The following notes are on "C- level secrets"
Jeffrey Gitomer & Gerhard Gschwandtner - C-Level Secrets
Obviously you want to get to C-level executive. You want to get to those people who have the power to decide everything. The wide ranging decisions come from them. If they want to make an exception to a company policy, that’s well within their realm of authority.
The problem is that it's very hard to get to these people. They have a systems set up to filter out salespeople.
You need to have a skill set and a strategy that’s designed to get to these people and the normal way of doing things probably is not going to work.
Probably the first hurdle to get over is your own self image and any negatives self images that you're harboring. If you don't think that you're good enough or important enough to be talking to a C level person, then obviously you're not going to, or you’re going to suck.
The first frame that they set is the idea that higher-level executives speak a different language than lower-level and so if you're speaking a language that identifies you as a mid management salesperson, then that's where you're going to go. When you speak the language of the higher-level executive, then it's much to communicate with then and get them to meet with you and give what you're offering them a fair shake
A very good point- the problem with salespeople is that they are always trying to save somebody money. But upper-level executives don't care about saving money. They care about increasing profits and profitability, massive growth, effectiveness rather than this type of penny-pinching money making, or money saving idea.
The first piece of any strategy to talk to upper-level executives is to learn how to work with their assistants or their administrators and the keys here are to understand that they're very busy and very crunched for time. So you need to immediately convey a respect for their time, and of course the easiest way to do that is to get to the subject quickly.
So an overview of a strategy for working with admin:
1. State the purpose of your call very quickly.
2. Value their time.
3. Don't down to them-- you want to solicit their help, you want to create a partnership and you want to explain to the assistant what the benefit is of you connecting with the executive
Git Domer suggests setting a humorous tone while keeping the other stuff in mind. But he says he’ll start a call by saying "Hi, I’m Shawn, you don't know me from a sack of potatoes, but I'm one of John Smith's only friends and I was wondering if you could answer this one question for me: how many people call you looking for an appointment with the CEO and you know as soon as you start talking to them that there is no chance they're going to get an appointment.” At this point she’ll usually respond 90- 95%, where you say "well that’s great, I’m in the other 5%." He says he likes to begin by engaging them in a way that separates himself.
He goes on and says "I know he thinks he runs the place and we both know that you're really the one who makes most of the decisions and I was wondering if I could have a 15 minute appointment here or a 30 minute appointment here." He gives them the timeframe but not the content because they don't necessarily care what the content is.
Note in the previous example, when he used the name John Smith. He says that’s the name of somebody in the organization who’s fairly high up who would probably been known but is not the person he's trying to get in touch with.
After he asks for the appointment he says, "Look, I'm willing to fly to stay at a nice place at my expense, to get a taxi over their if you tell me when my 15 minutes is, I’ll show up 15 minutes early and the only thing they'll need is Internet access.
There are a couple of important points there. The first is that you're coming across as equal not humble. The second is that you're getting down to business. You're so stating exactly what you want or need in a way that suggests that this is all standard, it's the way it happens.
What you don't want to do is try to qualify your self to the assistant in order to get your appointment. You don't want to say some thing like "I have a them ideas that I think could save him some money." If she wants to know what it's about, what the content is then of course you tell her. And if possible, you want to say something like "Jim and I have been working on this for quite some time now and I didn't want Jim to go in and present it to the boss, I wanted to come in and present it myself. I'll take five minutes at first and if he doesn't like what he hears there, the fine he can throw me out, but if he does the whole thing will still only take 15 minutes"
Gitomer loves the "sneak up" tactic of getting a first interview, or forced meeting, as an interview. So rather than asking for time to pitch a product, instead, he asks for a 15 minute interview that will go out to ‘x’ number of people, and that you will provide copies of to them, that you may videotape or audiotape and send out to a vast number of people; a much easier tactic to get in the door.
