At PipelineDeals, we are product engineers. We work on a 12 year old codebase that powers a SaaS product that tens of thousands of our customers spend a large portion of their day using, and rely upon to drive and maintain their relationships with their customers. We have all sorts of metrics to track how we’re doing as an engineering team. Reigning supreme above all others, is uptime.
What’s my uptime?
In the early days of the web, uptime was pretty straight-forward. Everyone was publishing monolithic apps that either let you log in and do your thing or it didn’t. The URL either resolved correctly and presented a working application, or it didn’t. If it failed, it would show a 500 page, browser DNS error page or it spun indefinitely and never did anything.
These days, large and complex apps are typically delivered as a set of networked but independent services, each performing their task and communicating with others. At PipelineDeals, we began with a monolithic application from which we extracted several services, each with their own persistent storage and responsibilities.
From a systems engineering perspective, this approach gives us new tools to help us provide a higher guarantee of availability than is possible under a monolithic delivery model.
The boundaries between services, where one part of the application is depending on data or functionality provided by another, can be hardened against cascading failure using a circuit breaker. This is a piece of logic that will be invoked if there is a network error, internal server error, etc. that prevents a service from responding in a timely manner. This code will return a default value to the client service, allowing execution of the user’s web request to continue (albeit with a degraded or eventually-consistent state).
For example, one of the core services that powers PipelineDeals is responsible for billing and subscriptions. When the main app needs to know which features a particular user or account has access to, it must make an internal API call to this billing service. What if the database server this billing service talks to has a hardware failure?
Well, since we have a circuit breaker installed in the code that handles this communication, the main app will detect that requests to the billing API are currently timing out or failing. Noticing this, it will substitute a standard set of features instead of the realtime set that would be returned from the billing service, and continue with serving the user’s request.
Without the circuit breaker, a failure in the billing service would have cascaded into failures in all services dependent on it. In this naive case, the app’s uptime is only as good as the uptime of the least reliable service in the request’s critical path through the system.
Early Warning System
Service-based apps have some failure modes that you don’t see in monolithic apps. Chief among these is the cascading failure. One component will start receiving more load than it can handle, causing requests to it from other components to fail or hang around waiting for a response. These delays or failed requests will pile up in these client components, causing retries and degraded service to their clients, and so forth. Before you know it, the whole web of interdependent services will seize up and start refusing or failing requests from the web app and customer API calls and cause a downtime event.
There’s an opportunity here, as well. Well-designed services have well-defined boundaries, and it’s at these boundaries that we can look for trouble (any good monitoring service will make this easy to set up) and alert early. Data points that we’ve found helpful to monitor include queue job count, error rates and API request 95th percentile response times.
Responding to these alerts early enough will allow a team to avoid a full-blown downtime by, at worst, shutting down services not critical to the core product during an emergency. Happy days!
Defence in Depth
We can also look at the monitoring and alerting infrastructure in a top-down way. Failures can occur not only across components but also at different layers within a single component. Imagine you suddenly start seeing elevated 5xxresponses to user-facing web transactions. What’s the cause? Depending on your infrastructure and setup, this could point to a problem with your DNS setup, load balancers, application host, web server, routing layer, database, in-memory object storage, etc.
In an emergency situation, the less probing in the dark we have to do, the better. Setting up monitoring at every level of the stack is an excellent way to cut down this search space. For example, our ping tests report everything is fine but application error monitoring is showing elevated error responses, its reasonable to conclude that everything upstream of your app servers is functioning correctly and that the likely culprit is a recent code change.
Cost / Benefit
So, what are all these handy dashboards and fancy infrastructure going to cost you? It’s a sliding scale. There are engineering teams working at all points on the spectrum between a single monolithic app and a constellation of microservices. Having said that, there is no question that there are additional fixed and marginal costs of delivering your app as a set of networked services.
Most easily measurable are the direct costs of extra servers and hosting infrastructure. We usually want redundancy at the level of the hardware that the service is running on, so most production setups will deploy one service per server instance. The extra database hardware to isolate storage per service is another significant cost, as is the data transferred between service APIs.
