Forget, “You had me at hello.” When engaging executives, ‘hello’ is where you lose them.
During the opening minutes of conversation, executives decide whether or not to continue listening. In other words, cut the small talk, launch your big idea.
What does success look like to him/her?
Few executives will listen to your point of view until they believe you understand and appreciate theirs.
Grab an executive’s attention early by answering the first question running through their mind: ‘Why is your idea worth any money?’
Get to the point, and share the impact you envision delivering. Your idea doesn’t need to be fully developed, but it should:
- Cite specific profit & loss line items, metrics or ratios relevant to his/her area of responsibility.
- Represent new thinking, not something immediately apparent that should be delegated.
- Seem credible and real enough to provoke business curiosity to learn more.
What does successful preparation look like to you?
Winning executive conversations demands you nimbly navigate the twists and turns that can unexpectedly arise. Remember, this is the executive’s meeting, not yours.
To be ready for the conversational pitfalls that can take you off message, add role playing to your preparation.
If you’re not comfortable with role playing, get over it. It’s the best way to simulate scenarios that can derail your well-rehearsed presentation and foresee how to effectively respond when the dialogue digresses.
Enlist a colleague or manager to play the customer executive you’re targeting and imitate that individual’s personality. Develop your ability to encounter less-than-ideal situations yet still have a successful conversation by having your colleague portray a hurried executive, a skeptical executive, and one who recently had a poor experience with another sales professional.
If possible, have a third person observe the action. Ask your colleagues to rate you on how well you are able to cover the basics of any executive-level engagement. These include your ability to:
- Cite relevant external factors to establish your credibility
- Link customer business initiatives to your big idea
- Express the business change you’re envisioning in straightforward language
- Identify areas of business impact using meaningful metrics
- Close the conversation with a clear request for executive sponsorship
Once your executive conversation gets underway, pay particular attention to who’s doing most of the talking. Remember: you have two ears, one mouth. Your conversation’s balance of listening /speaking should approximate that ratio.