Most of the time a salesperson believes they need to call on the C-Level Executive to create an opportunity or capture one; they are incorrect. They only need what I would describe as the CEO of the Problem, the highest level person who would care about the initiative they recommend. That said, it is always helpful to have executive support for your long term prospects, and it can be necessary to keep you aligned with your clients overall strategy.
What is missing from the conversations about calling on C-Level Executives is why they should be taking more meetings with salespeople.
- Awareness: If you are a C-Level executive, you are so heads down busy, buried in your work—and your bubble—that you can easily become woefully ignorant of what it going on in the outside world around you. Not only do you need to know what your competitors are doing so as to not lose competitive advantage, but also what other companies in other sectors are doing, so that you can bring in ideas that haven’t yet been applied to—or even considered—in your space. Salespeople have clients, and this gives them first hand information that they can share with you.
- Unfiltered Ideas: I know, you have people. They keep you abreast of what’s changing. Except when they don’t. This is the thing about filters: they filter. Your people have their own biases, and they have their own ideas about what should or should not be being pursued. You only see what comes through the filter, not what doesn’t. Good salespeople can help you discover what you may be prevented from seeing otherwise.
- Conflicting Views: There are salespeople right now that have views about your future that conflict with your views. These are the views and ideas that are most valuable to you. If you want to be challenged, right or wrong, these are the ideas that most deserve your attention. While this digital transformation was occurring, booksellers, retailers, hotels, taxis, and all existing forms of media have been impacted negatively— only a few positively. You didn’t get to where you are by ignoring what bothers you, and you won’t get where you want to go without being surrounded by people who see the world differently. There are salespeople, scarce though they may be, to fill this role for you.
If you are a C-Level Executive, consider meeting with the salespeople who call you with ideas that you recognize are worth exploring. If you are salesperson and you want a meeting with a C-Level Executive, give them a reason to meet with you by having the business acumen, situational knowledge, and a point of view that’s interesting enough to say yes to.