Reaching the Decision Makers

Jan 24, 2019

Here are some sobering statistics:

— When a salesperson “cold calls” an executive he has a 4% chance of actually meeting that person.

— Today’s sale processes have a 97% failure rate.

— Two of the top three reasons a salesperson wins or loses sales are due to relationship and reputation.

So, how can you better prepare yourself for those career-defining executive sales calls?  By studying your client’s key business drivers.  This process allows you to show the executive how your product or service will help his organization work better, faster, and/or easier.

Here are the eight drivers of executive decision-making:

Financial Divers
Every executive must do one of two things to produce a profit: increase revenue or reduce costs. If you want to build business value for an executive pressured by financial drivers, you must ultimately help him move the needle on profit or cost, and to do so in a way that’s consistent with how his industry measures success.

For example, in the airline industry, you’ll get on the executive’s radar if you’re articulate about the drivers such as load factor, a variable planning horizon, high seasonality, fierce competition, excessive government intervention, high fixed costs, and low margins. (While the airline industry generates billions of dollars, it has a cumulative profit margin of less than 1%.)  Show how your solution impacts these financial or industry drivers, and you’ll get their attention.

When selling to a bank, consider these drivers:  organic growth, maintaining customer loyalty, increasing customer transactions, risk management, reducing fraud and bad debts, consolidating and upgrading infrastructure, shifting from bricks (branches) to clicks (online banking), industry reform and regulation, merchant alliances and so on.

Operational Divers
Executives must determine how to improve the internal organization and how to boost the ROI of those improvements. At the most basic level, executives are concerned about having the right strategy, and taking advantage of the latest approaches, the right people, processes and technologies to execute that strategy.

Figure out how you can help executives do a better job of making, quality controlling, selling, and delivering their business plan. All of these things will be impacted by the effectiveness (doing the right things) and efficiencies (doing things right) in the operation.

Supplier Divers
Executives on the buying side of the supply chain are concerned about the reliability of supply, quality, economies of scale, inventory turnover, shrinkage through loss or theft, warehousing and distribution technologies, demand forecasting, and many of the same issues that trouble executives on the selling side of the supply chain. There’s very much a level of interdependence between the buyer and seller, so approaches to real-time data sharing, shared infrastructure, and shared risk management remain compelling.  The successful salesperson will cogently discuss how any of his solutions in these areas will help the executive do the job faster, better, or with less risk.

Business Partner Divers
Chances are, your customers are currently evaluating their business partner relationships in light of changing business environments. This represents another opportunity to create value by demonstrating an understanding of their pressures.  Offer to orchestrate relevant introductions to your company’s network of people, partners, and affiliates who can add value to the customer’s business.  Solutions are sometimes more about the relationships you help broker than about the actual product or service you sell.


Customer Divers
Maintaining and growing their existing customer base, creating and enhancing loyalty, and delivering value are of prime importance to most executives. But how do you target the right customers? How do you anticipate their needs? How do you develop new products that will be ready when the market starts to demand them? As a salesperson, if you can demonstrate how your product or service can add value in these areas you will be seen as a valuable resource who can help a business build a competitive advantage.  Executives will want to talk to you if they believe you can help them solve their problems.

Competitor Divers
When you sell to a great variety of companies, you occupy a unique position: you can offer executives valuable insight into marketplace and industry trends.  So share your ideas and help executives see beyond their silo walls to see how other companies (and their competition) are dealing with similar challenges. One caveat: don’t disclose specific competitor names; these may also be your customers, and their activities with you must remain confidential if you don't want to lose credibility. Instead, interpret the trends you see across companies, and help your customers see the future.

Globalization Divers
Globalization impacts executives in a variety of ways. As they face competition from cheaper labor and production abroad, they risk losing market share. Consequently, to remain competitive they must drive cost from their domestic infrastructure, or outsource production and services to low-cost offshore providers. Either course of action creates risk as well as opportunity. How do they find the right production and distribution partners? How do they drive risk out of an extended supply chain and hedge for multiple currencies? How do they recruit and keep the right people? If globalization necessitates closing domestic factories, how will they manage labor laws, public relations and finances? Do their products have multiple-market appeal?

Helping executives anticipate and navigate these issues is a tremendously valuable contribution.  To do so, you must first study the customer’s situation and weigh their options judiciously— as though you were on their Board—to provide the value they’re looking for.

Regulatory Divers
In response to corporate scandals that have plagued the headlines in the past decade, governments, industry regulators, and shareholders demand greater accountability and transparency from corporations. Companies must operate under new regulations designed to maintain stability in financial markets that are already under pressure, and to protect shareholder interests by restoring investor confidence.

The regulatory drivers that keep executives awake at night include financial accounting compliance, workplace safety, labor laws, equal opportunity, environmental emissions and carbon credits, anti-money laundering, and international tax.

If you have a solution that helps executives stay compliant with regulations and thus lower their legal risk, you’ll unlock the C-suite every time.

Executives seek solutions.  Once you study the drivers affecting an executive’s world, connecting them to their role-specific issues you will have created an effective framework for positioning your products or services as critical to their success.