Selling at "C" Level

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For many of you, selling at the CEO, COO, CLO, CFO, etc., level means that you're talking with someone engaged in leading the company through the implementation of the company's Vision. A vision is a picture of what the company is trying to create.

Achieving the Vision is often done through "Strategic Initiatives." Some of these initiatives are incremental, and some are huge. Either way, these initiatives get funding. If what you're selling can be aligned with a Strategic Initiative, then the C-Level person you're interacting with can move money from one budget to another within their span of control to acquire your products and services.

Strategic initiatives are assigned to an executive-level champion who is responsible for making sure it gets done. So, for you, the moment you start interacting at the "executive" level (VP, EVP, Director, and other Sr. Executives) you should automatically shift from selling products and services to selling how you can help them carry out the Strategic Initiatives.

Think about what you sell and how it fits into your top three customers' strategic initiatives. Now take your top three prospects and do the same. To sell at the C-Level, you are selling Capabilities, not Features, Advantages, and Benefits (FABs). FABs are too far into the weeds, and if you try to sell them, you will be summarily shuffled off to the person who works in the weeds.

Shift from FABs to focusing on the Unique Capabilities you have that you can communicate as a direct fit to the strategic initiatives with a clear connection to achieve and support the customer's Vision. Unique Capabilities are similar to Unique Selling Points but at a higher (30,000 foot) view.

Remember, the Final Authority is the person at the "appropriate level" in the organization who is responsible for all the budgets that you impact. The "appropriate level" for what you sell may or may not be the person at the top (C-Level). If it is, then in addition to positioning what you sell to be in alignment with achieving the Strategic Initiatives, you must also be able to talk about Return on Investment (ROI), Rate of Return (ROR), Return on Assets (ROA) and the level of confidence you have in delivering it.

As Mack Hanon said in his landmark book, Consultative Selling (1970), the C-Level people want to know: "How much, how soon, and how sure."

To really appreciate the differences, get the free Strategic Sales Plan checklist or by the $5.00 ebook, Strategic Sales Plan and make the changes from FABs to Capabilities and from Unique Selling Points to Unique Capabilities. Do the work, it's your career and it's obviously worth it. 


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Robert P DeGroot, M.Ed., DCH
Author of 22 Best Selling eBooks

Sales Training International for more information

© 2020 Robert P DeGroot


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