243: George’s Top Tips – Conquering the Gatekeepers to get to the C-Suite

Powered by RedCircle

Selling to the C-Suite can be difficult, getting past the gatekeepers can be even harder.

George’s Top Tips this week are brought to you by you! The listeners! We tackle how to get past the Gatekeepers to gain influence from the C-Suite. The ability to effectively influence C-level executives means you need demonstrate how your solutions solve C-level business problems. Gaining access to top executives is the first step towards influencing their buying decisions. George goes into detail about how to build yourself as a trusted expert by asking for warm intros and having case studies to show value. He shares how to present yourself as a brand and how to create an even stronger one.



It’s another edition of the Conquer Local Podcast. My name is George Leith. We’re talking today about a topic that was suggested to us by our listeners. How do I gain more C-level influence as a salesperson? As you are selling larger and larger solutions, whether they be enterprise-based solutions or higher value solutions, you’re going to have to get into the C-suite. Now for some organizations, the C-suite is the business owner or a partnership. But in some organizations, there’s this thing called the C-suite. You’ve got CEOs and CFOs and CROs and CIOs and CDOs and CMOs and whole bunch of C something Os. And we have been asked to talk about how we’ve learned about gaining C-level influence from the various organizations that we’ve been dealing with. And I’m going to share some of that learning here today to help you as you sell to executives in the coveted C-suite. That’s all coming up next on the Conquer Local Podcast.


Join us for Conquer Local 2019 in beautiful, sunny San Diego. California’s beach city and the legendary Hotel Del Coronado will play host to the most valuable conference of the year for companies selling marketing solutions to local businesses. We have a must-see lineup of industry experts including our keynote speaker, Kevin O’Leary from ABC’s Shark Tank. Our entire slate of accomplished speakers have been hand-picked to address the top six growth problems facing all B2B companies: product, demand, sales, scale, retention, and expansion. You’ll get stimulating talks, tactile workshops, and an opportunity to connect with the brightest minds in your industry, all geared toward turning your business into a recurring revenue growth engine. Plus, you can experience an unforgettable adventure on a guided tour of the world-famous San Diego Zoo, capped off with an incredible treetop reception. We’ve secured deep discounts on conference hotel rooms, but they are limited and going fast. Don’t miss out. Go to conquerlocal2019.com and get your tickets and rooms today.


When we’re talking about the C-suite, we really need to understand the DNA of the C-level executives. How do we sell to these C-level executives? And we’ve got to dig in here. So first one that I love inside the C-suite, and we’re not even there yet. Right? We’re on the outside edges. There are just gatekeepers everywhere. Boom. They just put up all these walls around the C-suite, and you’ve got to try to get to those folks. So we should just be aware that this isn’t just a straight line to get, boom, I’m going to be talking to the CEO. You’ve got to move past the gatekeepers. We’ll talk about some tactics on how to do that.


The other thing is, I find with a lot of C-level executives, they have very strong opinions that are loosely held. That’s how I describe myself. I have very strong opinions, but I can change them in the drop of a hat as soon as I have some other thing that comes to light. So a lot of C-suite folks are making data-driven decisions, and you need to have that as part of your talk track to get through the door that you’ve got some sort of compelling insights as to why you have a message that they need to be listening to.


The other thing that I’ve found at this level, they’re looking for the crazy. Any of you that have saw me present live, I talk about this quite a bit. It used to be called searching. We’d go online and we would do some searching. And then it became creeping. And what creeping is, is when somebody new gets hired at the company, and everybody does this, so don’t even tell me that you don’t do this. New person gets hired. The email goes out. We’ve now hired Colleen McGrath. You highlight Colleen McGrath’s name. You Ctrl+C, and then you go to social media and you paste her name into every social media profile. And you start looking at her photos. Right? You’re looking for the crazy. And consumers do that when they’re searching for a brand. We put it into a search engine, and we start looking at photos and reading reviews looking for the crazy. Having a good reputation and having a good brand is vitally important when you start to sell to the C-suite.


