None of us want epic failures, especially when it comes to one of the most important sales activities – executive engagement. However, the road to executive selling is littered with tons of potholes that you might encounter on your journey to develop and maintain positive relationships with the key executives in your accounts.  Below is a summary and brief description of common roadblocks or issues that sellers may encounter and how to avoid them:

  • No referral – Having a referral into an executive can increase your chance of success by 50% or more. Referrals, especially a referral from within the executive’s organization are essential.  Develop those internal champions and referral sources early in your sales process!
  • Asking for too much or too little time – Asking for 15 minutes (unless it is a quick question) leaves the executive nervous that you will go over the time allocation. Asking for more than 60 minutes without a rock-solid agenda and purpose will be met with skepticism as it relates to their time ROI.  Most executive meetings should generally fall within 30-60 minutes.  Plan your agenda to end early.
  • Subservient approach – Executives want to spend time with other decision makers and people of power. Be respectful but not subservient.  Remember, executives are accustomed to being heard, so make sure you give them the floor and let them talk.
  • Underestimating the power and authority of executive assistant – The executive assistant has tremendous power and authority when it comes to scheduling and access. Treat this person will the utmost respect, and don’t skip the sales fundamentals of developing rapport, good questions, and focusing on why vs. what.  Executive assistants are generally accessible so they are a big asset!
  • Lack of confidence – In my experience, the lack of confidence in sales stems from a lack of knowledge and/or preparation. Plan to spend a lot of time preparing.  Think executive dossier, account based team strategy work and extensive pre-call planning.
  • Once and done approach to executive cultivation –Too often I have observed sellers expend tremendous amounts of effort to gain access to a senior leader only to fail on follow through. They don’t gain commitment for future access, and they don’t do the necessary planning and execution to cultivate that executive in an appropriate way. The sad truth is that down the road, the executive doesn’t remember them or details from the prior meeting.  They have to start the long process all over again.

There are many appropriate ways to establish relationships with executives.  Choose carefully and avoid all common pitfalls.  When done correctly, you will enjoy ongoing access to key executives which will enrich your career and contribute to your sales success in an exponential way.  Your reward will be to ring the bell more frequently with big, TOP Line Account™ ‘wins. 

Executive Selling Done Right:

Jump start your executive selling efforts by giving your sellers the book that is guaranteed to enhance their sales performance.  The TOP Seller Advantage: Powerful Strategies to Build Long-Term Executive Relationships includes proven strategies to ensure sellers develop long-lasting executive access.

The C-suite executive perspectives at the end of each chapter reveal exactly how senior leaders view sales encounters and what would cause them to keep the door open for follow up meetings.  Check it out at http://amzn.to/2hdas8J


Lisa Magnuson is an expert in corporate strategic sales and TOP Line Account™ revenue building. As a respected sales consultant and author, Lisa works with clients to build successful strategic sales programs that drive revenue from large new accounts and enable growth from existing high-value customers. Learn more at www.toplinesales.com.