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Calling on C-levels:

Comfort zone - yes or no?

Oct 15, 2014 by Alex MacKay

It’s one of the best qualifications of any senior level sales person/manager/executive = how capable are you calling on C-level executives?

Almost everyone will claim they have the skill in some manner, however it’s the way the skill set is described that tells you if the capability is truly part of the individual’s comfort zone. This is critical as being comfortable working with senior executives is predominantly something that comes from having direct experience doing it; it’s not something that get’s trained in a classroom. Professional training does certainly help a lot!

People who really work with C levels in a comfort zone will generally talk about the following types of things:

  • the ability or style to position one’s self as of equal importance to the C level
  • the need to establish purpose and value through out all interactions
  • always being conscious of the need to earn the right to proceed to next levels of interaction
  • the objective ultimately being to establish a basis of 'trust'
  • (the big surprise to most) the best way to achieve trust is through 'listening' (asking questions – not just talking) and being attentive to the needs of the C level executive and their teams
  • when needs are discussed the key is to demonstrate clear empathy and interest to explore
  • as any relationship/process continues it is best practice to always explain what steps are planned and why each is an effective component
  • while building value at every encounter is key; the first impression can make or break any relationship with a C level executive

That first impression is so important, it warrants some special comments. When people with limited time first meet new people (especially sales), they are most likely going to be cautious or even reluctant to open up or reveal too much. For those who have become effective at working at this level (in their comfort zone), they recognize that there are a few moments at the beginning when the window can be opened or closed on a long term relationship. A 3 step guide to mastering this capability:

  1. Do a lot of extra research and analysis without looking for answers; look for relevant information about the person, the company and the industry and try to understand the key trends, problems and growth opportunities.
  2. Be ready to talk crisply and confidently about specific content about 'what you do' that will quickly establish credibility.
  3. Be prepared to adapt your 'style' to the person(s) you are meeting. Be sensitive to their style(s) and go in with a plan to earn the right to take small steps to a long term relationship that starts right now.

The reason calling on C Levels is such a desirable capability = it works! It produces bigger results, more qualified opportunities, and for a lot of sales organizations would be one of the best areas of improvement they could make to increase their sales effectiveness.

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