Since gaining access to C-level executives is a precious opportunity, you need to make the most of it. To ensure your conversations with executives are productive, you need to be prepared, but what does being prepared mean?
Have you ever had an important client meeting only to experience an awkward silence because you didn’t know how to connect with the client on a business level?
- Didn’t have the industry knowledge.
- Didn’t understand what is important to the executive.
- Weren’t speaking the client’s language.
Maybe it was all of these things.
It’s times like this that you could use Cyrano de Bergerac whispering in your ear and telling you exactly what to say and how to say it. Since it’s not realistic to have Mr. de Bergerac on speed dial, you need to ensure you have the skills and knowledge to build credibility with clients and engage in meaningful business-oriented conversations.
Create a sense of community
When onboarding new hires, it’s critical that they feel that they are part of the organization and understand its culture and values. To help new hires assimilate into your organization’s community and better understand “what makes your company tick,” be sure your onboarding program includes information on your company’s culture:
- What’s unique about working for your company?
- What do customers say about your business?
- How does your organization measure success?
- What differentiates your company from the competition?
It’s not them; it’s you
Successfully positioning you and your solutions to the C-Suite can be challenging. It’s up to you to create a valuable and informative meeting for them.
- It requires you to establish trust and credibility in the eyes of the executive(s).
- You need to continually focus on their goals, challenges and expected business outcomes.
- You have to tell them something they didn’t know and NOT about your solution.
You need to do your research and ensure you focus on important issues to the executive. You need to put yourself in their shoes to demonstrate value. But how?
Searching the internet on the fly and hoping you can remember a few bullet points won’t cut it when you’ve got limited time in the C-Suite.
Know before you go
- Know the industry. Ensure you understand the client’s industry and the current issues and trends impacting that industry. You have to know the industry’s key profitability drivers, risks, and regulations. This information will help you better understand the industry hot topics and issues impacting the company. Find research to generate a discussion on the executive’s opinion, like a recent study from Gartner that said, “CFOs are shifting their attention from value protection (i.e., cost, efficiency and productivity, risk management) to value creation (i.e., revenue and margin growth).”
- Know the company. The annual report is full of essential information for your meeting, so make sure you review it. Check the company’s financial statements and search for recent articles mentioning the company. You can connect your solutions to their strategies when you better understand how the company makes money and its strategy.
- Know the competition. Determine what organizations your client competes against, and gain an understanding of how they complete. Where and when appropriate, be prepared to use the information to support your discussion.
- Know the client(s). Research the issues and concerns of similar executives and ensure you understand the metrics they use to measure success. Review the executive’s LinkedIn profile to learn about their role and previous experience. Remember, people make decisions, not companies. It’s essential to understand what drives the executive’s decision-making and speak to those concerns.
- Know the solution. In addition to understanding the client and their industry, you need to have a deep knowledge of your organization’s services and solutions to link to the client’s needs. This doesn’t mean you rehash product sheets. Your discussion should focus on the business outcomes that your client needs to achieve.
Prepare to succeed
To ensure you can connect with the executive(s) and avoid awkward silences, prepare for the meeting by:
- Learning how your clients(s) thinks, how they frame value and how they make their decisions
- Becoming fluent in the language of the industry
- Developing questions that will initiate conversations
- Identifying clues to listen for that link to your services or solutions
Whether you’re experienced at your job or new to your position, doing your homework and establishing credibility by driving business-focused conversations with executives will lead to your success.
About the Author
Jill Gualtieri, is the Chief Learning Officer and a partner at Performance Solutions International (PSI). She has been providing training and consulting services for the last 25 years and loves helping clients achieve their learning goals.
Performance Solutions International (PSI)
PSI is the leading provider of industry-focused training, custom learning solutions and learning consulting services to empower your professionals with the knowledge, skills and tools they need to succeed in today’s highly competitive environment.