Selling to senior execs – the white rabbit was right

The White Rabbit

In Lewis Carroll’s wonderful tale of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, the White Rabbit appears early in Chapter One with a pronouncement for Alice that may also have importance for any major account manager selling to senior executives.  Dressed in a stunning waistcoat, the White Rabbit announces – “I’m late! I’m late! – for a very important date.”  

Today in major accounts it is more important than ever to have an effective strategy for selling at the senior executive level.  From a strategic perspective you don’t have many opportunities to get it right and if you get it wrong, you won’t have any more opportunities.   

One of the keys for developing the right strategy relates to the notion of timing – when in the buying cycle do you want to engage at the senior level?  Here, unfortunately like the White Rabbit, many sales people tend to be late.     

Senior executives are not equally engaged throughout the buying cycle.  In general they are involved early and tend to delegate the middle part to others.  The early part of the cycle warrants senior attention because the need for the project is decided and the scope is defined.  In the middle attention turns to evaluating competitive options, that is a job for those who will be directly engaged in and are impacted by the project.The trap for sales people is failing to get to the senior executive during the assessment and definition phase of the buying cycle where they can play a business consultant role – a role that meets senior level expectations of a future partner. 

If the contact is first made during the evaluation of competitive options phase, then the sales person is reduced to playing a “solution presenter” role.  The likely outcome will be a short meeting with a referral to someone lower in the organization.  You were simply too late!  

Check out other posts on sales effectiveness at the Sales Training Connection. 

©2011 Sales Horizons™, LLC

About Richard Ruff

For more than 30 years Dr. Richard Ruff and Dr. Janet Spirer - the founders of Sales Horizons - have worked with the Fortune 1000 - such as UPS, Canon USA, Smith & Nephew, Boston Scientific, Owens & Minor, Textron - to design and develop sales training programs. During his career Dick has authored numerous articles related to sales effectiveness and co-authored "Managing Major Sales", a book about sales management, "Parlez-Vous Business" which helps sales people integrate the language of business into the sales process, and "Getting Partnering Right" – a research based work on the best practices for forming strategic selling alliances. Dr. Ruff received his Ph.D. in Organizational Psychology from the University of Tennessee and a B.S. from Rennsselaer Polytechnic Institute.
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