Four Simple Steps to Positive Meetings with Key Executives
It’s harder than ever to reach senior executives. The usual protections provided by gatekeepers are still there—but now it’s compounded by extra physical distance and other distractions.
In this environment, sales reps need to ensure they are perceived as being relevant and bringing fresh insights to the valuable meeting once they get it. They need to speak senior executives’ language and be clear about their objective.
The payoff is engaging in more strategic relationships, developing longer-term relationships, insulating themselves from the competition, and closing more large deals.
Here are four simple steps – also known as the RAMP method – that can help you sell higher in the organization.
This first step is the basis for all the rest. There are no shortcuts here. This is where you identify the client profile and scout the individuals within that account that you would like to sell to. Map the organization. Learn who is in key roles and what they care about. Look at the annual report, social media, websites, and investor presentations. Sift through industry news for account triggers like changes in leadership, funding, new product launches, or expansions into new marketplaces.
As you research, keep in mind the ways you can address their initiatives. Will the CFO be interested in increasing efficiency or reducing costs? Are there opportunities for the chief sales officer to ramp up a new sales team or scale the entire organization? Is the VP of product development positioning for a new product launch? Could the CEO be concerned about the company’s image or exploring an expansion into a new market?
Motivate yourself by developing a timeframe and an action plan. Once you have a short list of things that are most important to the executive you’ve identified, align your solution and talking points accordingly.
This has always been hard, and today it may have to be done virtually. There’s no more trying to charm the executive assistant or relying on trade shows or other events where you can determine where an individual might be going and arrange for your paths to cross.
But some aspects of your access strategy remain the same. You can still seek out someone to introduce you. LinkedIn and other social platforms are invaluable for this. You can also leverage customer coaches who know the organization and can provide insights into its culture and operations. And don’t forget about your own senior executives. Peer-to-peer outreach can be very useful in getting a response.
Finally, consider value-added services, things you can do without an expectation of payback. Send a gift of content in advance. Offer a substantive report or interesting white paper. These gestures can build rapport and heighten your visibility, eventually leading to a meeting because you have already shown that you bring insight and won’t waste senior executives’ time.
To pique the executive’s attention, you need to find a way to be relevant to their particular situation at that point in time. If you are able to get them to think differently about their current problems, they are more likely to give you time to hear more about what you have to say.
In a virtual world, you need to have all the same considerations as before – a plan for conducting the meeting, a clear objective, and solid insights supported with facts and data.
Senior executives’ time is still just as valuable as it was before – each hour is worth hundreds of dollars. They will appreciate your respect for their time during the meeting if you come prepared and know what you want to achieve.
Rehearse beforehand. Role play with a colleague. Test out the meeting software. This preparation will help you show up with presence during virtual meetings. You’ll want to exhibit the same level of professionalism, from dressing appropriately to arriving on time (just as you would for an in-person meeting). For more tips on successful meetings via video, see our blog post Virtual Selling: How to Connect with Customers.
Remember that no matter how intensely you’ve prepared, things can and will go wrong. No matter what happens during the meeting, remain flexible and positive. Executives will appreciate your ability to pivot and accommodate changes that may occur, as opposed to forcing an agenda that may no longer be relevant.
The final step is to propose what you can do for them and their organization. What is it you’re hoping to achieve? What are you offering, and what do you want in return? What action do you expect the executives will take as a result of the meeting and what are the next steps?
Go into enough detail to demonstrate that you have prepared for this opportunity while still being succinct and engaging. Bring insights and ideas that show your expertise and knowledge of their situation. After you’ve finished your proposal, summarize. Who’s going to do what, and when will it be complete? Can you book a follow-up meeting on the spot? Or get a commitment for another action on the path toward your objective?
After the meeting, send a simple summary and thank you note outlining what you discussed and reiterating next steps. A handwritten note may help offset the virtual format by adding a bit of warmth. Be sure to thank the referral or the administrative assistant who set up the meeting as well.
While the RAMP method has all the elements for creating an opportunity to sell higher in the organization, the true key to its success is to do what you say you’re going to do. You earned the right to be in the meeting and to engage with the senior executive, so take advantage of that time. Follow up on your next steps.
About Ray Makela
Ray Makela is CEO and Managing Director at Sales Readiness Group (SRG). He oversees all client engagements as well as serves as a senior facilitator on sales management, coaching, negotiation and sales training workshops. Ray has over 20 years of management, consulting, and sales experience and writes frequently on best practices for coaching and developing sales teams.