The cost incurred for your engineering team’s time is much harder to quantify. Even assuming everyone on the team has the DevOps chops to isolate and debug production issues, the resolution of those issues will necessarily be more complex as they involve more moving parts than under the original monolithic approach.
Do I need it?
Distributed application architectures are not a silver bullet for all that ails your application. In fact, shoehorned into a deployment that doesn’t make sense, it will multiply your problems. Best practice is to begin your app with a simple, monolithic deployment model that’s quick to iterate and develop new features for. As your app acquires paying customers, you’re building a business case for investing the time and money required to improve the resiliency of the infrastructure the business relies on. Even at this point, that may not mean a fully distributed service model as we’ve discussed above – it’s an art as much as it is a science.
Want to save time and close deals faster? Our latest webinar focuses on our industry-leading sales data collaboration tool called SuperShare that enables you to collaborate easily with external partners.
In the sea of potential customers, finding leads and converting them has always been essential for marketing and sales teams. In this post we take a look at what you need to know about the sales funnel to close more deals.
Let’s face it. Today’s modern sales pipeline spans across companies and that’s why we’re excited to launch SuperShare. Our industry-leading feature helps you share important data so you can collaborate easier and close faster. Here’s how.
Learn about our latest feature releases and product improvements in this “super” edition.
Share. Collaborate. Close Faster.
PipelineDeals today announced SuperShare™, a sales pipeline sharing feature that empowers PipelineDeals customers to share data in real-time for easy, real-time collaboration with external collaborators.
How SuperShare Works
SuperShare enables you, the PipelineDeals user, to choose the current deals you want to share directly from your powerful List Views. Then, you can easily invite key external collaborators to view the critical and exact data in a secure format, whether or not your external collaborator has a PipelineDeals subscription.
After an email invitation is accepted, the external user is automatically given a free PipelineDeals SuperShare account that includes access to an indispensable view of the subscriber’s app: the Deals page. By viewing the Deals page, external users can see useful data that the PipelineDeals user has chosen to share with them.
Should You Be SuperSharing?
SuperShare is designed to foster easy collaboration, including real-time messaging and comments, right within PipelineDeals. As a result, businesses involved don’t have to worry about spending time writing and keeping track of countless emails relating to a deal, downloading spreadsheets with the certain data, or preparing reports in order to share information. With all of that, users can reap the benefits of multiple levels of accountability.
With PipelineDeals SuperShare, you can:
Share sales data easily with anyone.
Quickly grant select data access to external vendors, partners, and collaborators.
Reach the right people with the right data.
Pick shared data from powerful List Views to collaborate and easily close deals faster.
Safely choose data to foster collaboration.
Securely share PipelineDeals CRM data outside of your company by utilizing SuperShare Admin permissions.
Improve List View performance with the ability to freeze the top row, ensuring clear and efficient scrolling. To enable, navigate to the add/remove columns button on each list view (companies, deals, and people) and check the box for “lock header row.” Scroll away!
Overdue Dates in Red
We’ve completed a simple yet much-requested text color upgrade. Overdue dates are now in red. For those of you who work out of any List (except for Today’s and Tomorrow’s Agenda), this is for you.
Features Coming Soon
Business card scanning
We’re working on a mobile business card scanner so you can gather contacts while on-the-go. Take a photo of a business card and all that good info will be synced to PipelineDeals.
Soon, you can use your iPad to close more deals.
We’re tightening down on security to better protect your account. Two pieces of evidence to get in. Coming ‘round the corner.
User Teams give you the power to organize reps into teams and customize visibility to pre- and post-sales data, so reps see exactly what they should and managers can effectively report.
When you need more than one pipeline for business, which has multiple products and services, Multiple Pipelines delivers.
Accurately track multiple sales workflows – including products and services – to boost productivity.
Five pipelines are available on our Grow plan; you can access two sales pipelines on the Develop plan and one pipeline on our Start plan. Upgrade today.