When you're interviewing, you never want to explicitly mention what you do or what you sell. If you do your job right, they should be asking you at some point; which then gives you permission to follow-up or set a new appointment or just give them a bit of a teaser. On voicemail to a C-level executive- don't do it. Don't even think about it. You may want to leave voicemail for their administrator or assistant because they're usually trained to follow up and be polite with every message. But you will never get something through, or never get a response by leaving a message directly to the CEO. His partner responded by saying he has used the tactic successfully to get a message through, and that is to attach a wave file to an e-mail and have a very short message on the e-mail saying, "Dear John, I have a very short request. Can you please take a look at it? Thanks for your attention, Shawn". Now we’ve piqued interest. They may load it up and listen to it. He says the couple times he has sent this to a CEO, he's gotten it returned. Gitomer follows up by saying, if you are going to do a voicemail then it better be damn good. It better be differentiating without being cutesy. Remember, you’re dealing with people who place a very high value on their time and they don't have time for cutesy. Gitomer says the assistant will return your call 90% of the time; the CEO, maybe five percent.
Gitomer will ask the assistant, "On a scale of one to ten, what's his computer literacy like?" If there is any hesitancy, you know it’s a zero. And if that's the case, then if you send an e-mail, you want to request that it’s printed out for them to look at. Or, you want to send a fax- something that has a hard copy that they can look at.
One of the big lessons here is to pump the assistant for every bit of information that you can. Ask them questions, like "Where did he go to school? Does he still support the football team? If he's going to eat candy, what kind does he eat?" Note that last question: It’s not, "What's his favorite candy?" A very different question, much more likely to get a good response.
These questions are in the context of findings something unique or attention-grabbing to e-mail, or rather, mail the C-level executive. Gitomer does not like the idea of sending a sales letter, or explaining the offer or the opportunity in a letter. Rather, he seems to prefer the tactic of developing a personalized grabber that's designed to open up a fifteen- minute meeting.
It's a very good point that you want to ensure that you're sending something that will have impact on them. Not something that you think is good, but something that you know they will like or will be more likely to like, than a random guess.
This really fits in well with the Jay Abraham and Dan Kennedy method of spending the money to send attention-grabbing grabbers. It's like in the Scott Hallman program, where he shared various methods of getting attention, such as a DVD player; a portable DVD player, the broken DVD afterwards, the basketball, etc.
Gitomer says that when people get something they actually want, they're compelled to respond in one of two ways. The first is a personal response with a ‘thank you’. And the second is that they will respond by giving you attention with an open mind.
Gitomer brings up a great point. He says, it's not who you know. It's who knows you. And this lets you have a much wider net because you can positively influence a lot of people that you don't know; and those people may end up to open up a lot of doors for you.
A great Heisenberg quote to keep in mind: "Nature does not reveal its secrets. It merely responds to our methods of questioning". This is extremely important to keep in mind. It's questions, not answers, that have power. This is true in sales, marketing, and just about any other area. If you take the time to frame the questions properly; if you take the time to craft to the right questions, then the answers are almost secondary.
Gitomer says that you have to have "sales balls". If they try to rebuff you to a lower-level department, then you need to answer that. And the answer is usually "I'd be happy to work with whoever you feel is most appropriate; but first, I want to spend just a few minutes with you so that I’m comfortable and so that I know that you really understand the value of this; and then you can come with me and introduced me to whoever you'd like me to work with, and let them know that you think it's a valid and important thing as well".
If the C-level executive walks you down and tells the group that you're working with that they will be working with you, then they don't have much of a choice and they will be listening very intently. If he just sends you down and doesn't convey any buy-in or enthusiasm then you're going to be facing a lot more internal resistance and you'll get a lot less effect.
Gitomer reiterates the importance of a story; and he says it very succinctly. You cannot tell your story through your company if you're going to sell effectively; especially at higher levels. You have to be able to make it transferable to where the person can see their customers responding in a positive way; responding in a way that will generate sales and money and results.
It's very interesting to see these more mainstream sales trainers reiterating the same points that appear in most of the other stuff I've studied. They're talking so much about the importance of story, of emotion, of the ability to transfer- to communicate in such a way that the other person can see how it will affect their lives as opposed to simple feature-dumping.
