Does fear stop you from selling to the “C” Suite executives? It’s time to reframe your thinking and start reaching high to shorten your sales cycle and increase your success rate.

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Hi there this is Dylis Guyan and welcome to the Inspired selling Podcast the place a business owners who sell to bigger businesses discover how to attract, convert and retain more of their ideal clients without any of those nasty, sleazy, pushy sales tactics.

Today as always I have another fantastic guest for you. My guest is Matt Conway and he is going to tell us why it is so important that we should go high when prospecting.

So let me just give you a little bit of Matt’s background. He is an expert in new business sales, sales leadership, executive leadership, go to marketing strategy and this coupled with his ability to lead from the front, drives dramatic tactical results and it makes him both a valued advisor to executives and a respected coach when he’s mentoring sales people.

Prior to founding his C level prospecting and sales consulting he was speaking, copyrighting, coaching and mentoring within his business and he spearheaded the growth of start-ups, professional services and for multinational firms including Franklin Covey, Microsoft, Nokia, the Kaizen group and Michael Page a very very impressive bio there Matt. So, welcome I’m really glad to have you on the show today.

Matthew: Thank you Dylis.

Dylis: So let’s get started and tell us your backstory. How did you get to where you are today?

Matthew: Okay well if we roll back the clock a little bit this all started with a comment that was made by my mom. My mum Sonia is a very, very powerful individual, a force of nature if you will. Once upon a time I started life basically as a glorified telesales rep banging out cold calls and trying to set appointments. Frankly I was pretty poor at it.

I’m blessed to the fact that my mom is a sharp cookie and start asking me some fairly pointed questions about who was I calling, what was I saying etcetera, etcetera. She pretty much identified that the people that I was calling on were the people who you know normally look like the people I should be talking to but really didn’t have the authority or the will to buy what I happened to be selling.

So you know I faced a lot of rejection on the cold calls that I was doing. My mum being who she is, she’s Swedish by the way just went “ahh” if you want anything done go high. That really was the beginning of my journey into completely changing the prospecting and selling approach that I had, you know up to that time learned. You know with trepidation I thought okay well I’ll give it a go but who am I to be calling on the C.E.O. of you know H.S.B.C. or Aviva insurance or what have you.

So what it is I started reading veraciously, you know books by Jill Konrath, etcetera and by trial and error started to form my own approach until the point where I could actually write a letter; I’m showing my age a little bit or an email once email started coming around that would get C.E.O. level appointments or referrals pretty much every time I pointed my bat at somebody.

So I’ve really got my mum to thank for basically steering me the right direction saying stop selling to people mid-level executives who are vested in the status quo who can’t yes but can say no and go and talk to the C.E.O. and that’s exactly what I did and viola here I am.

Dylis: Fantastic, absolutely brilliant and that is so true isn’t it Matt that if you go high they can say yes they’ve got the purse strings but also they’ve got the authority to then send you lower if you like. But if you start high then…

Matthew: Yes, absolutely and you know. Being slightly simplistic about all of this you’ve got to follow the money. You know if you talk…if you build a good relationship with a mid-level person and get to the point where you can ask them “so tell me a little bit about your budget, is this something that you create or have you been assigned the budget?” Invariably they’ll say “Well no I actually get assigned a budget every year. I have to make a case for the budget and you know it’s either up by ten percent or cut by ten percent on a yearly basis.”

So you know when you’re working with somebody whose working inside a box they’ve only got so much and of course what tends to happen to most people and of course generalisations are a bit dangerous but what tends to happen with most people is once they’re told here’s what you’ve got that kind of limits their thinking. So even if you’ve got an amazing solution or service if it doesn’t fit in their box you’re kind of out outside of scope and you know even if they want to work with you they feel that they can’t.

I think it was the Kaizen group who produced some research that said most budgets at the assigned level, eighty five percent of them already taken up with existing initiatives. Which means if you’re coming in with something new you’re fighting for the sort of fifteen percent table scraps that are left over with every other salesperson who is trying to contact that person.

So you got to feel a little bit sorry for that person because they’re trying to make the best possible decisions with the tools and resources that they’ve got on but they’ve only got fifteen percent left so your chances are slim. You know or you know you being the right person at the right time.

So you know I’m a firm believer that…particularly if you’ve got something new and unique and it’s…they haven’t done it…worked with this technology, service or product before, you need to go where new ideas uniqueness is appreciated. If you think of the buying motivations of a C. Suite executive or the C.E.O. and chairman and chief operating officer C.E.O.O. or C.F.O. and S.V.P. they’re very much focused towards the future, what do I need to do next to hit my next growth objective what markets to I need to get into? So they’re more what I like to call abundant thinking versus scarcity thinking “oh what can I do with what I’ve got”. Does that make sense?