Deal Profile Page
We’ve rolled out productivity boosting improvements to your Deal Profile page earlier this year. Work better with your Deal Intelligence fields, Activity Feed, People contact data, and more.
With so many CRM solutions out there, a contractor can easily get distracted and settle for a less than ideal one. In this post, we take a look at the key features that a CRM tool needs to have to be the best fit for a contracting business.
Rainier Custom Homes improved time-to-close by more than 50 percent and that’s not all. The customer experience is so great that 80 percent of business comes from referrals. Learn what software is behind their success.
Some sales reps can see cold calling as a nerve-wracking activity or a chore, but it can be an effective way of selling your product or service to customers. Our complete guide to cold calling will help you cold call in a way that eliminates the negatives associated with this task and builds positive relationships with customers.
So Why Does It Have a Negative Reputation?
When you are cold calling someone, you are reaching out to a potential customer who doesn’t know you to introduce yourself and your company. The potential client has no idea your call is coming, and you have to convince them to stay on the call. It can be a challenge even for seasoned sales reps, but when it works, it can be beneficial and gratifying for the sales rep and the customer.
What Is Cold Calling?
Cold calling will often be the first step you take in the sales process. It involves calling a potential business-to-business client you haven’t had any relationship with in the past.
In this call, you’ll attempt to gauge how much need or interest exists for your product or service, identify who would make the buying decision in the company and schedule a pitch meeting, if needed.
The reason cold calling often comes first and remains a sales tactic for so many companies is simple. Cold calling is a business enabler, generating revenue and fostering new connections with other businesses or individual customers. Businesses that fail to use cold calls on their own or in lead acquisition campaigns run the risk of not creating enough revenue to keep their business afloat.
Benefits of Cold Calling
Cold calling can produce a variety of positive effects, such as helping identify promising clients and gain insight into your ideal clientele. In the call, you’ll learn who the decision-maker is at a company and put yourself in a position to gain access to them. Additionally, you can learn from failed calls by evaluating patterns to see who is most interested in the product or service and how you can improve your message.
Another outstanding benefit is that you will put a human face on your company as you speak with customers directly, rather than through emails or ads. Also, you can increase your conversions by scheduling pitch meetings and putting yourself in the position to speak directly to a decision-maker.
Determine Your Objective and Identify Your Target
Your objective for calling should not be to make a sale. While you shouldn’t turn down the opportunity if a company wants to purchase your services immediately, you should be more focused on realistic goals. Use cold calling to make an initial contact with prospective clients, figure out if they have real potential to become a customer and lock down a pitch meeting to discuss your services and products in greater depth.
If you want to have a successful cold call, crafting a clear objective for yourself or your sales team is crucial. Not only can you set short-term goals for a single cold call, but you can also set long-term goals for your cold call campaign. For instance, you can aim to get 100 prospective customers on the line and convert 10% of those conversations into face-to-face meetings with prospects who need what you’re offering.
Other goals you could focus on include:
Testing the level of demand for your product and services
Improving how you communicate your product or service’s value
Learning how much customers are willing to pay for what you’re offering
Discovering who is going to be in the decision-maker’s ear for the sale
Figuring out which decision-maker you should target
Identifying potential clients who have the most need for your product or service
Practicing fielding common objections
Having both short- and long-term goals will keep you focused and ensure your conversation remains on track.
After defining your objectives, you’ll need to identify who will be the most receptive to your message. Search for companies that are most likely to respond positively to you and help you know who you should try to contact within the company. You will want to research your prospects thoroughly, learning what you can about their core values, what they do and their potential needs.
Script vs. No Script
There are a variety of opinions on cold calling techniques, with some arguing scripts are a waste of time and others saying they are essential. Others take the stance that a middle-of-the-road approach is best, and will give new reps a script, but eventually let them ditch it and only use it as a guideline.
Regardless of whether you decide to follow a script, you should have a plan. If you don’t grab a lead’s attention in the first 30 seconds, you’re setting yourself up for failure. In your opening lines, you want to adequately explain who you are, what business you represent and why you’re calling them, all while highlighting areas of potential interest and need for their company.
