Before Eric Becker was a healthcare account manager at Veritas, he spent nearly two decades at security giant Symantec. Needless to say, he’s no stranger to selling IT to the enterprise.
We caught up with Eric to learn some of his proven, field-tested tips for selling to today’s busy C-suite execs, along with advice on how to make the most out of an Emissary engagement. What follows is a master class in selling enterprise technology.
Why it pays to head straight for the top
Eric has sold successfully at all levels of the organization throughout his career, and it was his early experience of selling in the trenches that opened his eyes to the true benefits of working directly with a prospect’s higher-ups.
“It’s easier to sell at the C-level,” he said. “They have more perspective on the business issues, and it’s much easier to align the competencies of your product with what they, as leaders, want to accomplish for their organizations.”
According to Eric, the further down you go on the org chart, the smaller the problems become. The big picture, he noted, takes a back seat, and a salesperson’s ability to craft a more easily digestible message with broad strokes is weakened.
When you can interface directly with a company’s visionaries, however, you’re free to speak in the same aspirational language as the CEO—the kind of inspirational language that wins deals. You gain access to their playbook, a better understanding of their goals for growth, and the kind of message they want to send. Once you learn what success means for their business, Eric said, it’s just a matter of connecting the dots. You know what they’re shooting for, so here’s how your product can help them hit the target better, faster, or with more frequency.
Eric acknowledged that for many, this may be easier said than done. Getting face time with busy executives in the first place is never easy. Even when you do get a chance to sit down with them, the scale of the deal becomes larger by virtue of that very meeting. And the sales cycle, of course, can drag on.
That’s when working with an internal advocate or a former executive at your prospect’s business can have a big impact. In Eric’s experience, the hardest part of selling directly to the big wigs is just getting the meeting in the first place, so if you can sidestep that roadblock with a brokered introduction from an inside contact, you’ll go straight to the top—and that’s a much better place to start selling.
How to sell to the C-suite
The speed at which business moves has changed dramatically over Eric’s 18 years in sales. Today, he recommends not wasting any time or mincing words when you finally do get that big meeting in front of a senior decision-maker.
“Every CEO, CIO, and CFO are under more competitive and internal pressure than before,” he noted. “As a result, their attention spans are shorter so you need to be prepared to do a lot of research up front and understand their business problems before you even approach them with your two-minute elevator pitch.”
Those two minutes are likely all the time you’ll have to make your case and, in fact, you may get even less. So you need to properly prepare to make the most out of those precious few moments you do have. Use whatever inside insight you’ve gathered into your target’s major pain points to craft a succinct message conveying all the value your solution could bring to the buyer’s organization. For Eric, this concept of value is crucial for closing deals today:
“The ‘good-old-boy network’ is disappearing, and the days of the two-martini lunch are over,” he said. “If you want to win business at the C-level, you have to deliver real value.”
Value is the name of the game, and Eric’s Emissary engagements have helped him and his team deliver it in spades. For instance, after relations with one client had been strained to an apparent point of no return, Eric turned to Emissary to get the insight he needed to get the account back on track.
“We got things back to ground zero ourselves,” he said. “But it wasn’t until we brought in an Emissary that our eyes were really opened to who the key players were, what their personalities were like, and how to present best to them.”
As the IT landscape changes, Eric predicts that an even greater premium will be placed on value. The big guys like Dell, EMC, and Microsoft will keep getting bigger and extending their influence, but there’ll be opportunity for smaller companies to gain ground, too, by providing more specialized services.
“The niche IT companies will have to get smarter and be more agile to compete,” he stressed. “They’ll need to make sure that whatever they make will be very accurate at solving customer problems and delivering real value.”
That’s why Eric recommends listening above all else when partnering with an Emissary advisor in order to gain an in-depth understanding of your prospect’s needs.
“Once you’ve clearly articulated your strategy for the account, just listen. Take notes, record calls, listen, and then listen again. There will be more information than you can absorb during your first conversation.”
The same goes for any follow-up meetings or calls. Absorb and review all information, and update your Emissary with new problems that may be have arisen. Gain their perspective, and internalize their advice to hone your strategy going forward.
For Eric, working with Emissary has enabled him to think differently about his accounts in ways that unlocked solutions he previously wouldn’t have had enough information to access on his own.
“It’s broadened my view,” he said. “We’ve gone from being stuck in just one business unit to five. We understand the entire organization now. What our Emissary told us in just three calls we never could have learned on our own. We better understand our buyer’s business model and what motivates them most. That’s huge.”
Eric Becker (account manager at Veritas) is a veteran seller with a lot of advice on how to sell to the C-level. Stick to the big picture, he said, and whittle down your elevator pitch so it aligns with the short attention spans of today’s busy executives. Eric’s also a shining example of how to get the most out of your Emissary engagement through listening, diligent note-taking, and open communication.