Dylis: Yes it does and also at that level you often come across preferred supplier list which you may not be on so when you get to that person who’s working within those restrictions and the restriction of budget and so on and the restriction of preferred supplier it’s very difficult at that level to get in.

Matthew: Absolutely and funny enough of course I mean particularly if you’re selling a more mature product or service or commodity. Often is not the person that you’re…let’s say you selling I don’t know marketing technology, a digital marketing platform or whatever and you know normally the V.P. of Marketing or the V.P. of digital or the director of digital would seem to be the right person to contact but who do you think made the decision to buy the incumbent that’s in there currently? Well they probably…you know they were involved in that and so effectively you as a sales person approaching that person is basically saying “hey your existing baby’s ugly choose this baby.”

Dylis: Yeah.

Matthew: Not many people like to be told that their baby is ugly so you’re naturally facing resistance from the get go. So why attack things head on when you can do a flanking manoeuvre and talk to somebody who really isn’t all that attached to the decision in the first place.

Dylis: Yes indeed, so what do you think stops people from going high? If we’re perfectly honest Matt a lot of people are not prospecting enough anyway and the thought of going to a C.E.O. will fill many people with dread.

Matthew: Absolutely and that’s an excellent question. So in my mind there really is two things that stop people from going high. First is your own mind-set you know, what’s the story you’re telling yourself between your ears? You know “who am I to approach a CEO” you know they’re a C.E.O. because they’ve got some sort of godlike powers. Or I’ve never done the job of a C.E.O. I wouldn’t really know what to say. All of those are semi valid and once you’ve started prospecting and speaking with C.E.O.’s something funny really happens. Now to the point where I kind of actually dread speaking to mid-level executives because the conversations are so much tougher.

When you’re speaking to somebody who has a achieved you know the pinnacle of success, they run a business at that level, they’re confident, they’re humble and they’re open to new ideas. They appreciate people who are proactive and are reaching out, giving them ideas that accelerate time to market, increased efficiency, reduce risk and what have you.

So the conversations and I say conversations on purpose intentionally. You typically have conversations with senior executives but when you’re with lower executives who really don’t have the authority to buy you tend to have sales conversations where you’re trying to convince and coerce, and you know influence and persuade another human being to change what they’re doing. Actually, that’s what sales is, its introducing change behaviour and processes; to change behaviour and processes.

As we all know it’s quite difficult to get people to change, you know habits are formed you know look at the double chin here, diet is an example. So the mind-set is key. I think people need to dispel the fact that actually talking to C.E.O.’s is tougher it’s not. I actually reverse it is more tough talking to somebody who doesn’t really have the wherewithal to say yes to what you sell because they get guarded, defensive, ego gets in the way. When you talk to somebody who’s up “Yeah if you’ve got a good idea I’m all ears.” It’s an abundance versus a scarcity-based mentality.

So the first thing is the mind-set and remember for your audience, if you have something that you believe creates significant value this isn’t about you and your ego. I think Jeb Blount who has been on one of your podcasts recently he makes a very good point in his book Fanatical Prospecting that actually, if you’ve got call reluctance, you’re focused upon your feelings and your ego and you’re not clear on the value that you create which is a nice segue into point number two.

Most sales organisations that I’ve ever worked with have really weak value propositions. Yeah and they typically sound like this “We are the best, we are the fastest, we are the most cost efficient, we are the best of breed, we’ve been around for twenty years, we’ve got thousands of clients, we, we, we, we, we. Stop we we-ing on your customers they don’t like being we we-ed on! In fact most people don’t like being we we-ed on. Sorry to be crass but I make the point is that most value propositions have been developed from the “I/We help companies to” framework which immediately makes you the hero. Clients don’t want you to be the hero they want to be the hero.

So a much better way of improving your value proposition is to start from the perspective of you know clients like you or clients like X, Y, Z in your space they were able to achieve these kind of results because they you know implement a new process new behaviours etcetera. So messaging making your clients the hero versus yourself the hero, takes the pressure of you to be superhuman and nobody likes a braggard anyway. Whose words are you going to believe that of a sales person because we come with a certain amount of dirty baggage hanging over our head that of course a sales person would say that. But, if you put in the context of a third-party social proof it’s much more persuasive and much more believable. So did I answer your question? Mindset and value propositions in my experience.