The long and short of it is that you can't walk in and talk to a CEO about your company; or about the features or benefits you bring to the table. Instead, you have to be able to engage the other person in a way that has everything to do with them- with how they can be better, how they can mitigate loss, how they come out ahead.
One of the big takeaways of this is that you need a different style of selling for different levels of the organization. And it’s only really when you get to the top that you can really engage the higher-level or emotional, or other appeals for the quality of what you're selling. At lower levels, you need to justify costs. You need to talk at much greater depth about features; and so if you have sales presentations that are designed for getting in at lower levels of the company, then you really need to change it as you start talking to the higher levels.
Side note: this is a very valid point, and the big take-away is that you can sell to the C-level executives in the same way that we've been trained to sell to small business owners and to consumers, where it's not just the price and the features etc. that matter; but rather the total picture. So; all of the Kennedy and Abraham material meshes in very nicely with the tactics and strategies that these guys are discussing for the C-level sales.
Most salespeople and brochures are just as bad as tech-heads when it comes to speaking a near-foreign language- feature-dumping and never talking about how it translates to your world. So beware of that when you're selling somebody. Remember what Ken McCarthy said. "As a marketer it's your job to translate the boring technical features into a real value for the person on the other end of the deal." That's a paraphrase.
Gitomer says the key to that is to start by asking a question. Instead of starting out with a benefit statement or talking about what you’re selling, start with the question because a question compels you to want to find out the answer.
Gitomer is using the example of written marketing here, of attention-grabbing. He's talking about a headline, and the headline he’s focusing on in this section is the question, or the teaser headline; the curiosity driven headline.
Never underestimate the power of flattery. The other presenter of this program talks about being a young salesman in Austria; and the way he got to senior-level executives was to say to them, “I want to create a better way to do things. I want to improve the way that my business runs, and I'd love to get your input so I can take it back to the factory and have them put those ideas into effect. Would you agree to meet with me for a few minutes so that I can ask you some questions and get your input and feedback?"
When you just want to show people that their opinion is appreciated, and that you honor what they have to say, you’ll get a much better response than asking them to sit through a sales pitch.
Side note: I better not need to remind myself that this is a good approach for all of my existing businesses.
A very interesting idea- he recommends using a database that allows you to put in either the names or positions of people that you know or have done business with or have dealt with; so that anybody in the organization can search through the database to find a specific person or a specific position that they want to be introduced to, and see who in the organization knows them, so that it's no longer a cold call. You get an introduction. It’s a fantastic idea.
Congratulate them on anything possible. If there have been any stories positive about their company recently, then know that, and be able to congratulate them on it. Print out speeches that they've given and read them twice, three times. Go over them with a highlighter. Find the parts that are interesting to you, and use that as a springboard for conversation. Find the relevant points where you can overlap interests. So it's not an overlapping interest in a sports team or a vacation spot or whatnot, but an overlapping business interest or business desire. When you can talk about that, then you’re really speaking their language, and it’s much easier to springboard to further discussion.
Check out a company called freshsuccess.com. What they do is send out fruit and food and use it to generate sales leads.
Some other fun little grabber ideas:
1. Buy a toolbox and a hammer, and put a handwritten or typed note in the toolbox under the hammer that says, "I have a lot more tools than a hammer to help you grow your business. I'd love to take 15 minutes anytime you're available in the next two months and tell you all about it”.
2. Buy a lottery ticket and send it to the prospect and say to them, "I'm giving you a chance to win a million dollars. Will you give me 10 minutes to talk to you?"
There are all kinds of ideas for ways to stand out; and it's actually a great validation to hear these guys who are fairly main-stream, very successful, talking about the same principles and talking about putting them to use. In other words, the creative grabbers that are more likely to generate response.
