If you’re wondering how to reach C level executives, you’re in good company. It’s the million dollar question! And I’ve got answers.
How do you get C level executives on the phone? And once you get in touch, how do you make an impression to win the sale? I love it when people ask me these questions. Getting in front of C level executives (and closing them) is what we live, eat, and breathe here at C-Level Partners.
So if you’re ready to learn how to reach elusive executives and close bigger deals, you’re in the right place.
For starters, does this sound familiar?
To break into the C-suite, simply load up on LinkedIn inmail credits. Go to the local mixers. Be everywhere. Be the keynote speaker at the right industry event…
Don’t make me laugh!
Most of these aren’t alone enough to get you in front of a busy, hyper-focused C level executive, and we all know it.
You might not want to hear this, but it’s time to pick up the phone. Without a doubt, this is where the real magic happens.
Today I’m sharing some of the insights I’ve gained from 15 years of getting qualified decision makers on the phone, on demand, so you can reach C-Level executives, too.
Get in the Right Mindset to Reach C Level Execs
Without the proper mindset, the worst could happen. The executive could actually answer to a stuttering faceplant of a pitch, served hot by Y-O-U. Because when you’re new at this, fear can easily derail you, leaving you looking like just another waste of time.
As a sales professional, you’ve likely read enough about mindset to fill a room. But did you know that the same enthusiasm that drove you to target that CEO could be exactly what derails you? The deep-seated belief that the prospect is somehow better than you is a dangerous psychological disadvantage, so search yourself.
In these high-stakes moments, a sense of inferiority does you no favors, and it starts your hard won C-Level conversation off on the wrong foot. I may not know you or your product, but every company on earth has a value proposition to bring to market. And while it’s true that the c level executive has achieved a high position, the truth is that you are in a place of power if you hold the solution to the executive’s problem. That’s a cold-hard fact.
When you are in the right mindset, you are poised to sell from a position of confidence and passion. Allow honest enthusiasm, without the baggage, to beat out your misplaced fear.
Do Your Research About the C Level Executive
If you approach the exec or their company without doing your homework, you will be immediately flagged as a salesperson and blocked. To get in touch with a C Level executive, you need to come across as someone who is valuable and in the know.
The bare minimum intel before dialing is the exec’s full name and the name of their assistant if they have one. 8 times out of 10, that information is going to be readily available online.
If you can’t find that information publicly, there is a very counterintuitive but effective outreach strategy I can recommend. Swallow your pride and reach lower down the ladder than you want to. One trick is to call someone in a completely different office or department, as they’re more likely to pass along key data like names and availability, equipping you with what you need.
Getting Past the Gatekeeper When Reaching Out
Ideally, you want to get in touch directly with the decision maker, but sometimes you have to go through the backdoor to find them.
Sometimes your first major hurdle will be to get past the gatekeeper. The gatekeeper has two main concerns: to keep you away from the executive, or to qualify you to speak to the executive. Their competence in their job is really based on their ability to pass the right judgment on you.
- Office Manager
- Executive Assistant
- Anyone who is NOT the decision maker
The best way to get past the gatekeeper? Bypass them totally. And the secret to this maneuver is timing.
The most recent data suggests that you’ll increase your odds of going around the gatekeeper and reaching the C Suite by calling an hour before the traditional business day begins (at 8:00am), an hour after (usually 6:00pm) or by calling 5 minutes before or after the hour, on the hour, during the workday.
If you can’t get around the gatekeeper with this careful timing, it’s time to think like a gatekeeper yourself.
What do you think is the average number of calls that a Fortune 500 COO, CXO or CMO gets per day? Before you answer, remember it’s not just consulting firms, software and tech salespeople keeping the phone ringing at that level. It’s real estate and investors, and people selling equipment and widgets, and family. The answer will have some variability, but it’s in the neighborhood of 30 calls per day… minimum.
Unfortunately, there’s a lot of bad advice out there. I take issue with anyone who suggests asking a gatekeeper for a reference or tips. It’s not the gatekeeper’s job to train people on how to get a CXO on the phone.
Asking someone to do their job poorly to help you out is the lowest form of flattery. Instead, approach them in a way that helps both of you do your jobs well. Approach the gatekeeper like you are someone they should know, someone who gets (and gives) respect.
For more on this, check out this video. It includes a sample role play and a script that will aid you in connecting the dots.
Get Past the Gatekeeper to Reach C-Level Executives
You Reached Out to the C-Suite, now what? Speak Authoritatively, Listen Empathetically (S.A.L.E)
You did it. You succeeded!
