Are you selling a product or service where you need to influence the decision-makers and stakeholders in buying groups and buying committees? Are your calls getting unanswered and messages are not returned?
For companies selling to enterprise customers or B2B companies, it is important to engage the decision-makers who influence the buying decision. More than 90% of respondents in a recent ITSMA survey say executive engagement is more important to sales strategy than it was two years ago.
Connecting and getting a response from the C-suit executive and having a short sales cycle that earns profit is the goal of every salesperson. Many sales team fail to achieve this goal due to lack of knowledge and expertise. The final decision makers are the C-Level Executives (CxO) hence to have a successful sales pipeline, it requires careful planning and execution while selling to these decision makers.
A survey finding from a 2012 Harvard Business Review article reported that more than 90% of C-level executives said they ‘never’ respond to cold calls or e-mail blasts.
Let’s look at steps to follow in order to improve chances of connecting and engaging C-Level executives:
1. Answer the ‘Who’ Question, Define Your Targets:
Who are you trying to reach? Instead of focusing on 1,000s and going wrong, it’s better to focus on carefully selected 100s and do it very well. Targeting the C-suite is not a volume game.
Define your ideal customer profile. Define your targets. Find out who are the right people in your target accounts? Build your database with contacts for all the right personas in each buying committee. It’s essential to understand rank, influence patterns and organisational dynamics to make sure you are targeting the right CxO. With this information, you can find the CxO that can get the highest value from your product or service. Verify the location, size and the industry of your target account. Also any other aspects that could show a tendency to purchase.
2. Target the C-Suite and the Buying Committee (gatekeepers):
Once you know who the right CxO to target is, next step is knowing the entire team for better admittance. In B2B sales, the executives trust and depend heavily on their team of subordinates and managers to research and evaluate technology investments. So the managers are the influencers. Hence, it is important to target the broader buying committee as well. There will be gatekeepers as well. The gatekeepers can become the door openers if they are able to see the value proposition in your product or service.
You need to build or find a relationship with the target personas! You may have an existing relationship with them through previous campaigns. If you don’t, then find a relationship that does exist. For example, leveraging an existing customer or vendor relationship and host a dinner or only executive event with them to bond with your target personas.
Having good relations with the subordinates will help close the current deal faster and may also be supportive in future deals.
3. Perform In-Depth Research
The C-suit executives and the buying committee is more interested in, commercial insights and value to them. You need to convey how your product or service will help them with their business needs and solve their concerns. The important aspects in enterprise decisions are:
- Knowledge and understanding of the industry
- Knowledge and understanding of their business concerns
- New ideas to progress the business.
- ROI and efficiency
It requires detailed research to do this well. Researching on the following can help you gain the attention and engage your target personas:
- Get adequate knowledge about the C-Level executive’s priorities, what the company’s priorities are.
- Having knowledge about their pain points, the business concerns is very important.
- Research about their industry, competitive dynamics, their financial, operational and customer drivers etc.
- Understand the trends that affect CxO’s decisions and the company’s position in the global market.
To find this information you may read business journals like Business Weekly, The Economist or Harvard Business Review and yes our favourite – Google search. Follow them on social media to know what they are talking about. You may also review ASIC filings and quarterly earnings reports etc.
The insight and understanding that you gain from the research helps you stand out. When they see you understand their business and their needs that helps gain trust and credibility.
4. Develop a Multi-Channel Strategy to Gain Attention and Engage:
When trying to reach out to enterprise customers or B2B companies, standard demand generation tools are usually not enough. At the end, we must remember that ‘people buy from people’! H2H or Human to Human interaction is still the way to high value B2B sale and technology and tools only provides channels or ways.
There are multiples ways in which you can reach out to the C-Level Executives and the buying committee. Some of these ways are as listed below:
- Direct mails
- Phone calls
- Online advertising
- Social Ads
- Web personalisation such as personalised landing pages etc.
To achieve your business objectives, you need to create a strategy that orchestrates multiple channels to reach multiple people at the target accounts.
Selling to C-Level is a team sport. There would be multiple people in your team trying to reach multiple people in the client account. The key is to assign right people to the right tasks. So you need to make a plan, who in your team does what to who in the client account.