The Benefits of Using a Script
Since there is so much to remember with a lot of information to state early on, many companies like to cover their bases by having sales reps stick to a script during a cold call. With a script, companies can create consistency throughout their sales department and make it easy to integrate new hires into their team. Overall, companies should be aware of the many benefits to using scripts.
Consistent branding: Using a script, you can help your sales team keep the company’s brand and voice steady. You don’t want a sales rep to damage the company’s reputation with a potential client.
Rebut objections: Often, customers will have objections to buying a product. Instead of asking your sales staff to come up with new, compelling arguments every time they receive an objection, a script can help sales reps use tried-and-true responses to push-back from potential clients.
Decreased stress: For sales reps, especially new hires, a script can help reduce their stress about how to cold call. They might not know how to correctly communicate the benefits of what you’re offering. A script eliminates this stress by giving them everything they need to know to make a sale.
Team success: Since everyone is using the same script, if you find one that works well, your entire team will benefit. A less structured approach may make for remarkable individual success, but could fail to achieve more substantial team success.
An Alternative to Scripts
Though sales scripts can be helpful, especially when a rep is just starting, they can bring a host of issues. A common problem is salespeople sticking so close to the script that their voices seem robotic and unnatural. Also, scripts can frustrate the rep if they aren’t flexible enough to allow on-the-fly customization for the prospect.
To counteract these problems and make the call feel more like a real conversation, companies have begun to transition their scripts into a discussion framework. A discussion-based script will be more of a guideline than an inflexible script. This format can increase trust with the prospect and create a space for a genuine conversation.
These scripts also underscore a crucial point for a phone conversation. The cold call should be a give-and-take. While you need to share information with the prospect, you should be listening to them and making sure you’re responding authentically to their questions or concerns.
Rather than pitching your product to the customer, in a cold call, you are trying to discover if you should even spend the time pitching to this company. Your goal is to set up a future meeting, not close the deal, so your talking points should reflect that. If you use a script, it should employ questions that dig into the company’s needs and helps you connect with a decision-maker.
Prepare Yourself Mentally
Mindset is crucial for a successful sales call. Don’t come into the call with the mentality that you’re trying to make money by closing a deal. Instead, remind yourself you are calling to help the customer, to make their life better by solving a problem.
One way to change your mindset is to find a personal reason to believe in the value of the product or service you’re selling. If you’re not passionate about the product and the way it can help people or companies, the customer will be able to pick up on this. Changing your attitude to one of service versus one of selfishness can only help your ability to sell.
Along with not having a service mindset, reps face another common problem of worrying that they are going to annoy a prospect by interrupting their day. While it’s true that you are interrupting them, you can be a pleasant break in their daily routine, someone who is bringing fresh air into their life. This fear of annoying a prospect goes back to one’s mindset. If you believe in what you’re selling, you can feel confident you aren’t wasting their time and, instead, benefiting them.
What Story Do You Tell Yourself?
Everyone has a story of themselves playing in their minds. These stories are important to us, making up our identities and helping us define ourselves in a big world. However, problems can arise out of these personal narratives if they hold you back from reaching your potential.
For instance, say you’ve had a down quarter as a sales rep. What story are you going to make up in your head to explain it? Will you tell yourself you didn’t get enough promising leads or that it was a slow quarter for everyone in your firm, or will you tell yourself you could have tried harder and you should have spent more trying to improve?
Whichever story you tell yourself will influence your future. If you believe sales were outside your control, you are not likely to try to fix any mistakes you made in that quarter, while if you believe you could have improved, you will seek out opportunities to do so.
To help you remember to tell yourself a growth-oriented story, you can borrow from psychology to better understand it. To help us make sense of the world, we often adopt an external or internal locus of control. Those with an external locus of control will attribute their successes and failures to luck or factors that are bigger than they are. Someone with an internal locus of control will attribute their failures and successes to themselves.
