Deals are lost for a variety of reasons: better fit by the competitor’s product, stronger relationships, a more creative solution, cost, customer delays … Customer delays are cropping up more and more often. Certainly the economy is playing a role, but to commit, customers need more information. The problem is that much of the time the executive who will ultimately make the buying decision does not have convincing information because he or she is not involved in the process until decision time. When the executive is invisible or inaccessible until decision time, it is highly probable you won’t have reflected his or her strategic vision and therefore your solution isn’t compelling enough for him/her to commit the budget.
While your line contacts are a tremendous source of information, they often provide a technical vs. strategic perspective. The answer to this problem is to get to executives early in the process. While this is challenging, it is doable.
To Gain Access to the Executive Sponsor
Your daily contact for the opportunity and/or your client coach is most likely the person who can help you get to the executive. Ask them to help you gain access. Build relationships with them and demonstrate how you will create value for the organization. Ask them to help you gain access. Position benefits and how in your experience this kind of meeting has been received favorably by executives as an indication of commitment. Always make it clear to your contact that he or she would be part of the executive meeting.
Maximize Your Meeting with the Executive
To make the absolute most of the meeting, bridge from your meeting with your daily contact:
Thank the executive for meeting with you, giving credit/showing appreciation to your contact for helping you understand the objectives of the initiative.
Ask if the executive sponsor if he or she would like a brief background on your organization (and if so, provide a two minute or so overview). Check if he/she has any questions before you begin).
State that your purpose is to gain a full understanding of the executive’s vision and position your understanding of the objectives (1 minute); for example, “I understand the objectives of the initiative are …”Would you like to add to this or provide any information or background? (They usually do!)“
Ask strategic questions (not rehash the technical information you already have gotten from your contact) and take notes judiciously and spend three quarters of your meeting time here.
What is driving this initiative at this time?
What do you see as the current strengths you’re building on?
What is the end result you’re looking to achieve?
What are the emerging needs and demands of your customers that are served in this initiative?
What do you see as the challenge in implementing/reinforcing this initiative?
What is most important to you?
Begin to Create Value by Positioning/Planting the Seed:
Show you can help create value by offering relevant industry insight or information on what him/her competitors are doing (without breaching confidentiality).
Take a few minutes to give an overview of how your organization can meet the objectives. Position broad ideas of your approach and a success story. Check if executive has any questions and for feedback.
If you think there are additional ideas you’d like the executive to consider that were not mentioned in the RFP or as a part of the initiative, ask about that, but of course have cleared the idea this with your contact.
Debrief with your contact.
Send thank you e-mails.
Enter data into your CRM.
Use data from your notes to further customize your proposal with the strategic vision.
Executive Dialogue Model
– Thank executive.
– Compliment opportunity contact.
– State purpose.
– Ask if the executive would like a brief overview of your company.
– Briefly summarize your understanding of the objectives/check.
– Ask if the Executive wants to provide any background or add to the objectives before you ask questions.
– Ask your prepared strategic questions, use acknowledgment, drill down, and take notes judiciously.
Begin to Create Value — Position an Overview of Your Capabilities
– Show you can help create value. For example, offer relevant industry insight or information on what his/her competitors are doing (without breaching confidentiality).
– Customize your broad ideas to the objectives shored by the executive.
– Ask for feedback.
– Debrief with your contact.
– Send thank you e-mails.
– Enter data into CRM.
– Integrate strategic needs/language into your proposal.
Best Practice Tip
To raise your win ratio, identify and get to executive-level decision makers as early as possible.