You finally succeeded securing a meeting with a key customer executive. Now what? If you’re going to invest your time, and you’re asking the customer to do the same, then both of you better get a result.
Recognize that every executive engagement must have a clear objective. It does no good to have a meeting with an executive just so you can report you had one.
Your objective in any executive conversation should be to obtain that individual’s sponsorship and support to move your selling effort forward within the organization.
Does this exchange sound familiar?
You: “Based on what we’ve discussed, can I get your support?”
Customer Executive: “Sure!”
What did you really get? Very little.
The executive made no commitment, and there was no defined action coming out of the engagement. Executives are very good at getting rid of sales professionals, especially if they haven’t earned the support.
When you ask for executive sponsorship, ask for it in a way that is:
- Crystal clear
- Understandable by your audience
- Specifically actionable – what, when, how
Examples of asking for sponsorship the right way
“Alan, here’s what I propose. Next week, we’re meeting with a few of your key managers involved in this initiative. If it is OK with you, would you please attend the meeting for the first five minutes and say a few words.”
What happens if the executive shows up and say a few words?
What will the other managers think?
Is that sponsorship? Yes!
The beauty is that the sponsoring executive completely understands what you want:
- What: Attend meeting with managers, say a few words
- When: Next week
- How long: 5 minutes
The executive can do it because they completely understand what you want.
“Alan, to move forward with this project, I’d like to meet with Toni Smith, your VP of Finance, to validate the assumptions supporting our preliminary ROI. I’ll indicate to Toni that we’ve spoken already and validate the numbers with her. I’ll then update you next week. Is that OK?”
What’s good here?
Again, you’ve let the executive know exactly what you want. Better still, all the executive has to do is to say “OK”. From that ask, you’ve gained sponsorship to Toni plus another meeting with the sponsoring executive next week.
To be sure, sponsorship must always be earned. Start by clearing defining your objective so you can ask for it. Otherwise, you may well get nothing.