Buyers travel a long and winding road to get to a purchasing decision without asking for directions until they’re halfway down the sales cycle. When they do engage, 80% want to speak with someone outside of business development or sales before signing the dotted line.
Bringing executives on board from the buy and sell side is becoming the only way to cut through the red tape of closing deals. With executive alignment, you can help buyers overcome doubt, calm the naysayers holding up the pipeline, and ultimately get to “yes.”
- Why should CEOs make sales calls?
- Where do CEOs fit in the buying process?
- How to create executive alignment
- When to bring in the CEO
- Who should introduce executives
- Harness the power of a corner office
Why should CEOs make sales calls?
An expanding range of comparable vendors requires more time for buyers to deliberate over the trade-offs. Even after a decision is made, 95% of buying groups report circling back on options at least once before making a purchase.
Suppliers have been working on simplifying sales since the dawn of selling. But with so many alternatives available, customers take longer and longer to buy. Sales reps can call the right people, follow up at the right time, and still end up hitting a wall when it comes time to close.
When a potential buyer is on the fence about whether or not to sign a contract, the make-or-break issue is usually not about the value proposition. They want to know if your solution and sales team can live up to the pitch.
Establishing a CEO-to-CEO relationship benefits both ends of a deal. Prospects have a direct line to the person with authority who can back up their commitments and allocate resources. Sales can put decision-makers in the same room (figuratively speaking) to speed things up and increase the likelihood of closing a deal by 258% compared to selling in silos.
Asking your CEO to step in can make a would-be buyer feel important and show that your entire organization is invested in their success. When buyers feel supported, they’re more likely to stick around for the long haul.
Where do CEOs fit in the buying process?
While connecting decision-makers can increase win rates, sending every deal up the food chain will dilute the value of executive alignment. Sales reps should consider the number of buyers involved, how big the deal is, and the importance of the customer-supplier relationship before calling in the big guns.
Large buying groups are typically the trigger for executive alignment. Most purchases over $500,000 involve 5 or more buying groups with 6 to 10 colleagues. The number of people in each group can flex up to 20 for complex deals.
The role of internal executives is to add more value and credibility to the sales team. They are not there to talk about what your product or service brings to the table; that’s what sales should be doing. If the conversation creeps into selling, buyers will start to view salespeople as a hurdle to purchasing.
Executives need to make it clear that sales is responsible for the account and for orchestrating meetings with senior management. These conversations should focus more on corporate direction, expansion in research and development, and upcoming mergers or acquisitions.
There’s always the option to meet in person, but over 70% of buyers prefer digital channels. CEO involvement can consist of an email message, a phone call, or even a Zoom meeting. Another option is to shoot a video clip from the chief executive.
How to create executive alignment
Most sellers think customers are armed to the teeth with information and ready to buy when they reach out. Customers may be more informed than ever, but most feel paralyzed by open-ended learning loops. When buyers get overwhelmed, the odds of making a substantive purchase go down by 54%.
Buyers are looking for high-value conversations that help make sense of all the data and differentiate your offering from the competition. Whenever possible, try to align titles or functional responsibilities to connect prospective customers with someone who understands their challenges.
If the CMO is questioning things, put them in touch with a CMO or another C-level executive on your side. If the person you’re dealing with is at a VP level, connecting them with your VP of sales should do the trick. However, if their role is in a technical field, you’ll want to bring a senior executive with technical expertise into the fold.
Keep personality traits in mind when you’re matching up executives. Two people can have the same title, but one might prefer social visits while the other wants to dig into financials. If you classify top-level engagements as collaborative or transactional, you’ll be in good shape to make the introductions.
Executive alignment is less about having all the answers than helping prospects feel confident in their ability to make good decisions. Pouring your resources into building self-confident buyers will pay off in bigger deals that are 157% more likely to be low-regret.
When to bring in the CEO
You know how the story goes. After spending weeks or even months working a deal, your contact gets cold feet two steps away from the finish line. The obvious move is to leverage internal pull from a senior executive to get things moving again. But if you haven’t introduced them yet, this approach probably won’t work.
Buyers getting a message from a VP they’ve never heard of will feel like a cold call in the middle of negotiations. More than 90% of executives say they never respond to cold calls. If your mysterious VP does connect with an executive buyer through cold outreach, less than 1% convert.
To avoid watching all your hard work go down the drain, you want to start building executive relationships early in the sales cycle. The more connections you make, the more durable your deal becomes when the honeymoon phase is over. This type of multi-threaded sales approach also makes sure each stakeholder receives contextualized support.
After the initial introductions, calling in a CEO should be coveted like a “get out of jail free” card. Frequently escalating negotiations to the executive suite is an unsustainable way of doing business. Save this for sticky deals with prospects that need a little nudge to pick up the pace.
Who should introduce executives
Before you start playing matchmaker, ask senior management if they know any executives on your accounts. 73% of executive buyers prefer to work with someone they know. Check with your colleagues too. Since the average career spans over 12 jobs, there’s a high chance someone in your network can score you a warm intro.
Not only are clients more willing to meet after a warm introduction, but they spend 16% more over the customer lifecycle than cold call accounts. These deals also close 30% faster.
Targeting executives when they switch roles or join a new company is another way to leverage existing relationships. Annual turnover is up 31% among buyers, with managers and leaders being the most likely to move jobs. If you sold to this person in the past, you have a pretty good shot at selling to them again in their new role.
It’s also worth tracking career changes for contacts you didn’t close. New roles can come with fresh perspectives. They might be dealing with familiar obstacles or have a whole new set of challenges that can open the door to revisiting your solution. The quicker you can make a move, the easier it will be to get a deal on the go before competitors catch up.
Harness the power of a corner office
Most sales teams would agree that their biggest competitor isn’t a rival vendor; it’s the status quo. And the biggest challenge buying groups face isn’t reluctance to make a purchase; it’s the uncertainty about making the right decision.
In addition to slowing down the sales cycle, an excess of options leads to post-purchase anxiety. Research shows that second-guessing occurs in more than 40% of completed B2B purchases.
When buyers are getting hit with competing solutions from every angle, sellers that use executive alignment stand a greater chance of closing a deal. CEO involvement lets the client know you have their best interests in mind, so they feel confident about their wallet share before and after purchasing.
How can Introhive help?
Forget whimsically diving into every sale without directions. Introhive turns your customer data into a GPS for executive-executive alignment. You get a complete roadmap of internal executives that have strong relationships with existing or prospective buyers to establish executive alignment.
Instead of relying on gut instincts and fragmented data, you can use executive insights to find the people with decision-making power. Sales reps can instantly surface executive-level relationships that can increase deal sizes, opportunity win rates, and deal velocity.
In other words, you don’t have to be in a corner office to get a bottom line that looks like you own the place.