Business development is more than bringing donuts to one of your business partners. Much more. One of the most frequently asked questions I get when conducting business development workshops and training is, “How do we reach the C-suite?”
The simple answer: you sell the vision. And vision is not referring to your vision—it’s the target company CEO’s vision for that company.
One book that will help you learn how to better sell to executives is Visionary Selling by Barbara Geraghty. My good friend Jeff Rendel suggested I read her book (he reads it once a year) so I followed his advice. If you are in sales (and we’re all in sales), then you should also read it. Even though the book is a little dated now (first published in 1998), the principles are still relevant.
Below are some of the key points Geraghty makes and how we can apply them.
(1) Visionary selling says, “This is where you are going. This is how I can help you get there.”
With visionary selling, you don’t sell your products and services. You sell the CEO’s vision. Visionary selling focuses on growth, progress, and transformation. Those are words CEOs are using in their vocabulary. They are not using words like products, solutions or service.
- Application: Get CEO’s talking about what keeps them up at night. Ask them what the vision is for their company. Then demonstrate how you can solve those problems and how you can come alongside them to help them accomplish their company’s vision.
(2) Create an alliance with the prospect’s vision, values and core competencies.
Geraghty talked to many CEOs as part of her research, finding out their needs and wants. When recounting one her conversations about why the CEO chose a particular business in a sales situation, the CEO said, “I chose the one who had a better vision for my business.”
- Application: Connect your credit union or bank’s business development efforts with the CEO’s vision for their company. It’ all about establishing that connection. Do your research and find out if that CEO or company executive has a catch phrase they use. The more you know about the company’s executives the better you can talk with them.
(3) Think like a CEO to sell to a CEO
That is actually the title to one of the book’s chapters. Many business development professionals complain they can’t get enough (or any) face time with a company’s CEO. That’s probably because you are not offering anything of value to the CEO. Their time is precious. Know their industry and talk their language. CEOs have their own vernacular and concerns. Most CEOs are not thinking month-to-month or quarter-to-quarter. They are thinking long-term and they are thinking strategy. So show how you can align with their strategy.
- Application: Take your credit union or bank CEO with you to talk with business partner’s CEO. Many times they can have CEO to CEO conversations. Also, do your homework. Read publications CEOs read, like The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Inc., and Fast Company.
(4) Get the executives talking
“People buy more when they’re talking than when they’re listening,” Geraghty says. So get those executives talking about their company, their challenges and themselves. Geraghty also suggests avoiding the “show up and throw up” approach, where you just go over a canned PowerPoint presentation. Boring, boring, boring.
- Application: Answer this question: in your last sales presentation, did you talk more or did the prospect talk more? The more interactive you can make the process, the better chances you’ll have of getting their business.
Those are just four points Geraghty touches on that can help you improve your business development with visionary selling. Geraghty sums up visionary selling this way, “leverage vision, values and core competencies to increase profits, power, and position in the future.”
One of the best ways to improve your ability to reach companies with your financial intuition’s business development efforts is to read Visionary Selling.