Selling to the C-level


The above Youtube link is an interview with Jeff Immelt, CEO of GE on his vision of the future of his company and the world as a whole. Now this should come as a surprise to no one but think about this – what if he is wrong? Or even worse, what if he is right but he can’t capitalize on this vision?

The higher you rise in an organization the lonelier it gets. You are asked and well compensated to predict the future, read the tea leaves, and forge a vision into the great unknown.  Successful companies have boards of directors to guide the C-suite, talented VP’s to execute the strategy, and access to the best management principles available. But know this – ultimately the C-suite is held responsible for the decisions they make. Not only in the strategic direction of the company but how successful have they executed upon that direction.

Case in point:

GM quite correctly predicted the appetite of the world’s need for fuel efficiency when it created the EV-1 electric car. However the timing was wrong because oil became extremely inexpensive and the EV-1 was scrapped to make way for the Hummer.

Sony quite correctly predicted that family’s wanted to watch “recorded video” at home when it unveiled Betamax video cassettes: JVC cornered the market with its version of VHS video cassettes to make the Betamax obsolete.


On a very real, but smaller scale, your clients are judged by the same risk versus reward model for predicting the future of their industry and capitalizing on it. The question we as sales people must ask ourselves, “How do we tap into that risk vs. reward mindset to position our service as the best solution?”


We must first think like our customer.


  • As an individual, my very fate could lie in getting this decision right.
  • I don’t look at you as a vendor – I look at you as a means to an end.
  • Are we sure we even need to look outside the company to do this?
  • How can I trust this guy when I can’t even trust my own people to tell me truth?
  • I need a partner that has been down this road before.
  • I don’t want to be a product of the Peter Principle.

The average executives receive 57 meeting requests a week from sales people. Couple this barrage of requests with the average executive’s history of receiving “little to no value” with sales people they did meet – it is no wonder you aren’t getting access. The sales people the exec saw in the past did not understand how they thought and spoke about product, feature, and functionality.  


Reverse this trend – get sponsored by someone that the executive trusts to introduce to you. This will cut through the clutter. When you do get a meeting with them – tell them something they don’t know about their business, their competition, or their industry and then speak to them in the language of risk vs. reward.





One Response

  1. And what is one way to find information that the executive does not know? Read every journal, magazine, ezine, enewsletter, blog, and newspaper on the industry, the business, the domain that your client works and sells in. In other words, pretend you work for the executive and they depend on you and your research to make the best decisions for their company. Executives are just as time crunched as the next person, so if you do enough research on a consistent basis, you WILL find something either they didn’t know, or, you will validate something they thought they knew. In either case, your homework and prep will get you the few minutes you need in front of the executive.

    Now, once you are there, you had better be prepared with more information and more knowledge about their company and what you can do to either get rid of problems (pain) or help them gain their goals and objectives. There are different kinds of pain and gain depending on who you are talking to and where in the organization they sit.

    But that, my friends, is just what my pal Scotty Miller wants, is another topic to blog about!

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