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7 Common Sales Challenges that Prevent
Executive Level Access

By Jeff Thull, CEO, Prime Resource Group

Gaining access and connecting to executive decision makers is an important goal for most sales professionals. But there are seven common challenges that sales professionals need to resolve in order to effectively engage these executives.

Consider the following situations, how often they occur within your team, and how you currently are approaching each one.

  1. When was the last time you couldn't connect to the executive's critical business issues and were delegated down to a support level?

    The value of your financial products and services falls to indifference if you can't immediately establish credibility and connect to the executive's most pressing issues. Your credibility comes through the relevancy you establish in your introduction when you connect your solutions to the executive's unique business drivers. By referencing challenges the industry is facing, specific objectives the executive's company has stated in public records, or the information you have gathered from discussions within the organization prior to your call, you will make it clear to the executive that you have done your homework.
  2. You realized that your strongest contact in your customer's organization no longer holds the power to make the buying decision.

    In today's highly competitive and volatile marketplace, decisions are moving to higher levels of power and influence. This constant evolution is forcing even the most experienced sales professionals to expand their expertise and compete at levels not required before. Expecting that a single contact in your customer's organization can and will carry your message effectively is unrealistic. It is critical that we translate the value we can create at the technical or operational level to the impact it has on the performance drivers on the executive's dashboard, and then have conversations with each executive where this value can reside. By recognizing the dials they are watching and being able to discuss their current measurements and how your solution will impact those measurements, you can prepare yourself to have the type of conversation that most executives will appreciate.
  3. Your competition was in the executive suite and you weren't.

    Can the competition get to the executive suite and move in on your customer while you believe your relationship is strong at the operations level? Absolutely! Let's face it; your competition would have the advantage. People typically spend more time preparing for a prospect visit than they do for a customer visit. Don't let over-familiarity lull you into understanding less about your customer than your competitor does. Gain advantage and pull ahead of competitive threats by establishing a broad base of relationships that will preempt and neutralize competitive moves.
  4. You bought into, "I make the final decision," when, in fact, political moves and ego games got you hung up with someone who can barely influence the decision.

    Don't let diluted messages sabotage your best opportunities. Understand how your solution affects each level of responsibility within your customer's organization. It is only natural that you should interact at all levels to understand the full potential your solution will have, and after the sale to assure that the full value of your solution is being achieved. Building these relationships as you gather information will ensure you are firmly grounded with those who are both impacted and influenced by the decision.
  5. You finally reached the person who held the checkbook, but you couldn't build the financial case they needed to make the buying decision.

    The financial executive plays an increasingly central role in setting the strategy of the organization and establishing how it will fund  implementation of that strategy. Do not place the burden on your customers of translating your technical advantages into the financial impact of your solution. Involve them in your calculations; have them collaborate and adjust your assumptions. In the end, the customer must "own" the justification. Be their advisor, not their sales representative.
  6. Third-party consultants forced you to compete on price when you knew that the value you could create for the customer was not making it to the executive level.

    Recognize that you and the consultant have the same customer. Build the case for mutual gains with consultants by asking the questions they have not thought of asking and can't answer. Consultants will recognize the value you add to their position and invite you into the executive suite. Help third-party consultants manage a quality buying process that builds successful outcomes for them, you and your customers.
  7. Your convincing proposal won the first round of approvals, but you later found that executive buy-in never happened. The executive had criteria on the table that you never tapped into, or even knew existed.

    Engage executives early in the decision process to establish the criteria that builds senior-level ownership. Ask the in-depth questions your customer has not thought of asking, and the questions that expose the risks inherent in a successful implementation of your solution. Your objective is to connect the business drivers, at all levels of influence and decision, into a strong and winning proposal.

Executives want to work with suppliers that truly understand their business, their customers' demands and their competitive landscape, as well as the challenges associated with the implementation. If you cannot speak to these issues, your time in the executive suite will be brief at best.

About the author

Jeff Thull is a leading-edge sales and marketing strategist and valued executive advisor at major companies including Shell Global Solutions, 3M, Microsoft, Intel, Citicorp, IBM and Georgia-Pacific.

He is also the author of the best-selling books Mastering the Complex Sale: How to Compete and Win When the Stakes are High and The Prime Solution: Close the Value Gap, Increase Margins, and Win the Complex Sale. Jeff’s new book, Exceptional Selling: How the Best Connect and Win in High Stakes Sales, is now available.

For more information, please contact: Prime Resource Group, 3655 Plymouth Blvd., Suite 110, Plymouth, MN 55446, [email protected],, 1.800.876.0378 or 763.473.7529, Fax: 763.473.0792.

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 . . .
FPS regularly works with financial services companies to maximize the impact of their client communications, including e-mail and online communications. To find out how we can help you develop effective strategies for communicating with corporate financial executives, contact FPS President Vince DiPaolo at 847-501-4120 or [email protected]. You can also write him at the following address:

Financial Publishing Services Co.
464 Central Avenue
Suite 8
Northfield, IL 60093

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