How to reach top executives

First, thank you for the kind words regarding the new baby. It means a lot even though none of us (almost) have ever met.

This blog tries to answer a great question emailed by a Sitepoint reader. It’s a bit long, but worth the read as many of you have the same question:

I

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  • http://www.rswarren.com Robert Warren

    8. Don’t just research the needs that you can meet – learn everything you can about the overall problems faced by the company, culture and business practice shifts that have happened lately, the specific place they have in their markets. Especially if you’re targeting high offices, these are “big picture” people; you’ll get farther if you understand that big picture, rather than just your piece of it.

    9. While you’re targeting high offices, don’t disrespect lower ones. You never know who has the influence to get you hired or fired. Consider everyone a potential contact.

  • http://www.practicalapplications.net bwarrene

    This may be assumed in this planning – so forgive if it is. One additional item to this list would be to have marketing materials with the same message presented in two distinct ways – 1) aimed at the executive level and 2) one aimed for presentation to technical managers.

    I.e – in many cases you may be fortunate enough to meet with savvy C-level execs who can work through proposals. More often – once even tacit acceptance is made with an exec – it is passed to a technical manager.

    At this point the technical staff knows there is support at the top level – thus diving into specific technicals is the next stage. Have these documents ready made and be prepared to asses and then update them to work with the technical requirements you would be given at this point in the selling stage.

    Robert’s comments gel with this – perhaps knowing some of the infrastructure and goals of the company will help you slant technical marketing for the need.

  • http://www.creativearc.com creativearc

    A strategy I’ve used is to pick one industry, learn all that I can about it, and meet with CEOs personally.

    How? Obtain a top 25 list from a local business mag. Call every CEO on that list, and say you’re an entrepreneur looking to grow your business, and that you’d like to learn about [insert industry here], and also some personal info about that particular CEO.

    This way you’re not ‘selling,’ you’re simply meeting them to learn something from someone who is experienced in that field. If anything, they know who you are, and that could be helpful later.

    I’ve done this with nearly 10 CEOs and have had great results. These people WANT to talk to you.

    Yes, its a lot of phone calls. It’s a whole lot of work. But calling CEOs doesn’t cost a cent. =)

    Paul

  • Afro Boy

    I like the distinct deliveries that bwarrene described.

    We had a situation recently where we were looking at a product (from a technical perspective). It met all of our needs, price, features & benefits. We just needed a higher level manager approval.

    On asking the supplier if they could do a high-level exec. presentation, they indicated that they had nothing avail. in this regard.

    Suffice to say, they lost the sale.

    It is incredibly important to be prepared. Technical people will get involved at some stage in a technical solution and you need to make them feel comfortable with material targetted at them. Higher level execs don’t want this level of detail. Have something specific to deal with their needs too.

    Af.

  • Swat Sani

    My experience says its best to go to the client with detailed knowledge of his industry and give a presentation that outlines how your skills and his business acumen can combine to give him results.

    Approach the decision maker directly, keep communications straight and keep your paperwork up-to-date. While it is important to secure work, it is even more important to keep it going.

  • JMorrow

    Buy the book Selling to VITO (Very Important Top Officer). It’s a more detailed look at what people have recommended here.

  • steven streight aka vaspers the grate

    Offer some free work to them, as an example of more you could do. Like re-write some code, or some web text, or whatever you do well. Or do a quick mock up of a site for a similar, non-existent company.

    Anything to show them something that moves them mentally closer to what could be done for them. Do it without authorization but with enthusiasm. “This kid’s already done all this work. We better pay attention to it and see if there’s anything to it.”

    Learn about their industry. Write or create something related to it. Write an article on an industry issue that shows you understand it.

    Steven Streight aka vaspers the grate
    Mentally Correct Marketing

  • JR

    I disagree with Steven about doing work for free. To me this shows that you are desperate and unprofessional. You may also be taken advantage of as well. This is why you have a portfolio of work you have done in the past.

    If you don’t have a portfolio, find some work that will pay. It may be only a little but you will start building a portfolio.

    IMHO I say never work for free.