Dylis: Yes and I think mind-set is the first step.

Matthew: Absolutely.

Dylis: I think you should get your head in the right space and understand that you are just talking to another person. I had a meeting with a C.E.O. just about a few weeks ago and we were talking about success levels and he said, “You know you really achieved a lot such I said thank you but you know I haven’t achieved your status as a C.E.O. and he said “Dylis don’t be fooled I know a little about a lot of things.”

That really resonated with me and I thought you know you’re absolutely right. He, as a C.E.O. was focused on the bigger picture he wasn’t interested in the minutia of things and our conversation as you rightly said, it was a conversation. It was like a peer to peer.

Matthew: Absolutely.

Dylis:  It starts with your own belief in yourself.

Matthew: It was wonderful on Thursday last week I was with a very, very bright group of people at a client of mine here in Canada. We were talking about the importance of mind-set and you know the fact that this is not about you, you kind of have a duty of care to share your story with another human being, another C.E.O. if you generally believe you can be helpful to them.

If you are scared or clam up or you know are not able to articulate your message properly actually that’s you being selfish, and you need to get over yourself because by you being a little bit frightened or you know articulate your value proposition or approach them, you’re actually doing them a disservice. So if you choose to look at it like that you go well actually I do create a lot of value so why wouldn’t I want to let you know about it.

This C suite, =they’re just like us, they put their pants on in the morning exactly the same way one leg first then the other and I think that’s a great way of looking at it, they are exactly like us.

Dylis: So helping with the mind-set I always think is the belief in your product or your service, belief in your ability and just what you said giving people the opportunity to say yes or no not right now.

Matthew: Absolutely and you know the fact is I think if you get a yes that’s fantastic and if you get a thanks but no thanks that’s actually also a fantastic way of beginning a sales cycle. It can actually be executed in exactly the same timeframe because if someone has taken the time to give you a “thanks but no thanks” there was something in your message there that peaked their interest and they’re giving you an unconscious knee jerk reaction of you know thanks we’re good. We can talk about how you execute a law of reciprocity approach to turn “no thanks” into a “Yeah I’ll meet with you maybe on a further podcast when we have a bit more time.

Dylis: Great so yes mind-set first and a strong value proposition. So, talk to us about value proposition because I know we’re both aligned with this in terms of grabbing somebody’s interest or grabbing their attention by mentioning either a trigger event or some research that you’ve carried out that’s very relevant and very personal to their business.

Matthew: Absolutely, I mean you know research shows that you know the more personalised and research your approach will be the higher success rate will be. You know ‘people don’t care until they know how much you care’ is an adage that we used to use at Franklin Covey when I when I worked at Franklin Covey. When you’ve shown somebody that you’ve done your homework and that you your message to them, speaks to you know a relevant and timely trigger event, something that’s either internal or an external event which effectively puts them into the market to buy what you sell, it’s a question of timing. Coupled with a strong value proposition that is outcomes are impact oriented.

My definition of a value proposition is a specific and measurable outcome and result that they can expect to achieve should they decide to work with you because others like them have achieved similar results. So, when you with confidence can say, “ Dylis, I understand from speaking with Bob or I read in The Financial Times recently where you shared your stated objectives with this. I’m reaching out with one or two ideas to share with you which others in your space like X, Y, Z companies have shared that they achieved these kind of results you know when they decided to hire me, work with me, use my services etcetera.

Here’s what they have to say. If you’re looking to achieve similar results let me a good time to talk, I’m available Monday at eleven, Tuesday at twelve. I look forward to our conversation. It really is as simple and yet nobody does it.

Dylis: I know and the difference between that, that you’ve just said there, the example you’ve given us and somebody saying oh I work for XYZ company and we provide you with this sort of…like if it was me for example you know “My name is Dylis Guyan, I work with sales teams and I have these training programs and this and that” Nobody’s interested it’s just finger on the delete button…

Matthew: So what, who cares, not interested. You know the question you need to be able to answer in your recipient’s mind is “Why should I change and why now?” So why now is addressed in your in your trigger event and why change, basically is showing those sort of before and after scenario and the gap. So you’re basically…you know I call it waving my pink magic wand. You know if you can do one thing you know wave my pink magic wand what does the future look like and if you were able to do that what would that allow you to do tomorrow that you can’t do today?