Concentrate on ways that you can give value first. Gitomer calls it being a value-first provider. In other words, don't wait for them to give you money before you add value to them. Give them real, applicable information. He will give them a book as soon as he walks into a meeting- probably one of his. Give away real value in articles and columns that you write so that it's much more likely that you are generating a positioning as an expert; or as somebody who the upper levels will want to talk to and consult with. Obviously this is very close to the Jay Abraham positioning of giving value first and telling them, "I feel more than comfortable doing this because I'm sure that at some point we will work together. It’s just a matter of time before the value that I offer will coincide with your needs or opportunities. So I have no problem giving you all kinds of value now”.
Git Domer claims that selling skills are just a tiny part of the success formula for sales. Buying motives are far more important than selling skills. Your ability to connect with the buyer, to find out what they want and need, and find a way to give that to them is paramount.
This is mainly true in this day and age because of the Internet. The ability for anybody to look up products and feature lists and price lists has really made the old style salesman useless. I can do this same thing without being hard closed at the end. So now what a salesman really needs to do more than ever before is to be able to make it relevant to my life.
While there are shades of Abraham in here, or maybe he stole it from them, but the other presenter says that this salesman has gone from being a provider of information to a trusted advisor. That's the role you should be looking for.
You need to have more business acumen than ever before. You need to understand what motivates the buyers and you need to be able to establish a trusting relationship.
Now the key ingredient in trust is to put your self into a position of vulnerability. You need to show that you could be vulnerable and that somebody else could take advantage of you, if they want.
This is basically the idea of risk reversal applied to every area of life. So to follow through with the risk reversal comparison, what you really want to do is to demonstrate your confidence and belief in what you’re offering them by showing them how much of your skin is in the game. In other words, showing them what vulnerable position you’re putting yourself in, to make it easy for them to try it out. Remember, with very high level sales, it’s not enough to say, “Try it out for a few days and if you don’t like it, then don’t use it.” You have to show them instead how much work and money and effort you’re going to put in just for them so that you have a steak in the game as well. What this shows them is that you’re willing to invest in the process, that you’re not just there to make a sale and get the hell out. But rather that you’re looking for a way to become a longer term player in the game. And again, remember that these are things that are important at the highest level of decision maker. They’re not important to the purchasing department or the human resources department where they’ll tell you up front they want the cheapest thing possible so that they can come in under budget.
These are the methods that are important when you’re dealing with the people who really understand the idea of investment, of rewards and return on invest, rather than just getting the cheapest thing possible.
Git Domer relays a story of somebody who makes coffee mugs with specialty logos and pictures etc., and wanted to get Git Domer’s account. So, he printed up a coffee mug with his logo on one side and the copy is for closers line on the other side, sent it in to Git Domer and said "How would you like to give this some specialty coffee as a little bonus or swag to some of your best closers” and ended up a $10,000 sale.
The lesson is that he could have sent a catalog of some of his existing pieces and said “We can make any design.” But that would have been useless. It would have done what everybody else does, Instead, he gave an idea, he gave value to Git Domer first and then requested the sale.
The value of course was the idea of this little prize or incentive. The broader lesson, it seems to me, is that you can't just send your catalog you can test so that people are going to look through it and find the thing that's right for them or even worse, to tell them, "We can do anything, just tell us what you want.”
Instead, remember the Jay Abraham principle, ‘people are silently begging to be led.’ Don't tell them that you can give them any one of an infinite number of options. Instead show them one way or two ways that you can be immediately valuable and useful to them, and then once you've established that it's much more likely that they will read through your much greater list of features and benefits and offers in mind is the more things that they can use from you
You Domer brings up a great point, and that is that you need to be accessible on the Internet. In other words, If somebody Googles your name, what comes up? If it's nothing, then you're not going to get many appointments with important people. You need to have a website. If you have a white paper for articles published then you want those to be showing off. If your name shows up in other capacities then you want to link to those in your website. In other words, if for example your name shows up as a professional fighter. Then, in your corporate site, you might want to include that you're a lifelong martial arts enthusiasts. Spoke.com is a good resource to create the database of circles of influence or contacts. So instead of doing it manually, what it can do theoretically is look at every e-mail recipient and tell you how often somebody has e-mailed somebody else, so when you want to meet somebody else you type in their name and see who in your company or in your Spoke network has had contact with them
Jim Palmer says, in the C-level suite, you better be prepared to go in and forge a relationship, not to make your sales pitch. If you just go in and pitch, you’re dead. If you go in and are able to establish a relationship, then you have a much better chance of success.