  • http://thatwebthing.com KillAllDash9

    My father was in sales for a long time wya back in the day, and he has taught me some valuable lessons regarding sales. One of those was to always start with the CEO or President when trying to do business with a new company that you don’t already have contacts in.

    The main job of the CEO is really public relations for most companies (especially larger ones). Don’t be afraid that he is _too busy_ to talk to you—you can almost _always_ have a conversation with him that is long enough to at least find out who else in the company you should really be talking to. The trick is getting past his secretary—and heres the secret to that:

    1. Find out the name of the CEO. For public corps this is easy—it’s a matter of public record. For private companies, a customer service rep or receptionist will usually at least tell you his/her name.

    2. Call the main office or corporate headquarters. If you can get the direct number to the CEO’s office use that, otherwise, call the main switchboard.

    3. Ask for the CEO by first name, and mention that he is expecting your call. The secretary probably won’t know that he isn’t actually expecting it and wouldn’t _dare_ blow someone off who asked for the CEO by first name and said the CEO was expecting their call. If the secretary mentions to the CEO that the call was ‘expected’ and the CEO calls you on your ruse, it’s easy to convince them that it was a simple misunderstanding—just be creative.

    4. In most cases, the CEO isn’t the one you really need to sell the service to, but he will be able to tell you which manager you need to be talking to instead. So the next thing you do is pick up the phone and call that person. And here’s where you up your chances of making the sale:

    5. People in charge of making decisions about web developers or any other product/service purchases are swamped with sales calls and are used to blowing them off. If you had started with them, your chances of getting very far are limited—they probably won’t ven listen. But now you can get their attention. When you get ahold of them, introduce yourself, and say “I’ve been speaking with {insert CEO name here}, and he wanted me to give you a call to discuss {insert what you’re selling here}.”

    Now they’ll be more open to listining to you. If you can follow through with a top-notch sales pitch and presentation, you’ll have a leg up on the competition.

  • http://elysiansystems.com/ leadegroot

    KillAllDash9 wrote:
    “If the secretary mentions to the CEO that the call was ‘expected’ and the CEO calls you on your ruse, it’s easy to convince them that it was a simple misunderstanding—just be creative.”

    Oh, I wouldn’t recommend this – starting a relationship with a customer through deceit is poor practice, when you an so easily get around it. Send a letter or an email first; a simple practice to avoid lying to a potential client.
    The client you really want is the one who would spot a lie.

    HIH
    Lea

  • raj_freind

    I totally agree research about the prospect clients before to move ahead for make a deal.

    1. Research about the company background. (what kind of business they dealing in, company financial condition, Are they in your product and services area.)

    2. Are they potential client for you / Would your service or product will help them to up their business.

    3. Find the right person (President/Director/Manager) for approach in company instead of CEO. If CEO is the right person or only he/she has the responsibility to make decision in those areas you looking for then you can directly approach to CEO.

    4. Then research to find out the approaching person responsibility area and some about personal background (might be you know anyone who knows your prospect).

    5. Go to company’s website (if have)/companies database websites/ company’s annual report to get detail about the company/client’s contact instead of call direct to help desk or CEO to know about the right person.

    Right approach always help to make and build good deal and goodwill in industries.

    Raj | HyperQuality LLC

  • raj_freind

    I totally agree on research about the prospect clients before to move ahead for make a deal.

    1. Research about the company background. (what kind of business they dealing in, company financial condition, Are they in your product and services area.)

    2. Are they potential client for you / Would your service or product will help them to up their business.

    3. Find the right person (President/Director/Manager) for approach in company instead of CEO. If CEO is the right person or only he/she has the responsibility to make decision in those areas you looking for then you can directly approach to CEO.

    4. Then research to find out the approaching person responsibility area and some about personal background (might be you know anyone who knows your prospect).

    5. Go to company’s website (if have)/companies database websites/ company’s annual report to get detail about the company/client’s contact instead of call direct to help desk or CEO to know about the right person.

    Right approach always help to make and build good deal and goodwill in industries.

    Raj | HyperQuality LLC