So you’re creating this gap of where they are today and where they are tomorrow and you know leveraging social proof by peers or companies that they aspire or admire to paint that picture for you. It’s the equivalent of me saying you know “Dylis”…I’m going to be super cheesy here folks so please excuse me but it’s like me going “Dylis you’ve got to meet I’m Matt Conway I’m six foot one I’ve got blue limpid pool in which any woman would be glad to drown herself in.”

Dylis: Put that on a T-shirt.

Matthew: Yeah exactly what’s more it’s me telling you how gorgeous I am or if you hear it from somebody else going “You’ve got to meet Matt Conway smashing guy you know handsome t-boot  and whatever.” It’s much more believable when it comes from somebody else. By the way I was making a point there folks I don’t really believe that. It’s much more believable when it comes from another person. So use those kind of you know references or social proof from others to do your storytelling for you. Another episode we can talk about why storytelling reaches the unconscious brain versus you telling people how wonderful you are. It’s the conscious brain and the built-in gatekeeper topic for another day.

Dylis: Matt we’re booked in that’s for sure. So let’s just put ourselves in the shoes of an S.M.E. who sells to bigger businesses and has never thought about or have approached a C.E.O. and they think well right well this all sounds great Dylis in theory but in practice first of all how do I find the C.E.O. and how do I get his details to get in touch with him?

Matthew: Okay, so I’ll let you in on a little secret. Part of the reason why I love prospecting to C.E.O.’s is because I’m lazy. It takes far more time and effort to searching on LinkedIn, using web directories or sales intelligence services to find the director of this, or the V.P. of that, or the manager of this, that and the other.

If you just go to the company’s website there will be an “About” section which will have executive team and guess what there is the C.E.O.’s name and really e-mail…you know you can often guess people’s e-mail by the first name dot last name @ Company dot com. There are lots of other services out there from companies that you know provide email addresses where you can actually just run a Google search and put First Name Last Name and then in brackets @ company dot com and usually it will do a web search and come up with an e-mail address that’s been put in a press release or something like that.

Of course you always just…you know if you go to the press release of a big press site, the press pages of a big website you will often see the e-mail format that company uses and it really doesn’t take that much effort to guess the name of the C.E.O. So that first name, how to find a name and how to get their e-mail address is usually pretty straightforward.

Dylis: Right so we’ve got the C.E.O.’s. name and we know we’re going to send them an email and we might even send a letter at the same time.

Matthew: Well in actual fact if you’ve got the time sending a letter is actually an incredibly effective tool these days and can you guess for what reason?

Dylis: Because people are not doing it.

Matthew: Exactly, so if nobody else is doing it, your letter is going to stand out so you’re going to  cut through the clutter versus being you know one of a couple hundred that they receive every day in their in their e-mail inbox. So that, you know I’m a big believe when everybody goes one way go exactly the opposite. Never follow the herd.

Dylis: Yeah and of course you know if Matt if you look on the website you see the executive names, you see who the C.E.O. is, you’ve got the name, you know what they’re address is because it would be on the website then it’s easy then to put a letter together and send that off if you haven’t got the email address.

Matthew: Absolutely. The next component of contacting the C.E.O. is to address why now? What’s the reason or trigger event that’s causing you to contact the person now? I like to use reason reverses random rather than just send you know letters or emails willy nilly. What’s making your approach timely and relevant? Why should they care?

So this is where you’ve got to do your research. You know whether I mean every day when I used to take the train down from Buckingham down to London I just used to read the F.T. and the Wall Street Journal on the train down. There or trigger events all over the place you know for some reason C.E.O.’s love to tell you exactly what’s on their mind when they’re talking to a national broadsheet.

So you know they very clearly or explicitly share that you know they’re having these sort of challenges or these are their stated objectives or strategic imperatives in newspaper articles and that’s a great source of just saying  “I read in the Financial Times on Tuesday that you’re looking to do this. I have one or two ideas to share with you that will help accelerate that for you, here’s what others say.”

Dylis: Yeah.

Matthew: It really does not get much simpler than that folks. I mean they’re telling you what they want to achieve so use their own words and guess what? That will sing straight to them.

Dylis: This is exactly what you use isn’t it to get meetings within like hours.

Matthew: Absolutely most of my clients will typically get meetings with C.E.O.’s you know within minutes if not hours and at most a couple of days because your messaging is so laser focused and appropriate, it’s speaking to what’s on my mind right now. In fact, I think the world record is held by a young inside sales person called Nate in Lancaster Pennsylvania who got a meeting with a C.E.O. in thirty-eight seconds after sending his e-mail.

Dylis: Wow.

