How to Sell Big-Ticket Items to Executives without Blowing it
If you’re in big-ticket sales (expensive products and services), you’re selling to executives. Key concept: eliminate any sales behavior that will trigger resistance to your conversation. When the sales pro says or does something that raises a red flag, the audience with the executive may terminate, with little chance of a repeat engagement. The best sales pros do this instinctively and the newbies learn it fast, albeit expensively.
Sales people work hard to get an executive audience yet put little effort into developing the message and practicing the delivery for when they get the meeting. Most sales professionals stumble on executive conversations, overshadowing the excellence of their offering and leaving big business on the table.
Taking this a step further, you can apply this concept to anyone you sell to and radically increase your sales success. So, how can you minimize resistance to your message? Here are four strategies to make your executive discussions effective.
Ask Smarter Questions
So many canned sales questions are “Hey, Stupid” questions such as “Would you like to save 50 percent on your operating costs?” They figure, only an idiot would say, “No, let me think about that.”
The question is manipulative, extracts no meaningful information, kills dialog, and makes the questioner look like a dope. And yet, almost every sales hack asks the question. You, personally might want a tongue-in-cheek answer ready the next time you’re asked this question, such as, “No, we are only interested in saving 100 percent. Can you do that?”
A much better way to make the same point is, “Our customers have discovered that they can typically slash operating costs by 50 percent with the method I propose to discuss with you. Is this something that you’d like to explore?”
Notice that we introduce the savings by reporting success that you’ve already achieved with customers, which increases your credibly and makes your assertion inarguable. Success stories and third party endorsements increase your persuasiveness and make your claims stick. This combination decreases resistance to your message.
You only have to tell an executive something one time. They are expert at rapidly grasping the facts, a demand of their position. If they need more information, they’ll ask. So practice your discussion to clearly and quickly make your point.
If you find yourself say, “Like I said…” to an executive, you’re blowing it.
Use the concept of BLOT (Bottom Line On Top) when talking with executives. This means starting with your provable, relevant conclusion and then move through the supporting rationale. If you attempt to lead executives through the data to a conclusion, you will create resistance that may result in dismissal before you’ve made your key point.
Record your practice presentation (you are rehearsing for the big moment, aren’t you?) and listen critically to your performance. Notice how many verbal fillers are you using, such as: like, OK, you know, um, at the end of the day, net net, bottom line, and other hackney, overused non-words.
Practice again leaving out the fluff and fillers. Practice again until you can deliver your presentation cleanly.
Here’s why this is important: executives will never consider someone that would embarrass them in front of their peers or board of directors. This means that you must be polished and professional in your diction and discussion if you want access to the inner sanctum.
Deliver Real Thought Leadership
My colleague, Jeanine Edwards once asked, “What’s the statute of limitations on thought leadership?” The answer is, “This conversation.”
Thought leadership is an attribution. You can’t credibly claim it.
Ninety percent of CEOs come from a sales background (reported in Anthony Perinello’s excellent book, Selling to Vito). This means that executives have personally used every trick in the sales book. Don’t ever use the manipulative sales strategies frequently taught by sales trainers whose thought leadership expired decades ago.
Executives value integrity and intelligence. You can’t fake either of those for long. Nor can you claim them: these are characteristics that are attributed to you after consistently demonstrating them. Same for thought leadership, innovation, and charisma.
Although most sales professionals aspire to be trusted advisors, that position is earned by bringing fresh ideas and insights to executives at every meeting. Executives won’t bring sales pros into their inner circle until that pro can consistently show value to the exec’s organization and career.
You can develop thought leadership by watching other thought leaders and using them for inspiration. Start forecasting what will happen in your industry and hone your skills to identify trends that have impact on your customer’s business. Read new ideas daily and develop your talking points, keeping them fresh.
Use these ideas – and practice – so that when you speak with executives, you become a respected top-producing sales professional who delivers thought leadership.
Let’s have a conversation if you think my ideas can help you find and close more customers or to invite me to speak at your forthcoming meeting. Find a mutually agreeable time at MarksSchedule.com or contact me.