Developing and closing big contracts is a challenging goal for any B2B Sales VP. However, one key strategy to achieve this objective is by cultivating a strong relationship with your executive sponsor for each of your top prospects. While gaining access to top executives may seem daunting, especially considering their busy schedules and protective entourage, it is not an impossible task. Here’s how you can overcome these hurdles and secure valuable access to executive decision-makers.
Understand Your ‘Why’
It is crucial to clearly understand your unique ‘why’ in order to overcome doubts and fears associated with executive access. Mere intentions of selling something or going over your current contact’s head without support won’t lead to an audience with top executives. Likewise, attempting to educate them on your products or learn about their organization or vision will most likely not get you on their calendar.
To successfully secure a meeting with an executive, it is crucial to understand why they would want to meet with you. You need to align your objectives with areas of executive concern. These include:
- The health, direction, and reputation of their organizations.
- Key initiatives and priorities.
- Their people.
- Their customers.
- Industry trends.
- Risks or threats to their company.
- Their stakeholders (investors, board of directors, etc.).
- Their top and bottom lines.
By creating a mutually beneficial agenda around one of these areas, you can position yourself as indispensable to the executive. Executives value individuals who are thought leaders, resourceful, insightful, experts in their field, interesting, accomplished, and successful. Demonstrating the ability to add value to their organization increases your chances of securing a meeting.
Ways to Secure Access to Executives Include:
- The most effective approach to gain access to your executive sponsor is by leveraging your day-to-day contact within their organization. When your contact endorses you, the executive recognizes your value and is more inclined to meet with you.
- The second-best approach is to leverage introductions or referrals from outside their organization: Use LinkedIn® or other means to identify common connections within industry groups, associations, boards, or friends. Additionally, if the executive recognizes and respects your company’s name or has a positive association with your partners or alliances, it can enhance your chances of gaining access.
- Utilizing internal resources: If possible, leverage an executive within your own company to reach out to the target executive. Larger companies often have executive programs that facilitate ongoing access and cultivation of relationships with key customers.
- Being creative: Explore unique avenues to connect with executives. Offer opportunities for networking connections, invite them to speak at webinars or be part of pilot programs, propose interviews for white papers or articles, and consider engaging with university School of Business networks if applicable. Executives often serve on boards, guest lecture, or attend high-level university events, presenting more opportunities to establish connections.
Executive Openings for Key Accounts
To maximize your chances of securing executive engagement in your key accounts and opening doors for future business, it’s important to identify specific executive openings throughout your engagement lifecycle:
Opening #1: The early stages of a project: Executives are interested in projects that align with their company’s agenda. Seize the opportunity to share how your project will help them achieve their goals. Invite your executive sponsor to attend the project kick-off, allowing them to offer a few words of encouragement and demonstrate their support.
Opening #2: Throughout the project: Keep executives informed of progress and involve them in strategy meetings between your company and the client’s company at critical project junctures. Executives appreciate staying up to date and having the opportunity to allocate resources or remove roadblocks.
Opening #3: Project conclusion: Meet with executives to discuss project outcomes, results, and recognize significant contributions from their organization. Encourage your executive sponsor to participate in end-of-project celebrations, showcasing their team’s achievements. Use this opportunity to discuss new priorities and set the stage for future projects.
Ring the Bell
Engaging with executive sponsors is vital for project success and lays the foundation for future business opportunities. By securing an open door to your executive sponsor, you increase your chances of success and achieving your goal of closing 5X contracts.
Remember, understanding your ‘why,’ aligning your approach with executive concerns, leveraging internal and external resources, and seizing executive openings throughout the project will significantly enhance your ability to cultivate executive relationships and drive business growth.