When you want to connect with the decision makers, you need to combine different ways to reach out, make a phone call, send a human email and connect through social touch.
Email alone is a not an effective tool to reach C-Suite. It could be used as a secondary, follow-up tool. Many times direct mails that offers value proposition have been proven be more effective in catching the attention of decision makers. A couple of examples of direct mail campaigns are as below:
- In an envelope, a tailored study comparing their firm with the competitors
- A book that is relevant to your offer/product/service
- A box when opened has a tablet playing a personalised video….may seem like one from the left field?
These acquisition campaigns will help you catch attention. Direct mail campaigns can be expensive so it is best testing them in small batches first. The main objective is to get noticed, so they remember your offer and product when you try to connect after the package is received.
Let’s see an example of how to connect with the decision makers and key influencers using multiple channels. These steps can produce great results, if done correctly.
What should be remembered is number of touch points are also a key across the channels. We find that typically it takes between 9 to 25 touch points to engage an account’s buying committee and generating opportunities depending on the complexity, industry and environment. The touch points above are for guidance only and sometimes can be more or less.
Let’s look at another example, you want to invite an executive to your event. Let’s see how you can make that happen:
- The executive of equal or higher title at your organisation should send the invitation.
- Have an SDR formulate a personalised email, once approved, send the personalised email.
- After the email is sent, then make additional efforts with phone calls, direct mail, social touches and more to get them to the event.
- Then eventually getting a meeting.
A short summary of the above 4 steps:
Step 1: You’ve defined the target account and you know who the right people are in your target account to reach out to.
Step 2: You’ve mapped the buying centers and the people, and you understand the door openers.
Step 3: You’ve researched about the target account’s industry, competition and pain points of the decision makers.
Step 4: You’ve started to reach out to them using the multi-channel approach.
5. Develop a Personalised Content Strategy for Each Decision Maker to Deliver the Value
Make sure you focus on value proposition and remain relevant to your targets. The acquisition campaigns are to ensure that we keep the target contacts interested while sales/leadership team in in the sales process. From the research in step 3, you have the understanding of the personas and know the issues that are top priority for them. Use the insights and create personalised campaigns focusing on relevant content (eg. content that will establish trust and credibility, case studies) to their role.
According to ITSMA – “75% of executives will read unsolicited marketing materials that contain ideas that might be relevant to their business.”
Content is a very important at every stage of the business deal be it in the initial stage of getting connected or in the conclusive stages of closing the deal. The content should be relevant, credible, engaging and tailored. Use A,B,C categories of Clients to determine the content personalisation extent and investment. It could be in the form of newsletters, white-papers, eBooks, videos, or webinars etc. Developing a content strategy for each decision maker and influencer that is personalised to their pain points in the business is the key to engaging them and earning their trust. If the content is personalised to their needs, they see the value in your product or service.
When the world was hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, a SaaS company was going through difficult times and had very thin sales pipeline. When they came to Grow Digitally, they were using traditional marketing techniques, which wasn’t enough to get the attention of the decision makers. We used a targeted approach using Account Based Marketing. We targeted their 170 Target Accounts and ran campaigns focused on the specific concerns of their customers. They were able to get attention of the C-suite and were able to secure $5.3M pipeline in 10 weeks.
6. Strategy to Approach the C-Suit and the Buying Committee:
Approach with personalised messages. Do not send generic and automated messages. Be more relevant, more personalised and eventually more valuable.
Following the above mentioned 5 steps, you are very likely going get a meeting and find sales opportunities.
Below are 7 key points to consider for the meetings or dealings with the C-suite and the buying committee:
ABM Strategies can Successfully Connect, Engage and Approach the C-Level Executives
According to TOPO – Today’s most effective tactics are Account-based tactics.
It is used as part of account-based marketing (ABM). ABM is a B2B marketing strategy that focuses on targeting accounts that match your ideal customer profile (ICP) and target the key decision makers in those accounts with personalised campaigns across the buyer’s journey. (You may download The Complete Guide to Account Based Marketing).
Using the ABM, you make a strategy to make tailored human interactions across your target accounts, that increases engagement and ultimately drive sales at the target accounts. There are many firms that have successfully used ABM strategy and seen great results.