do they accept based on their decisions?

4. Personalise your messaging

What do your prospective C level executives care about? The needs of the C-suite buying influence are often quite different from other stakeholders, so you need to tailor your messages to them accordingly. Therefore, when selling to the C-suite, your solution needs to address long-term goals in a personalised way.

5. Always follow-up

Salespeople have to be persistent by nature; following up, checking in, and making constant contact with prospects is the name of the game. Unfortunately, you can’t just sit back and wait for a busy c-level executive prospect to call you up and make an offer after an initial meeting!

Remember, persistence is key, and it doesn’t have to be complicated either; pick up the phone and send a quick email, message or phone call to your prospect with comments like “When can we get started?” or “Is there anything you want to change before we get started?”.

Gain the skills to engage c-level buyers & take control of the sale

Develop advanced skills needed to be confident and competent enough to take big deals over the line. 

Inspired by the “Challenger Sales” book, Advanced Selling Training is for seasoned sales professionals who need to learn how to assert themselves and push for the sale when necessary.

Scroll to Top