Well, not so fast…
C Level executives (and their assistants!) are a lot like sharks. When they sniff blood, they’ll tear you apart. If you don’t sound like an executive yourself, there’s blood in the water.
So when you get on the phone with the exec, you need to speak with the conviction of an executive. You need to “Speak Authoritatively and Listen Empathetically.” I use the acronym S.A.L.E. here, and I’ve used the S.A.L.E. method to train countless salespeople and clients over the years. Now let’s dig a little deeper.
When you’re speaking to a prospect on the phone, they will be looking for cues or tells that will instruct them on how to treat you.
Adjusting the tonality of your voice is the quickest way to communicate authority. You will need to cultivate a tone that is both arresting and welcoming. Trust me, the right tonality will engage C level executives from start to finish.
With great tone comes great responsibility. There is a balance to be had when you’re great on the mic. So be sure you’re asking questions – ones that bring the prospect down the sales funnel while keeping them comfortable. In addition to this, storytelling is essential to becoming relatable and transferring emotion.
There’s a way to respond to a c-level executive that will help you maintain authority through a conversation, while continuing to extract key information in a way that feels right for everyone.
I could write a book on this (and I probably will one day), but in the meantime reach out to me if you’d like some additional insights on tonality and asking the right questions.
There will be plenty of time to talk about yourself, but be careful not to jump too quickly.
Avoid these common mistakes while listening to company leaders:
- Saying “Uh huh! Yep! Oh yeah.” or any other manner of interjection is a dead giveaway that you’re a salesperson, not an executive yourself. Simply put, interjections of any kind only serve to display nervousness, and they are irritating. Bite your tongue if you have to.
- Referencing others. Don’t use your listening time as an opportunity to draw parallels between this prospect and one of your past clients. If you do, the executive will feel like you’re generalizing, and that’s a sign you’re not a good listener.
- Dozing off or getting distracted. Of course, you won’t fall asleep on the phone, but your mind might go for a stroll. Big mistake. Now is the time to tighten up and focus. Listen like the sale depends on it… because it does.
When a c-level exec opens up to you, quietly accept any information with gratitude and a radically sensitive listening ear. Your goal in listening at this stage is 100% learning. As such your speaking should be mostly to ask questions, and your aim should be learning about the prospect’s situation, their pain points, and their wants, wishes, and desires.
After you’ve heard out your prospect, you can finally show your cards – you are actively seeking to help them (because you have a solution to their problem!). Again, it’s not till you’ve accurately diagnosed that you can prescribe a solution. Only after great listening will you be able to mirror with empathy what might happen if they don’t resolve the problem.
Don’t drop the ball at this stage – there is a key nuance here that you really need to grasp. Stay in the doctor’s chair. You must not “make an offer” – instead, you must PRESCRIBE. A doctor that “offers” a treatment plan isn’t a doctor at all. A doctor that prescribes a real solution after listening empathetically has great bedside manner (and patients that come back for more!).
Fail Fast, Fail Forward!
Reaching out to C level executives is simple, but it’s not easy. So remember, if you fail to connect with the executive, or fail to engage and intrigue the executive over the phone, YOU are not a failure. So what – it didn’t work. It won’t work every time. In fact, it can’t work every time. It’s sales!
Regroup, continue training, improve your mindset, and get ready to execute again. They say failure is the richest data stream available. Your experience has intrinsic value, and you increase your personal value exponentially every time you engage with goals that scare you (like, say, calling the CEO of an enterprise company). Keep moving forward. Your success depends on it.
Closing Thoughts on Reaching Out to C Level Executives
Remember, whenever you have something to sell, the very first person you need to convince is YOU. Be your own salesperson! Once you’re fully convinced of your company’s value proposition and lit up by how much value you bring to the table, you’re able to speak from a place of confidence. Drive with that passion deep within, and it will naturally give you the power to pick up the phone and start dialing.
Over time you will master storytelling, tonality, questions, relating, pacing, leading, staying quiet, understanding empathetically, aligning.
And that’s it… at least for now.
Hopefully you now understand how to reach C level executives with a refreshing mix of confidence and empathy.
Sure, there is so much poor advice available about how to get past gatekeepers and reach C level executives. But then there’s people like us, giving advice from a place of experience. I’ve been in professional business development for over 15 years, and the companies I’ve worked with have been able to generate hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue from the pipelines created by our services.
So if you don’t want to apply the techniques I’ve discussed today, and you just want someone to do it for you, do yourself a big favor and get in touch today.
Until next time…