Matthew: So if you want to dramatically you know accelerate or collapse your sales cycles depending on your point of view, going to the C.E.O. typically accelerates sales cycles by as much as six times. It’s just smart.

Dylis: This does work Matt.

Matthew: Absolutely.

Dylis: I haven’t managed…my best was three and a half hours.

Matthew: That’s pretty good.

Dylis: That’s my best.

Matthew: But when you compare that to most…when people are prospecting to mid ranking executives you know they’re having to do anywhere from seven to fifteen touches of emails, voicemails you know mailshot drops and what have you and it’s taking weeks or months to get an appointment with a mid-ranking ranking executive, what sort of difference do you think you can make to a business if sales people are getting meetings in three and a half hours, a couple of days, twelve minutes, seven minutes, and twenty six minutes?

We’re talking about a sort of a Delta level transformation in terms of time to engagement and because you’re talking to the people you can say yes or no but I’d rather get to know sooner versus later. If you’re talking to people who can say yes you’re probably in there by yourself, you’ve got less pressure on price probably with no competition and you know your win rates you know typically increase by thirty percent plus.

Dylis: Yes.

Matthew: And you’ll do so in a fraction of the time that it normally takes you. So, you know a twelve months sales cycle can be collapsed to three months.

Dylis: Absolutely, brilliant.

Matthew: Who doesn’t want that kind of velocity?

Dylis: Who indeed doesn’t want it?

Matthew: Yeah quite.

Dylis: So we’re looking at mind-set, we’re looking at a strong value proposition, we’re looking at identifying who…we didn’t actually cover this but you need to identify who your ideal clients are, who you want to be in touch with and then do some…find the e-mail or find the name of the C.E.O. and then get your e-mail written or the letter or both.

Matthew: Absolutely.

Dylis: The letter and an e-mail because you can refer to those when your making your phone call. And as I always say I haven’t got it here just by me but pick up the flipping phone.

Matthew: Absolutely yes. This is this is an important point. You know I’ve got to the stage where I with pretty good confidence if I send out my initial e-mail I typically get a twenty percent response if it’s let’s call it a fairly cold one, if they don’t know me and I’ve picked them up I’ll typically get a twenty percent response from that first e-mail. By the time I get around to my second and third that would probably be in the seventy to eighty percent response. So just because I’m a little bit lazy doesn’t mean you should be.

I’m a firm believer that whilst I advocate for three touch e-mail process during the course of one week, absolutely pick up the phone and you know call through, leave a voicemail with your really nice outcomes orientated, value proposition stated very clearly. Or you know speak directly to them or speak to their executive assistant and you know ask for their help to see whether your emails have been received and what action they would like to happen as a result of getting that message from you.

Dylis: Yes and treating these P.A.’s with same respect as you would the decision maker.

Matthew: Absolutely this is something that I see all over the planet and it’s a massive mind-set problem. Dylis has mentioned mind-set quite a lot here. Up of eighty percent of success in life is your mind-set and twenty percent twenty percent is the mechanics or the skills you experience, you got along the way.

I hear sales people all over the planet who are in E.A.’s gatekeepers. Guess what if your lens that you view the world through is that E.A.’s are gatekeepers how do you think the E.A. is going to show up, as a gatekeeper? That’s because the first words out of your mouth are probably going to be combative because you’re expecting a gatekeeper and guess what? What you put out you get back.

So if the words out of your mouth aren’t respectful you know they sound you know like you’re being a sleazy salesperson the E.A. is just going to cut you off and block you. On the other hand if you choose to view the E.A. as an ally the second most important person at that company…. magic happens.

When you ask for their help…by the way human beings are hard wired to respond to the word help. It’s a word of high influence and persuasion. When you ask another human being to help and you treat them with respect and you appreciate them, magic happens. So, stop using the word gatekeeper it’s sabotaging your efforts and start using the word ally instead.

Dylis: Marvellous really, really great point there Matt.

Matthew: Thank you Dylis.

Dylis: Thank you so much it’s been really so insightful. So, if people want to get in touch with you how can they do that?

Matthew:  Okay the best way to get hold of me is by email funnily enough alright so that’s Matthew with two “T’s” or if they want to call me I’m in Canada. So you need to dial +1-647-402-2096 and that’s my mobile phone and I would be happy to help anybody if I can.

Dylis: And your website is Matt?

Matthew: Is

Dylis: Brilliant thank you so much it’s been such a pleasure talking to you and I look forward to our next one.

Matthew: Absolutely Dylis thank you very much.

Dylis: Thanks a lot, bye for now.

Matthew: Take care bye-bye.

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