Say the Magic Word (Revenue) to Win Attention from CEOs
Part II in a two-part series on involving CEOs in the buying process
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Let's continue our exploration of when and how CEOs involvethemselves in the buying process-often without salespeopleeven knowing about it. (By the way, if you missed last month'scolumn, "Understanding How CEOsBuy," it's a must-read-it will create afoundation for what we're about to discuss.)
There are a number of classic scenarios for this pattern ofsilent CEO involvement that stops the sales process in its tracksfor no apparent reason; I call this cycle the "perched pensyndrome." For each of the scenarios, you must learn to sendthe right messages to the CEO, the person who actually has thepower, whether it looks like he or she is involved or not. Lastmonth, we looked at two such scenarios; this month, we'll lookat one that belongs in a class by itself.
Situation No. 3: The potential exists for dramaticallyincreasing revenue, either by exploiting new markets or byincreasing the loyalty of existing customers. We'll look at newrevenue generation first.
Unexploited andUnder-Exploited Markets
If there is one area of opportunity that instantly earns"top-of-mind" status for every selling and buyingorganization's leader, it is the prospect of acquiring newrevenue from a new market. New-market revenue has a way of takingon particularly high priority when the competition is fiercer thanusual, or (in a publicly owned company) when a board meeting issomewhere on the horizon. Revenue from previously untapped marketsor market segments is rightly associated, among CEOs, withincreased brand recognition and competitive dominance-keyindicators that the person at the top is doing the job and doing itwell.
If you're a salesperson, you'll find that, when a bigdeal in a new market is on the line, the CEO who sells is highlylikely to get involved in some way. He or she will often make asubtle (or not-so-subtle) effort to reel the business inpersonally. The CEO of the buying organization, on the other hand,may assume the position of the "approver" of theprocurement transaction.if the sale represents theestablishment of a strategically important new partnership.
Count on it. Top officers will be quick to pick up the telephoneand make the "top-to-top" call when new revenue from newmarkets is at stake. There is some good news for salespeople onthis score. The kind of call I'm talking about is such a commonoccurrence, and CEOs are so used to playing both the selling andbuying roles, that salespeople who learn to sound like CEOs canlearn to move the process forward at the top level. The same goesfor salespeople who have access to high officials within their owncompanies and can persuade them to make the appropriate calls.
In other words: If there is one idea a CEO hasn'theard of before that seems to relate credibly to revenue generationin new markets, that CEO will listen to the idea. And by the way,if your product or service is so new that you don't have anycustomers yet, the very best place to find an "earlyadopter" in any buying organization is at the CEO level.
You must make your appeal in terms of cracking anunder-exploited market, and note that you (or someone else in yourorganization) must make this appeal to the CEO. Why?It's the CEO's responsibility to explore every single newidea that has to do with untapped or under-tapped markets. It'sthe CEO's responsibility to "look around corners" andsee market opportunities that no one else has identified yet. Ifyou address that responsibility, you will hear from the CEO orsomeone he or she trusts, and you can trust that he or she willcarefully monitor the relationship from that point forward.
If you're enlisting the aid of your own CEO in reaching outto the CEO of a target, make absolutely sure that he or she callsthe CEO with the offer, and not anyone else in the organization! Ifthe appeal is made to anybody else, your sales cycle will drag onendlessly as all the "CYA" specialists gather all the"facts" under the sun before making a"recommendation" to some higher-up. Why jump through allthe hoops? Why waste weeks, months or even years on referenceaccounts, testimonials, demos and financial extrapolations when youor someone within your company can place a call to the top?
The Current CustomerBase
Another "hot button" has to do with current customers.Winning and keeping their loyalty is extremely important toCEOs.
The customer base is an asset CEOs will do virtually anything toprotect! Existing customers are the equivalent of the legendarygoose that has the ability to lay the golden egg. In this case, the"golden egg" is the precious high-margin, add-on businessthat comes like a reward from existing customers. It's oftensaid that it's nine times more costly to get a new customerthan it is to grow an existing one.
That's why CEOs on both sides of the buying equation arelikely to get involved-overtly or covertly-in anyinitiative they believe will affect customer loyalty. CEOs will goto great lengths to secure the loyalty of every existing customer;initiatives range from expensive golf tournaments to"touch-points" via questionnaires and flatteringinterviews in company newsletters. Consider what might follow ifyou or your company's CEO were to leave a phone message alongthe following lines:
A word of caution: If what you sell has a chance of beingperceived by a CEO as adversely affecting customer loyalty,don't be surprised if a mysterious pause in the buying processensues. The best way to get around this problem? Get the two"approvers" (your CEO and the target company's CEO)together for a face-to-face or telephone meeting to discuss thematter. This won't guarantee success, of course, but it willspeed up your sales process and get you a clear answer.
Next month, we'll uncover other situations that bring CEOsinto the buying picture.
Anthony Parinello is the author of the bestselling book Selling to VITO, the Very Important TopOfficer. For additional information on his speeches, SalesSuccess Kits and newest book, CEOs who Sell, call (800) 777-VITO orvisit www.sellingtovito.com.