To succeed in sales, you want to try to foster a belief that you have an internal locus of control. While either locus of control has its tradeoffs, an internal locus of control links to higher achievement and confidence. In sales, these qualities will only help, and with an internal locus of control, you will push yourself to improve.
Discuss Next Steps
When it comes time to close a cold call, you are going to want to remember not to try to close the entire sale based on that one call. Odds are you aren’t even speaking to the decision-maker, and even if you were, the prospect is likely not ready to make a decision.
If you have a positive call, where the prospect indicates they’d like to learn more about the product or service, you’ll want to lock down any next steps. As the sales rep, you’ll want to take on most of the responsibilities, as you don’t want to bog the prospect down with extra work. They could lose interest or become too busy to complete their tasks. Do whatever you can to make sure they have as little to do as possible. As part of wrapping up your conversation, you’ll want to schedule a future call or meeting.
A successful end to your call could sound like the following:
“I’ll send you an email with a meeting invite, along with more information about how our product could benefit you. Could you reserve a conference room at your office, and I’ll come meet with you there?”
In this example, you’ve given them the straightforward task of arranging a place for you to meet, while offering to do the bulk of the work in driving to their office, sending an email with an invite and providing more information. It should be a goal to close a cold call like this with an interested client so you have the best chance of making the sale.
In addition to ensuring you will take on the primary responsibilities of setting up a meeting after the call, you’ll want to leave the client wanting more. You don’t have to close with every piece of information about your product if they show interest. Whet the prospect’s appetite for your service or product by presenting intriguing information, but let them know they’ll be able to learn even more at your next meeting.
By giving just enough information to intrigue them, but not enough that they know everything about your product, you’ll create a feeling of value for your upcoming meeting.
Writing Your Notes
After you’ve hung up the phone, you still have work to do. You’ll want to jot down any information you gained from the call to help you create a plan for your next moves. If your next stage is a pitch meeting, you can base your strategy around the pain points and discussion points you found in the call.
A CRM system can be a massive bonus to your note-taking progress. A system like the one we offer will help you document all the details you gain in a meeting, use a central hub to view all your relationships in one place and collaborate with the rest of your team. A client wants to feel like you’ve heard and understood them, and a CRM system keeps you from forgetting any essential information, showing you value their needs.
3 Tips for Qualifying Cold Calls
Before you lock down a meeting and even before you pick up the phone, you should be trying to qualify your leads to figure out how much time and energy you should spend on them.
Below are techniques for weeding out dead-end leads and focusing on the promising ones.
1. Qualify Before You Call
Before you call, examine the prospect’s buyer persona and see if it matches with your ideal customer. What’s the prospect’s job title? What are their daily job responsibilities? Is their company the right size for your product? You can find most of this information quickly online without having to speak with someone at the company.
Along with looking for the answers to those questions, you may also be able to see if the lead has taken any actions on your website that indicate they were interested in speaking with you. Your marketing team may have this information ready for you, along with other details like buyer persona and website behavior data. Use this data to your advantage to learn how much the customer knows about you and if their behavior indicates they would be interested in your product or service.
2. Discuss Problems
When you get on the phone with a prospective client, you’ll want to try to find out what problems they are currently having, and explain how your product or service can help solve them. Instead of a salesperson, think of yourself as a problem-solver. If you can get them to tell you their struggles, and you have a way to solve those, your value will increase.
If you find they don’t have any problems you can address, you will at least discover that early in the initial phone call. When you take the time to get to know the prospective client, you will save time in the long run, as you will be able to qualify leads and cut out those that are unlikely to turn into sales.
Does the person you’re speaking to have the authority to make purchasing decisions?
Do they need to purchase the product or service you are offering?
Can you expect to close the sale in a reasonable amount of time?
Other popular models like CHAMP and GPCTBA/C&I offer different priorities and qualifying strategies. For example, CHAMP — or challenges, authority, money and prioritization — emphasizes trying to learn the lead’s pain points, while GPCTBA/C&I — or goals, plans, challenges, timeline, budget, authority/negative consequences and positive implications — places the salesperson in an advisory role, where they must understand the lead’s goals for the product.
