To deliver a powerful message to an executive in order to move them to take further actions (the key purpose of a sales call), we need to clearly understand the context of the situation we are dealing with.
An executive receives an average of 120 emails per day, a number that grows each year. Like the rest of us, they are bombarded with over 10,000 marketing messages per day, according to the American Marketing Institute. Over the last 10 years, executives are under a relentless, ongoing drive to reduce costs and drive efficiencies by reducing headcount and automating as much as possible. The trend has been to reduce management layers, so the remaining leaders have a larger span of control and more direct reports.
In this environment it means a different style of conversation is needed when calling on an executive – one that achieves all of the following:
- Cut to the Chase
According to research, our attention span has markedly decreased in just 15 years to only 8.25 seconds. In fact, there is now a recognized executive disorder called Executive Attention Span Disorder (EASD)!
When we have their focus, we have a maximum of 60 seconds to capture their attention. It is important in this first minute to hit hard on exactly why you are meeting. Make three key points: 1) This is the reason we are talking 2) This is what we will cover and 3) At the end of the meeting, this is what we will decide. Seek agreement.
It’s as simple as that – 3 sentences maximum. Seek agreement.
You have now paved the roadmap for the call and can proceed with speed.
- Create Cut-through
Borrowing an old advertising industry phrase, you have the responsibility for your message to “cut-through” the noise that bombards an executive each day and everything that is consuming his or her mind.
Make sure that your core message is reinforced and repeated, as it has been documented that people need to hear something 3 times before it is remembered.
Create short “sound bites” of less than 10 seconds that can be repeated and are memorable. Short, repeatable phrases are critical to memory recall.
Craft your sentences so that they have an emotional impact. When considering a change in behavior or making a decision, it is human nature to first take a new emotional position like, “I love this house!!,” and then attempt to rationalize that position through logical reasoning. For example, “I know it’s a long way out of town, but the bus service is great and will create a nice lifestyle change not having to drive all the time!”
To elicit an emotional response, you need to use words which are engaging and action-oriented. Words or phrases like breakthrough, step change, leapfrog, crush, or once in a lifetime. These, of course, are words to provoke excitement. There are also words or phrases to disturb – deepening risk, uncertainty, unpredictable risk, and a road with no exit.
Prepare your call with emotional imagination!
- Close Boldly
A successful meeting has agreement that the executive will commit to the allocation of specific resources (people, money, or time) to undertake follow-up actions – this is the only hallmark of success.
Yet salespeople are afraid to close boldly on what should happen next.
Always have at least 3 potential follow up “asks” in terms of the pathway forward. 1) the most aggressive 2) the least aggressive and 3) the likely middle road. It’s a matter of style so far as which one you close on first. If one does not work, take the opportunity to uncover where you have not hit the mark or created the momentum.
Be clear, unequivocal, and transparent in your close. Do not back off, pull your punch, or waiver!!
These are the 3 simple principals for executing an executive meeting in the new order of business and chaos. Once you have developed your own style, remember to be yourself. After executing successfully a few times, you will find this approach of directness and transparency will build your confidence. As a result, you will have more fun and be more successful.
Personal Challenge: Apply the 3 simple rules of delivering a game-changing executive message to the next important executive call that you have pending or can create. Script it and practice it. Take the time to really prepare, and learn how to say things using half the words! You won’t be disappointed.