Assume that the person you're talking to already knows about your company- already knows your story and that all they care about is how they can benefit now. Even if they don't know your story, they probably don't care and you need to respect their time and get to the point.
So the good news and bad news of the C- level selling is that it is so hard to get in. Obviously, that's bad news if you're bad at getting in but when you do get in there, the odds of the sale go up dramatically because so few people can get in that it's likely that you're one of only one or two people talking to that executive about your solution. And so, it's not a matter of competing with ‘x’ other people but rather a matter of making the "no competition" sale. So what needs to be in place before you earn your way into the C- suite? Here are some things that are required:
1. The CEO needs to know you. So you need to ask yourself, what are you doing to be known by these people? Do you have articles in front of them? Do you have your e-zine in front of them? What are you doing to create ‘buzz’ about yourself?
2. The CEO must respect you and your work. This comes back to writing things that they'll see, to speaking at tradeshows that they were at, to doing something to get them to notice you and to agree with you or respect what you have to say.
3. The CEO must know in advance the purpose of the meeting.
4. The CEO must perceive some sort of value just from you walking in the door. What's in it for them?
5. You must be prepared in every aspect of your presentation, including what you do, the value you provide, the profit that’s in it for them, how they benefit after speaking to you, background information on their company, who their customers are, and some personal information on this CEO himself or herself. So in other words, you'd better have some great questions ready or you’re a dead duck.
6. Bring a small but meaningful gift along to show that you know about them. For example, if you know they have a young child or grandchild, it's probably a good idea to get them were bring them a very readable children's book potentially of signed by the author in which you can get for 20 or $30.
7. Bring do whatever you need for your dog and pony show, but keep it simple.
8. Yu better be smooth and confident. No stumbling, no signs that you're out of your element.
9. Start with questions, not a sales pitch.
10. Gain rapport early with something you have in common.
11. Be friendly and likable in a professional way. Git Domer says, he never begins a presentation until he's sure the other person likes him
12. Ask for the order. If you don't have the belief in what you do and the sales balls to make or ask for the order, then don't walk in the door.
13. Confirm another person that the CEO will delegate to that you can follow up with on all the details. Remember, CEOs don't care about the details. They make decisions, and then let other people handle the detail work.
14. Collect your money by confirming when payment will be made and by whom
15. It's all decided in the first two minutes. What happens in those first two minutes is crucial. They'll decide whether or not they like you in those first two minutes, and whether or not they’ll buy from you in those first two minutes. So you'd better make them engaging and compelling. CEOs are busy, so get to the point as fast as possible and tell them how they win.
You need to be real and be yourself. If you try one sales trick, you’re dead. Don't try to pull any of the manipulative, high-pressure bull shit with these guys or you're not getting an order ever.
Whenever you're selling to the CEO or anyone for that matter remember, it's all about them it's all about making them look better. It's all about making them more profit or more productive.
Now, one of the greatest strategies to get appointments is to have a magazine or an e-zine or a newsletter- something that goes out to people that a CEO would consider somewhat important to his market. Then, it's much easier to get an interview with him. Remember the rule though, when you’re in there you never talk about what you do. If you’re asked, describe it briefly and then set up another meeting to discuss it in more detail. Set the appointment before you leave. Don't turn that meeting into something about you. That meeting is all about them.
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So the program concludes basically by saying that it’s a positioning game. You work to position yourself as a leader in the field, as a provider of value, and then leverage that position in order to get appointments at the C-level suite.
He talks about the idea of an Abraham style force leverage multiplier. In other words, how can you use multiple strategies instead of just one to become recognized- to get people to know you? The more strategies you use in tandem, the better chance that people will recognize you, remember you, and attach value to you.
And that concludes the program