Whichever technique you choose comes down to what best matches your company’s business model. One-time products are best for BANT, and customer retention is best for CHAMP and GPCTBA/C&I.
Discover Real-World Sales Solutions That Help You Succeed
Selling directly to C-level executives is the dream of many salespeople. When you have to go through gatekeepers and mid-level employees to pitch your product or service, you are beginning a long process. The employee will have to get approval from their bosses to buy from you, which means they will have to argue on your behalf for your product or service. Like what happens in a game of telephone, your message is likely to get distorted or even completely lost in secondhand communication.
If you have the chance to speak with a C-level executive rather than a mid-tier employee, you should take it. Not only do you get the opportunity to sell directly to a decision-maker, but you’ll also ensure the executive receives your intended message.
Though there are many benefits to selling directly to C-level executives, you must be prepared to handle the unique challenges that come with selling to a C-level executive.
What Are C-Level Sales?
As a whole, C-level sales focus on meeting and speaking with top-level executives of a company you want to do business with. A C-level sale occurs when a salesperson successfully sells directly to the executives of a company.
What Is a C-Level Executive?
C-level executives are those in the highest positions of a company. They get their name from the “chief” used in their titles, such as chief financial officer, chief technology officer, etc., and the “C” in the acronyms that accompany them.
How C-Level Sales Is Different
In other sales situations with lower-level employees or individual consumers, you might get by with a generic pitch about the benefits of your product or service. With C-level executives, a pitch that sounds like you are reading it from a sales script will get you ignored at best and cut short at worst, forever leaving the executive with a negative impression of your company. Selling to C-level decision-makers involves coming up with a personalized pitch they will respond to positively, focusing on broad business value propositions like profitability, revenue and corporate strategy, for instance.
To succeed at C-level sales, you must put the time in to understand the executive’s industry, their company and their motivations. Of course, personalizing your pitch is always crucial, but in lower-level sales, you will likely be doing much less research due to the volume of leads you will be speaking with. In C-level sales, the stakes are higher, and, as such, you will have to prepare more for your meeting.
While everyone’s time is valuable, you must be more conscious of a C-level decision-maker’s time when you deliver your pitch. You must hone your presentation to maximize value while reducing the amount of time you take up. If you can provide a compelling argument for your product or service in under the amount of time you have scheduled with the executive, you will likely make a good impression and have earned their trust.
With a C-level sale, you do not have to go through a multistep process to make it. A C-level executive will not have to go through a chain of command before they make a purchasing decision like a lower-level employee would have to. This ability for a C-level executive to decide without approval will make the sales process faster, saving you valuable time.
Finding the Right Executive
Picking the right executive is just as crucial as making contact with an executive before you try to set up a meeting. Going to the very top and trying to get a meeting with the CEO or the CFO may seem like a good idea, but they may not have direct involvement with the area of the company your product or service is likely to benefit.
Many executives will have decision-making power, so do your research on them all to see who would be most interested in what you’re offering. Your sales effort will have the best chance to succeed if you target the executive who has the most to gain or lose from your pitch.
To find the executive who will be most receptive, you’ll want to examine the company, starting with its history. Which executives make the toughest decisions? Who works with whom? Has any executive worked with someone from your company before? Do you know anyone in the organization who can give you an insider’s perspective?
Having narrowed down your list of executives, you can make a list of them, ranking them by how approachable they seem and by how receptive they might be to your proposal based on your research.
Once you’ve identified the right executive for your sale, check if you have contacts in the industry or even at the company. If you have anyone that can be a reference, you’ll want to use them to get a meeting. A referral can be the difference between getting a meeting or not. On top of getting you in the room with the executive, a reference will give you some automatic credibility, making it easier to gain their trust.
After you’ve established your top-ranked executive and sought out any referrals, you’ll want to try to contact them and get to know them before you launch into your pitch.
