At what level in the company do you sell? Most sellers don’t sell at the C-level, much less directly to the CEO. Those who do sell at the C-level face a daunting task of not only gaining the attention of the executive they are trying to reach, but once connected to the executive they must sell in a way that drives the executive to make a positive decision.
Learning how to engage the C-suite in a way that produces the conversation and the decision the seller wants is difficult and a skill that many sellers just never master. Michael Nick’s new book, The Key to the C-Suite: What You Need to Know To Sell Successfully To Top Executives (AMACOM: 2011), guides the reader through understanding what is key to the C-level executive and how to address their concerns and needs.
Right out of the box in chapter 1 Nick zeros in on what he considers the key to selling to the C-level executive—metrics. Nick features 10 key metrics such as earnings, return on equity, sales per employee and others that are of critical importance to top executives. These metrics are going to be the featured topics throughout the book as using these to find the prospect’s pain and then to create a solution that will address those pain points.
From Nick’s point of view selling at the C-level is in essence determining one’s value to the executive as defined by how you can impact those problem metrics and then how to construct a case that will demonstrate how your solution will move the metrics in the direction the executive wants to see them move.
In a very real sense this is a numbers book because Nick’s argument is that the C-level buys on numbers. Nick focuses on the numbers, on making sure the analysis is objective, that the data presented is accurate, that printed material is checked carefully to make sure the math is correct and there are no spelling or grammar mistakes, that all of the potential concrete questions about the needs and the solution are addressed.
From the perspective of the objective sale—the concrete numbers and factual questions—The Key to the C-Suite is a top notch book. I highly recommend it.
However . . .
There’s more to selling to the C-suite than numbers and objective questions and answers.
Nick ignores the emotional side of the sales equation. Yes, selling to top executives demands a great deal of specific knowledge about the prospect’s industry, company, and needs. And it demands a real, workable solution that addresses real problems. But sales, even at the C-level, are more than simple logical decisions. They are also emotional decisions. The decision maker has a number of emotional questions that must be dealt with such as what happens if the solution doesn’t work. If it does work what does it mean personally for the decision maker? Who should the decision make get buy-in from and if they can’t, what should they do?
Certainly The Key to the C-Suite is well worth the investment and as said above, I encourage you get it and seriously consider implementing the process Nick lays out. But also recognize that there is a whole side of selling to top executives that isn’t addressed in the book. This is, however, an excellent presentation of one half of selling to the C-suite.