The Revenue Growth Habit - January/February - 2016

Selling to Executive Buyers

There are different kinds of buyers for transmission shops: consumers, moms, dads. But, as I learned while speaking at ATRA’s Expo last October, some of you sell business-to-business. In that world there are also different buyers: logistics managers, for example.

But one kind of customer can buy more than any other: executive buyers. I’m talking about the CEOs, presidents, and principals. These folks are different than all the rest, and selling to them is the focus of this column.

First, how are they different?

They don’t have a lot of time because they’re babysitting — er, managing — large teams. So you have to make your case and demonstrate your value quickly, impressively, and memorably.

Although they’re in high-level positions, they hate risk. That’s ironic, but most executives spend their days trying not to rock the boat. The less attention they bring to themselves, the better. As such, you must demonstrate to them definitively that you’re a safe option.

They’re being sold to constantly. And because of their positions, they’re surrounded by “yes” people who tell them what they want to hear all day. Because of this, you must enter the conversation with them as peers. You must walk into the room as equals.

With these kinds of problems, why should you sell to executives? It’s quite simple really: They can buy more than anyone else by a wide margin. You’ll generate a lot more revenue focusing your efforts on executive buyers.

That’s them; now let’s talk about you. How do you react to these characteristics? How do you sell to executive buyers?

Above all else, demonstrate safety: In the sales process, you must show the executive buyer that many people just like them have done business with you and were much improved in the process. That is, show your executive buyers testimonials and case studies from people in similar positions.

“We’ve found that we bring a huge amount of value to CFOs. Just look at these testimonials from our customers in your position.”

“Here are three testimonials from people like you who’ve benefited a great deal from working with us.”

Remember, they didn’t get to their current position by screwing up or taking unnecessary risks. Show them how safe it is to work with you by showing them all those who came before them.

Be a peer; be an equal. If you walk into the executive buyer’s office thinking about the sale, you’ve already lost the business. It’s gone. Why? Because the executives can sense that. You know how you can tell when somebody really needs the business when they sell to you? It’s not an advantageous position to sell from ever, and especially not when you’re dealing with somebody in this position.

Instead, your main goal for your meeting with the executive buyer should be to help him or her as hard and as impressively as you can. As soon as you can get them to say “I’ve never thought of it that way before,” there’s a great chance their business will be yours.

What can help you do this? War stories… examples… compelling case studies you recount… interesting customers of yours. Quick thinking that offers a powerful solution to the buyer, which you come up with on the spot. Be in the moment. Listen to what they’re saying. Then react with value. Forget that you’re in a sales situation. Think of it as if you’re having a drink with a friend.

That’s the approach for selling to executive buyers; now let’s look at finding them. How do you get to executive buyers in the first place?

Build a good list. These people aren’t kept secret. Their names and titles are on web sites, LinkedIn, and other online databases. Hire somebody to build good lists for you.

Send executive value to the list. Periodically, send an article they’ll find helpful. Or a video. Include testimonials from their peers. Feature a case study. Executive value is content that’s immediately practical and helpful, wrapped in the safety of examples and endorsements.

Aggressively gather referrals from existing executive buyers. Nothing will get you through the executive’s door faster than a referral from a fellow executive. Ask executives who else they know in a similar position.

In general, be bold, be confident, be helpful, be memorable. And have fun, because that’s contagious. These executives need you.

These approaches are described in depth in Alex Goldfayn’s new book from John Wiley & Sons, The Revenue Growth Habit: The Simple Art of Growing Your Business by 15% in 15 Minutes a Day. Alex is the CEO of the revenue growth consulting firm The Evangelist Marketing Institute. Visit his web site at