If you target the right executive, you can earn a valuable, influential supporter in the organization, reduce the time you spend trying to come to a deal and dramatically increase your chances of making a sale.
Reach out Before the Call
In most sales processes, where a company has established a need and begun looking for a solution to their problem, the executive will primarily be involved with the sales process at the beginning and end of it. After outlining goals for the project, they will pass it along to lower-level employees and only return to the project to approve a final sale.
As they are most involved in the opening stages, you will want to try to establish contact early on. To get a meeting or phone call with them scheduled, you will need to have a strategy for making contact with them before you pitch them.
To get on an executive’s radar to get a meeting, you have a few options. One indirect way you can increase the chances of speaking with them is to optimize your web content. Specifically, ensure your content includes plenty of keywords a high-level manager might enter when searching for a solution to their problem. If your website ranks highly in search results, the executive or an employee who works closely with them may reach out to you directly, as opposed to you having to do the legwork necessary to get a meeting with them.
Along with bettering your keywords, you can create content that will interest them and raise your profile. Even if they don’t see your work, an employee might come across it and then refer you to the executive. At the very least, raising your profile in the target’s industry can give you some name recognition when you reach out.
Other, more direct, ways you can make contact can include social media and email. Since their time is valuable, do your homework to find out what methods of communication they prefer. You can ask their personal assistant if you can’t find anything online.
Don’t start your message to them asking for a meeting, as that can indicate you don’t respect their time. Instead, you need to demonstrate your value to the executive before they are even going to think of fitting you into their busy schedule.
Most important, you should attempt to put yourself in their shoes. If your message reflects that you’ve taken the time to consider what they will find valuable, you are much more likely to receive a meeting.
Meeting With Executives Tips
If you’ve found the right executive and established contact with them, chances are you’re going to get an opportunity to pitch them. Whether you are going to speak with them over the phone or in person, you will want to take the following tips for meeting with senior management into account before you try to convince them to buy your product or service.
Due to C-level executives’ busy schedules, they may not remember who you are or why they agreed to meet with you. Don’t take it personally, and be proactive in letting them know who you are. You should tell them not only your name, but also the name of your company and the reason why you are speaking to them.
You can use this formula for an excellent introduction: “Hi, (executive’s name). This is (your name) from (your company). I’m calling/here to discuss (the reason for the meeting) today.”
In the introduction above, you’ve covered all of your bases and reminded them who you are and why you are calling. To spruce up your introduction, you can craft a way to reference the executive’s goals or agenda. For instance, if your product will boost profitability, you can say something along the lines of, “I’m here to discuss how (the product) can increase your profitability through (reasons why it will increase profitability).”
Strategies for Keeping Their Attention
Many executives are not going to want to waste time with small talk. Instead, they’ll prefer to get directly into the reason for the meeting. Opening with a conventional icebreaker can make the executive lose patience in the meeting before it’s even begun in earnest.
Some executives are still going to want to get to know the salesperson first and connect with them. Jumping right into the business may make you seem self-absorbed or unfriendly.
One way you can still build rapport and establish credibility with the executive is to begin your conversation by showing you’ve done your research. You don’t need to launch right into your pitch. Instead, ask them about their company’s recent developments, announcements, changes in their industry or other company-focused subjects.
By starting the conversation with a topic focused on their company, you can show you have researched what they do and you are interested in their perspective. You will come across as friendly, giving yourself an oppurtunity to connect with them over a shared interest.
When you get down to talking about the business at hand, you’ll want to keep the focus on the big-picture effects of your product or service. Don’t bog them down with going over all the features and details of what you’re selling them. You might do this with a lower-level employee, clearly marking out all the ways it will help benefit their daily goals, but with an executive, you want to be showing them how it’s going to benefit their organization as a whole.
Of course, you’ll want to be knowledgeable about the features and functions of your product or service, as they might ask. Just don’t focus on those sorts of details in your pitch. Instead, explain how what you’re offering is going to affect their bottom line positively. In short, keep your presentation clear, concise and compelling.