Nobody’s Going to Get Fired for Hiring… You

The other thing is, you’ve got to give them a compelling reason why they need to work with your brand. There’s this famous line back in the ’80s and ’90s when Big Blue was the company that everybody wanted to be. Everybody wanted to buy an IBM. Right? Nobody ever got fired for saying, “We should buy IBM.” The procurement department kept their jobs. C-level executives, yeah. It’s like that today. SalesForce is a good example of this. Nobody got fired for buying SalesForce in an organization. It’s just seen as the incumbent that you need to have. So if you’re going to sell to the C-suite, you have to have a brand that nobody’s going to get fired on when they decide to move with you, so we need to make sure that we’re presenting the value proposition of the problems that we solve. But we also need to have a very, very strong brand when we are going to go towards a C-suite.


Here’s what’s essential, is you need to have air cover from your marketing department. The marketing department needs to be sending out messages. We need to be looking for influencers inside the organizations that can help with warm intros. One of the best ways to get to a C-level executive is to have one of their friends that they trust say, “You should be working with Colleen because she knows what she’s talking about,” so having those influencers that will make those warm intros. If you look at LinkedIn’s business model, it’s like there are three people in your circle that work with this person, so get them to make the intro. We all know that referral is the very best lead source.


The Best Case Study Is Another Person

The other piece is, I think you should have case studies. I think that also, case studies are a crutch. We get this case study and we put it online, or we send it out in an email attachment, and we think that’s going to get us in the door. You know what’s better than a case study, a live human being that can talk to your prospect that is a raving fan, like an actual person with blood coursing through their veins, that they can speak to on the phone, that can give you that warm intro. That’s how you deal with a C-suite. I’m not saying you shouldn’t have a case study. I just don’t think that you should use them as a crutch. There’s nothing better than having a human be that case study for you.


Now the other piece is you’ve got your air cover with your marketing that is sending out videos, and they’re connecting on social media. And we’ve delivered the case study and all those things. But now we have to have those ground forces. And ground forces, there’s a couple different things here. What groups do the people in the C-suite belong to? Now I love this. Maybe they belong to a local business person’s club. Or maybe they belong, they’re on the executive of the Chamber of Commerce. Or maybe they’re part of a think group inside the vertical that they’re in. How can you take the message that you have and the value that you deliver, how can you get that and put it in front of that organization utilizing those groups?


All Roads Lead to the CFO and the Legal Department

What memberships do they belong to that you could join as well? And then to this point, are they contributing to a charity organization? Why don’t you do your part and deliver some of your charity work to that same organization as a hope of connecting with those C-level executives? What you’re looking for is places that you can meet them face to face, and to start that conversation around discovering if there is a fit between the organizations. Now that gets us to the business case. You’re going to have to have a business case if you’re going to sell to C-level executives. It’s not just a relationship sell anymore because it doesn’t matter if it’s the CEO, the CRO, the CTO, the CIO, the CDO, the CMO, all roads eventually lead to the CFO and the legal department. So you’re going to have to have some sort of a compelling financial model and a business case as to why they need to be working with you. And then you’re going to have to make sense legally; that there’s a legal binding document to make this work.


You’re not going to make the sale to the C-suite and not have a contract. My point is that you need to have a compelling business case if you’re going to deal at this level. There’s a couple of resources that I have found to be very, very valuable. Two of those resources are a favorite guest of ours on the podcast. You may have heard of him. His name is Dennis Yu. And what Dennis Yu is fantastic at is helping people brand themselves in this age of social selling. I’ve talked to a number of people, and I’m like, “What is going on with the debacle known as your LinkedIn profile?” And they’re like, “Well, I just don’t know what to do. And I don’t want to put too much stuff on there. It’ll look like I’m bragging.” I’m like, “Well, that’s called marketing in 2019.”


And what I’ve been noticing, and I’m not sure about you folks, but I’ve been noticing this, if I’m going to make a C-level presentation, you can see those people on your profile the weeks and the days, the minutes and the hours leading up to the presentation, and guess what. If you’ve done a good job, they go to your profile afterwards. If you’ve done a bad job, they probably go to your profile afterwards too, and laugh at your picture. But my point is that you need somebody like Dennis and his insights on how to build your brand. Now is it your personal brand? Sure, it’s your personal brand. But it’s your business personal brand.


