The Coaching Effect Blog

The Coaching Effect Blog

    Research Reveals Secrets to Selling to Senior Executives

    by Kristi Shoemaker / July 11, 2011

    Today's Sales Coaching Blog provides strategies that will help your salespeople be more effective when selling to Senior-Level Executives.  It is based on a research study conducted by our friends at The TAS Group. To download the entire white paper titled "Selling To Senior Executives" click here.

    Paul Dilger, Director, Product Marketing and Sales Enablement
    The TAS Group, will be our featured instructor at our July Sales Coaching Webinar. He will share a framework for evaluating, optimizing, and measuring sales process effectiveness.



    "When Do Senior Executives Get Involved in Major Purchase Decisions?"
    By The TAS Group

    • Both studies show that senior executives are more involved during the beginning and end of the buying process, and less involved in the middle

    • At the beginning of the buying process, executives get involved in order to:

    o Understand current business issues

    o Establish project objectives

    o Set the overall project strategy

    Executives get involved at the end of the buying process in order to:

    o Plan the implementation of the new project

    o Supervise the measurement of the project’s results

    How Can Salespeople Gain Access to Executives?

    • Executives list these six most common reasons for granting a meeting to a salesperson:

    o A recommendation from a credible source inside the executive’s organization

    o An existing relationship with the seller

    o The reputation of the salesperson’s company

    o A need for the product or service the salesperson is offering

    o An external referral from a respected source

    o The timing of the salesperson’s request for the meeting (as related to the buying cycle)

    • Both studies reveal cold calling is the least effective method for gaining an interview, even if the salesperson writes a letter of introduction first

    • Both studies reveal that most executives will grant a meeting to a salesperson if someone from inside the executive’s company recommends it

    • The second study shows email and voicemail are only effective once a salesperson has already established a relationship with the executive, and then only if the communications are kept brief and to the point

    How Do Executives Block Salespeople?

    • In both studies, most executives respond that they use one of the following methods to block a call from a salesperson:

    o Asking a secretary to handle the call

    o Claiming to have a busy schedule or too many other priorities

    o Referring the call to someone else in the organization

    How Do Executives Test Salespeople?

    • Most executives give salespeople only five minutes to establish some kind of relationship. Within that five minutes, salespeople should:

    o Speak from a business perspective, demonstrating the homework they’ve done to develop an understanding of the customer’s key issues

    o Raise relevant questions and share new business perspectives

    o Listen and understand, rather than attempting to sell their product or service during the first contact with an executive

    • Executives are most likely to grant meetings with salespeople who:

    o Understand the customer’s key business drivers and business initiatives

    o Convey how they can deliver value to the executive’s company

    o Have the power to make decisions

    • Executives expect salespeople to be confident, professional, flexible, and honest

    Once They’ve Got the Meeting, What Should Salespeople Do?

    • In the first study, executives rank first those salespeople who show accountability and responsibility

    • In the second study, executives rank first those salespeople who understand the customer’s key business goals and objectives

    • Both studies show executives want salespeople who will listen and consider the customer’s needs before proposing a solution

    How Can Salespeople Establish Credibility with Executives?

    • In the first study, executives rank salespeople’s ability to marshal resources from within their organization as most important

    • In the second study, executives rank salespeople’s willingness to be held accountable as most important

    • In both studies, executives state they want salespeople who understand their goals and objectives, and who are responsive to their requests. They rate a salesperson who disparages the competition as least credible

    • Above all, executives value decisive and confident salespeople. They do not value arrogance and “hard sell” approaches

    When Is “Like-rank” Selling Necessary?

    • Sixty-eight percent of executives think “executive-to-executive” selling is of significant importance, mainly to reaffirm the seller’s commitment and highlight the strategic fit for their companies

    • Some executives feel executive-to-executive selling indicates a problem

    What Do Executives Expect from Partner-level Suppliers?

    • Eighty-three percent of executives in the first study have high-level partner relationships with at least one key supplier, but nearly half feel they do not reap any benefits from such a relationship

    • In the second study, the gap between the benefits executives expect and receive closed somewhat, possibly because many sellers have:

    o Increased the number of strategic account teams

    o Formed closer relationships with customers

    o Emphasized the value of their solution more effectively


    • Senior executives will meet with salespeople early in their buying cycle, but only to identify and learn about business issues related to the purchase decision. It is critical for salespeople to understand the difference between the customer’s buying cycle or process and their sales cycle. A sales cycle typically starts after several steps in the customer’s buying process have already occurred

    • Salespeople are most likely to gain an appointment with a senior executive if someone inside the executive’s firm recommends them. Strong existing relationships within an organization prove crucial to gaining executive access


    Check out our July Sales Coaching Webinar, featuring Paul Dilger, Product Marketing and Sales Enablement,
    The TAS Group

    "How To Optimize Your Sales Process""
    July 18 Webinar
    10 PST /12 CST / 1EST
    Learn more and register online.

    During this month's EcSell Institute webinar, we present a framework for evaluating, optimizing, and measuring sales process effectiveness.

    Topics covered include:

    • Signals that indicate when to change your sales process
    • How to evaluate your current sales process efficiency
    • Learn the fundamentals aspects of process design
    • See enabling technology
    • Discover how to measure sales process quality and throughput 

    Tags: Sales Skills Development

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    Kristi Shoemaker

    Kristi Shoemaker

    Kristi is a marketing communications and public relations expert with over 30+ years of experience in a variety of industries. She was an integral part of EcSell's go-to-market strategy and execution from 2008 - 2012. Kristi enjoys taking a holistic approach by integrating all the key marketing disciplines to create synergies that generate maximum results. She is currently the president of KLS Consulting in Lincoln, Nebraska.

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