9 Tips for Wowing Executives
Technology vendors understand the importance of engaging with executive decision-makers. It’s the most effective way of making sales. But, with everyone clamouring for their attention, how can you get to the executive level? And stay there!
# 1 – Be Clear about the Business Outcome You Enable
You need clarity on the business outcome your customer would regard as success. That will underpin your entire executive engagement. And to avoid any confusion, success for the customer isn’t fully using your product. Your product is a means to an end – a bigger business outcome the customer needs to achieve. And it’s that bigger business outcome that executives care about. Achievement of that business outcome is what gets the executive a bonus, or a promotion or internal recognition.
To illustrate, if you’re an ERP vendor, the business outcome will be the effectiveness of operations. If you’re a marketing automation vendor, the business outcome could be the value of the pipeline you create. But, it’s more likely to be the value of sales from leads you created. If you’re a content management provider, the business outcome will be effectiveness of decisions made. If you provide workflow, the business outcome might be compliance with process, particularly in regulated environments such as government. If you’re a platform provider, the business outcome may be continuity and low cost. It might also be freeing IT to focus on strategic business issues not technology issues.
# 2 – Be Clear about the Executives You Want to Engage
You’ll want to target the executives most affected by the business outcome you enable. You need to reach anyone who can say No to the customer investing further in your products or services. Don’t waste your time, or theirs, with anyone else.
# 3 – Make the Appointment Using the Business Outcome
When seeking an appointment with an executive, make it clear the conversation will be about a specific business outcome. You’re much more likely to get his or her time.
# 4 – Don’t Talk about Your Products – Ever!
Your customers don’t care about your products or services, particularly at the executive level. They’re interested in the bigger business outcome. And, like all people, they’ll only engage with you if you’re talking about something that’s of interest to them. So, you need to talk about how they can achieve their business outcome.
If the executives asks a question about your product, you can answer. Quickly! Then move back to the business outcome.
# 5 – Have an Expert on the Business Outcome in the Meeting
You’re going to talk about the business outcome you help enable. You need someone in the meeting who understands how to achieve the business outcome. If the nature of your product or service means the salesperson has that knowledge, great. You don’t need anyone else. But, if you have more complex products or services, you need an expert on the outcome with the salesperson.
There’s an interesting side-benefit of having outcome experts. The salespeople will make more appointments with executives. Salespeople know they must engage at the executive level. But, it’s often scary for them – they worry they’ll feel inadequate. If they have an outcome expert they can bring to the meeting, they’ll be much more confident making executive appointments.
# 6 – Recognise Your Products or Services are Necessary, but Not Enough
Your products or services are necessary for the business outcome you enable. But, to achieve the bigger business outcome, the customer must do some things themselves. If they get those things wrong, they won’t achieve their bigger business outcome. And that usually means they’ll reduce their investment with you – it will cost you revenue.
So, vendors are realising they can’t leave those other things to chance. They need to ensure the customer gets them right. They can do this by adding new products and services, providing tools and methodologies and introducing partners.
Outcome experts can play a strong role. They should understand everything the customer must do to achieve the business outcome. And they gain great credibility by guiding the executive on all aspects, not just those related to the vendor’s products or services.
# 7 – Identify Projects to Improve the Business Outcome
In the meetings with the executives, you want to identify potential areas for improvement in the business outcome. To tackle these improvement areas, the customer will start a project. That’s what they’ll get approved. The project will hopefully include products or services from you. But the submission to the executive committee or the board will be for a project, not to buy your products or services alone.
Your sales focus has now shifted. Your job is not to sell your products or services. Your job is to identify projects and help get them approved.
# 8 – Make Evaluation of Potential Projects a Joint Exercise
Having identified a potential project, the executives will want to know if there’s a strong business case for proceeding. Outcome experts play a strong role. They work with appointed managers from the customer to evaluate the potential project and deliver a report to the executives.
If the outcome experts have been correctly positioned, the customer will pay for their help in evaluating a potential project.
# 9 – Make Executive Engagement a Recurring, Agreed Process
Establish a recurring life-cycle with executive involvement at key points. Ask the customer executives to agree to the process. The process focuses on improvement of the business outcome you enable. To do this, you need executive involvement in
- periodic business reviews to identify potential improvement projects
- reviewing findings of joint evaluations of potential projects
- review of the results achieved from projects
Make the focus of all executive engagement the bigger business outcome the executive needs to achieve. Build your processes, expertise, marketing and sales messages, onboarding and implementation, customer success and support around enabling that business outcome.
Talking about the business outcome, showing you have the expertise and then delivering the outcome will delight executives. And help you drive loyal revenue growth.
This article is extracted from the new book; The Outcome Generation: How a New Generation of Technology Vendors Thrives through True Customer Success
Paul Henderson is an author, speaker and consultant on outcomes and customer success for technology vendors. He spent 15 years leading the Asia Pacific region of an enterprise software company. He saw the potential that could come from delivering real and measurable business success for customers. So he initiated a customer success program based on customer outcomes. He and his colleagues developed, modified and proved the model over more than five years. He then spent one a half years researching and writing, culminating in the release of The Outcome Generation.