And the other piece that Dennis talks about is building a website for that brand. A website that speaks about … If you go to georgeleith.com, that’s an example of a website that speaks to the brand that we have been trying to create around this whole thought leadership and helping salespeople and building out those trusted providers, and the whole thing of conquering local. But if we didn’t have that website, I think it would be a missing piece. And I actually have a piece of tracking software that’s sitting on the website. And producer Colleen and I, we see every single person that goes to that website. And again, I’ll go to a C-level meeting. And lo and behold, a couple minutes later, ping. I’ll get a message from our tracking software. So and so from this IP address in the exact same city where I was just at the meeting is on your website.


Go listen to the Dennis Yu podcasts. We have the numbers right here in our resources that we’ve tied into the episode. And it basically shows which podcasts you should listen to all around that personal branding. He’s got some great tips in both editions. The other thing is, is Julie Konrath has this great book called Selling to Big Companies. The first time I read it was seven years ago. The second time I read it was six months ago. I wanted to get a refresher course on some of the information that she has inside that book. And we also are going to share the link on that.


Google Yourself: Others Already Are

Remember, to build your brand, Google yourself, and do it on a regular basis. Sounds a little narcissistic, but what it does show you is what your prospects are going to see when they Google yourself. And make no mistake, they’re doing that. Do a LinkedIn search of yourself. Go look at the photos that you have online. Get rid of any that you don’t want to be there, and maybe put new updated photos, so that when you arrive at the appointment, it’s not the picture that you posted 20 years ago on your social profile. It’s how you look today.


What videos do you have on YouTube? Do you have a blog? I don’t know why you don’t. You should have a blog. And then your own brand website, your own personal brand website, because I’ll tell you what, your prospects, especially at the C-suite level, are doing all of that research to see if you actually are who you say you are. Your online reputation is vitally important if you’re going to sell to C-level executives. They are researching you. They’re looking for the crazy. Ask for feedback from customers. Get those comments online. And people go, “Well, how do I go about getting testimonials?” Beg. That’s how you get testimonials. Get in front of people who will say nice things about you, that have great experiences, and then beg them for a testimonial. And then, I don’t mean a testimonial that lives in a sock drawer, I mean get that thing so that it’s online so the whole world can see it around your online brand.



Exercise number one that I would like you to take if you’re going to gain C-level influence and sell to the C-suite, the question you should ask: How C-level ready are you? Google yourself. Go look at all of those things that I just spoke about. And then fix all of the things that are not C-level ready. Exercise number two, when you’re looking at the content about how you are presented online, does it position you as a trusted advisor? C-level executives do not have time to kick the tires. They are hoping to deal with somebody who has already had their tires kicked. That’s why case studies are so important. But I think even more important, as I mentioned earlier, having a live human being, hopefully with some sort of C-level title in their positioning, can say, “I dealt with Colleen. She’s fantastic. Do yourself a favor. Just work with Colleen’s organization.”


And then exercise number three, testimonials. How do I get them? And how do I get them now? There’s a bit of an art to this. It’s just this thing called begging. It really is. You just go speak to people that you’ve had a good experience with. And what I’ve found is that they are more than willing to do this if you’ve actually done a good job for them. And that’s where you’ll start to find that your number one lead source should be referrals. Some people go, “I’m too proud to beg.” Well, there is a lyric from a very famous song. I’m not even going to try and sing it. But we should not be too proud to beg. We should get those testimonials. It really will change the game when you are selling to C-level executives. And it’ll also help you when you’re talking to C-level executives because your testimonial does the work for you.


So thanks for all the people that messaged us on LinkedIn, asking us for giving them some help on how to sell to the C-suite in 2019. It’s the Conquer Local Podcast. We continue the coaching editions right here. And thanks for joining us this week. My name is George Leith. I’ll see you when I see you.

Subscribe to podcast


Introducing Conquer Local podcast for marketers, sales experts