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If you’re in sales, you will not be successful with a boring pitch for why people should do business with you. Nowhere is this truer than when you sell at the executive level.

It is odd that the CEO of a company seldom thinks to coach his or her sales team on how to approach someone in the C-suite with a message that will knock them right between the eyes. Arguably, even in a small company, the CEO has an endless stream of would-be suitors anxious for a shot at proving why they should be chosen. But when it comes to selling their own company, CEOs often shelve their own experience and leave it up to marketing and sales teams to figure out.
We decided to ask several executives if they would be willing to share their insights about what to do (and what not to do) when calling on them. They were more than willing. If you attended our session at the 2013 Worldwide Partner Conference (one of the top 20 sessions at WPC) “Selling to Executives: what works and what drives em crazy” you saw video clips of our interviews with them. If you missed it, you can view the recorded session (hyperlink to YouTube video).
To sum up our findings, here are 2 rules you should have so deeply ingrained in you that you cannot possibly break them:
Rule #1 Stop talking about your @^*!
If we had a penny for every time this rule gets violated we could end world hunger. The fact is executives don’t give one rip about your products or services—no matter how well-rehearsed and polished your pitch is. They also don’t care to hear rambling dissertations of the latest innovative features or benefits your company “just announced.” They are interested if you show how you can make a contribution to their business. Be specific, not general.
 For example, contrast the following examples of a sales pitch to a C-level executive at a grocery company on why they should leverage Cloud technology in their business:
Example 1:
“Since the cloud is a popular topic, we thought we’d give an overview of how you can use the cloud to help your business boom. Cloud computing is very flexible and allows you to do more with less. And when it comes to innovation, the cloud gives you the power to do new things in new ways, and it creates new opportunities. It presents a major shift for technology, for business, and for the ways in which individuals interact and benefit from technology. Best of all, you can significantly lower your costs by moving to the cloud. . .”
Example 2:
“One of the things we’ve noticed in the grocery business is that at the distribution centers spoiled product decreases dramatically if the inbound quality control team can communicate real-time with buyers. By allowing the QC team to show images of questionable product with the first call to a buyer, you can speed communication by as much as 22%. I’m curious, with 23 Distribution Centers scattered around the country, if you could significantly reduce spoiled product by between 37 to 42%, would that be worth talking about?”
The first example is so generic it puts . . . you . . . to . . . zzzzzz . . . . Oh, and by the way, given the cost-takeout binge we’ve been on for the last three years due to the economy, most costs that can be slashed have already been slashed and so lowering costs is likely not to be what they specifically care about.
Notice that the second example doesn’t even mention a product. And it’s specific to their business and an issue they are likely to care about. Everything you say must be clearly and logically connected to what they specifically care about. Otherwise it creates noisy distraction and your odds of success plummet.
Rule #2 Stop talking
Two words. Stop talking. One of the themes that we hear from executives is that it seems sales people are so anxious to talk that they crowd out the person they came to listen to. And, contrary to popular belief that many hold, executives actually do want to talk about their concerns or aspirations, about what’s going on in their company relative to the trends in the industry and how they can best their competitors. But, and this is a big BUT, they only want to talk with people they perceive can make a contribution to what they are trying to accomplish; they happily will spend time with someone they perceive has something relevant to offer and quickly dismiss product hawkers. That’s why Rule #1 is so important.
There is always room for relevance on an executive’s schedule—always! The more relevant you are the more they will insist on talking to you.

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