To make your pitch more personal, don’t wing the conversation. You’ll need to continue to research the executive. Ask any of your contacts at the potential client’s company about the executive’s goals or challenges they might be facing. Additionally, familiarize yourself with the executive’s industry and competition. Knowing both their company’s goals and who they are competing against will help you craft a stronger argument for why they should become a client.
When you are heading into the meeting, you want to try to find a middle ground between overpreparing and underpreparing for a meeting.
Someone who has overprepared may try to fit too much into a limited time, but more importantly, they will not leave time to respond to any curveballs a client might have thrown at them. If the executive mentions another need or challenge, you want to have enough time to address that, especially if you have a solution.
If you are underprepared, you run the risk of coming across as unprofessional or disorganized. Your central message may get lost, and the executive may not ever be sure how exactly your solutions could impact their company’s bottom line. Also, you don’t want to lose control of the meeting by running out of things to say and turning the conversation over to them.
Find a balance by preparing an agenda that isn’t too ambitious, but will still make a convincing argument. Leave enough time for any topics you might not expect, and be prepared to stop your presentation to answer a question.
Along with preparing an agenda, you should know how to condense your topic. If an executive has to cut the meeting short or if a previous engagement runs late, you will want to be able to get out a shortened pitch that can be effective in time constraints.
While a decision-maker has the final say-so on purchasing decisions, they will still want their teams to be on board with them. Before they give you an answer, they will likely want to speak with members of the organization about what you’re selling and get their opinions on your company. Getting widespread support is going to be one of their top priorities before they invest in whatever you’re selling.
With this in mind, you’ll want to try to find out what the buying process looks like at the prospect’s company. You might be able to do this during your initial research. One source of information could be through the gatekeeper, who will often know the executive’s priorities and how they do business. Getting on their good side will put a supporter directly in the executive’s ear and will help you understand how that executive will handle a big decision.
If you find out the executive will discuss your proposal with other stakeholders and executives, you’ll need to do more homework. In your conversation with the executive, you’ll need to make sure to highlight areas that will appeal to their values, but also the values of the stakeholders. Additionally, you will want to reach out to any other team members the executive will be consulting with to gain their support.
By the time you meet with your prospect, you should have supporters throughout the company who will back up your claims.
While it’s natural to feel nervous selling to a high-level executive, you will want to hide your jitters from the executive. Appearing anxious may make the prospect find you untrustworthy or lacking in credibility.
One mental trick to translate that anxiety into a positive emotion is by telling yourself you are excited about the thing that scares you. Studies have found fear and excitement are incredibly similar emotions, with the only difference being that excited people focus on all the things that can go well, while nervous people do the opposite. When you feel a negative thought coming on, try rephrasing it in your mind into something based in opportunity.
For example, try to tell yourself, “I’m excited to meet with such an important person,” rather than, “I’m nervous about meeting such an important person.”
While it’s not foolproof and takes practice, rephrasing your thoughts can generate an opportunity mindset. This sort of mentality will be more attuned to feeling excitement at unfamiliar opportunities and will let you speak with confidence.
Another way to calm your nerves is to remind yourself of your expertise and the insights you can bring to the conversation. While a C-level executive is going to have their fingers in many pies across the company, you are an expert in whatever you are offering them.
Though you need the executive to help you make the sale, they also require you to help them understand how what you’re offering will improve their company. As executives, they will want to grow their company, so they need you just like you need them.
Ask for Help If Needed
Your company wants you to succeed, and there’s no shame in asking for help. Especially if you’re new to C-level selling, reach out to other, more experienced, reps to get their advice on how you should approach the sale. You could even see if they want to come along to the presentation or sit in on the phone call to support you while you’re learning and maximize your chance of landing a client.
On top of reaching out to other reps, look into whether any high-level developers or managers could answer questions about the product or service in a meeting. You want to impress the executive and give them the best information possible, and bringing another expert from your company will accomplish both of those goals.
With these tips and information, you should be ready to meet with senior management and wow them.
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